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On Open That Bottle Night what will you drink?

We all own that one bottle, waiting for the special occasion that never seems to happen. Well, tomorrow night create the occasion for yourself.

OTBN The last Saturday in February is Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). The event was created in 2000 by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher. They wrote, “Whether it’s the only bottle in the house or one bottle among thousands, just about all wine lovers have that very special wine that they always mean to open, but never do.” Clearly it was past time to change that. Since its inception, OTBN has become a world-wide celebration of friends, family, and memories.

The wine you open doesn’t have to be expensive and doesn’t have to be on anybody’s Top 10 or even Top 100 list. Maybe it reminds you of an event, a really great day, a job promotion, or some private special moment in your life. Or perhaps it will be the wine with which you want to begin a new tradition of celebrating.

I’m not sure yet what I’ll open tomorrow, but I’ll be sure and post once I do! Meanwhile, do share in the comments what wine you’re drinking for Open That Bottle Night….”

PS – It’s also Purim. There’s even a religious reason to get drunk!


In Pursuit of Balance

IPOBIn honor of IPOB today, a post of mine from the Wayback Machine:

Monday I was back at RN74 for another fabulous tasting. From the booklet, “The purpose of this event is to promote dialogue around the meaning and relevance of balance in California Pinot Noir. In Pursuit of Balance was created by Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74 and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards to promote wineries who are striving to produce balanced pinot noir in California.”

I’d say it worked – the public tasting was packed full of people happily enjoying our local wine delights. Many CA winemakers were there, each pouring several examples. Some comments on my tasting:

(N.B. – If I make no comments it’s because I didn’t taste, not because I didn’t enjoy.)

  • Alta Maria
  • Au Bon Climat
  • Calera – They started in the 1970s, and planted their grapes up the mountain east of Salinas, looking for limestone. All their wines show great minerality, and were nice and complex. I plan to make a trip there so I can taste the wines they didn’t bring to this tasting….
  • Ceritas – They say the make their wines to age, and the three I tasted support that. The 2007 (their 1st vintage) has lots of ripe fruit. The 2008 has a beautiful nose and also plenty of fruit. The 2009, bottled only 3 weeks ago, smelled a bit “ethanol” and has high acid. I trust it will age well, based on the two older vintages they were pouring.
  • Chanin – Their 2008 “Bien Nacido Vineyard” is the first from that vineyard. It has a smooth, silky finish. I’m looking forward to more!
  • Cobb – I fully enjoyed all three of their wines – they were smooth and complex. Sadly, they’re also out of my budget. *sigh*
  • Copain – I just received my spring allocation from them, and this tasting was a great preview of the next one. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while. In fact, I’m bringing their wines as gifts to European friends.
  • Evening Land
  • Faila
  • Flowers
  • Freestone – Winner for Worst Note. “Late. Drunk. Yum.”
  • Greg Linn Wines
  • Hirsch – Interestingly, theirs was the only 2009 I preferred to their 2007 (which I also liked). Because of that, I’m interested to see where the wine goes over the next couple of years.
  • Kutch
  • Littorai – Oops. Poor notes. “Lovely, sophisticated. 2007 favorite.”
  • Miura
  • Mount Eden
  • Native9 – Un-fined, un-filtered. The 2009 has especially great potential. It’ll be released in the autumn, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
  • Peay – Let’s just say that I’m impatiently awaiting my allocation. And that if you don’t have any coming, I feel bad for you.
  • Sandhi – What can’t Raj do? I’ve been a fan of his Syrah since I first drank it last year. This week I fell for his Pinot. Which reminds me, Raj – how about a Syrah tasting next?
  • Soliste – Points for being the only winery pouring a rosé. 2010 Rosé de Pinot Noir – it was fruity and dry, just the way I like it. Not to slight their reds, but pink wine makes me smile. There reds are slightly out of my budget, but if I had the money I’d want them. Towards the end of the evening, they also poured their Syrah “under the table”. Wow.
  • Tyler
  • Wind Gap – These folks are old-school. Not only are all their vines organic, they’re dry farmed and crushed *by foot*. Even if I didn’t enjoy the wines (100% whole cluster gave them sort of a smoky taste), I’d kinda want to get on their mailing list just so I can play with actual stomping!

What impressed me overall is that whilst not every wine I drank was to my taste, all of them were well made. What frustrated me is the number of wineries that told me they don’t sell retail. C’mon! This was a public tasting! Don’t be such teases!

Also, I had the fun of meeting in person people I’d seen at tastings, follow on Twitter, or read their blogs. 

This Weekend: “Eat, Sip, & Be Merry” On The Santa Rosa Wine Trail

The Members of The Santa Rosa Wine Trail are hosting a special holiday tasting weekend on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 from 11 am to 4 pm each day. The wine trail is a collection of urban wineries and tasting rooms, restaurants, and a hotel, all located within a few minutes of downtown Santa Rosa.

You will enjoy food trucks, live music, and exclusive tours and activities at ten wineries. Each guest will receive a special “passport” for the weekend. Passports with stamps from each location will be entered for a drawing to win prizes including a case of wine for only one cent!

Eat Sip and Be Merry The ticket price of $25.00 presale or $35.00 at the door includes tastings at ten wineries and tasting rooms, a commemorative wine glass, and $10.00 in “wine bucks” which may be used towards the purchase of wine at any of the participating wineries. For designated drivers, a $5.00 ticket includes special activities and non-alcoholic beverages.

Tickets are available at, at participating wineries, and at the door at any of the participating wineries during the event.

Participating wineries are: Carol Shelton, D’Argenzio, Inspiration, Krutz Family Cellars, Old World, Paradise Ridge, Sheldon, Siduri/Novy, Two Shepherds, and the collective at Vinoteca.

The Fountaingrove Inn is offering a limited number of Deluxe King Rooms for just $89/night to Eat, Sip and Be Merry visitors who would like stay in town Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday nights. A link to the special purchase rate is available at Other lodging options may be found at

About the Santa Rosa Wine Trail

Santa Rosa Wine TrailThe Santa Rosa Wine Trail is a collection of eleven wineries, three restaurants, and one hotel in northern Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, California. The Santa Rosa Wine Trail card (print yours here or pick one up at one of our member wineries) is your passport to great days and nights of some of the best wine and food Sonoma County has to offer, all in close proximity.

Santa Rose Wine Trail Members are: Carol Shelton Wines, D’Argenzio Winery, Inspiration Vineyards, Krutz Family Cellars, Old World Winery, Paradise Ridge, Robert Rue Vineyard, Sheldon Wines, Siduri/Novy, Two Shepherds, Vinoteca, John Ash, Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Willi’s Wine Bar and Vintners Inn.

Rhône Rangers Rosé!

I was going to post this right after Rhône Rangers in San Francisco, but decided it’s really just as much a preparation for Hospice du Rhône – especially for the Rosé lunch on Friday:

Rosé Lunch

Date: Friday, April 27, 2012
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $100 (advance purchase is required)
Friday’s lunch has always celebrated pink wines and for the 20th year we will continue to toast these beauties. Don your best pink attire as we raise our glasses to the vast variety of Rosé wines that have traveled far and wide to be with us for the 2012 revelry. To highlight these lovely pink quaffers, Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig from Sonoma, California will return to delight guests with Rhône inspired cuisine. The Rosé wines will be provided by the attending producers at the 2012 event.

(Question for someone who’s gone to this event before – do people really “don pink attire”? Because I’m going to have to buy something if that’s the case.)

Anyway, here’s a summary of my pink favorites from Rhône Rangers – I’m looking forward to drinking and discovering lots more next weekend!

Tablas Creek Rosé 2011 (Paso Robles, CA)

Always a favorite of mine, the 2011 is delicious. A traditional Southern Rhône blend of 58% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache and 12% Counoise – these grapes come from an organically-farmed vineyard, and are fermented using native yeast. Surprisingly high alcohol at 14.5%. Watermelon, plum, red berries on the nose. All that and a bit of spice on the palate. Nice and dry, it’s a very food-friendly wine.

Quivira 2001 Rosé Wine (North Coast, CA)

51% Mourvedre, 18% Carignane, 18% Counoise, 7% Grenache, 6% Syrah. 13% alcohol. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel, then the wine spends a short period in neutral French oak before bottling. Berries and orange zest on the nose, cherry-berry and spice on the palate.


Quady North 2011 Rosé (Rogue Valley, OR)

60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Bright with lots of fruit. Dry and crisp, with citrus, stone fruit and watermelon on the palate. This is the kind of wine I like to sip on a hot day.


Proulx Willow Creek Farm Rosé (Paso Robles, CA)

Dry, with strawberries on the nose.
(It’s not listed on their website, and I failed to take detailed notes. To be updated later….)



Finally, this post is a celebration of today’s scorching hot San Francisco Saturday. Three guesses what’s in my glass….



Rhône Rangers 2012 – Win Free Tickets!

Rain, rain, go away! Well, even if our belated rainy-season doesn’t end soon, there’s the Annual Rhône Rangers Tasting in San Francisco to look forward to! This is definitely one of the spring highlights for wine lovers in the Bay Area. Held at Fort Mason, the event offers the chance to taste a wide selection of Rhône-style varietals and blends.

Win Tickets

Win a pair of tickets to the Grand Tasting! All you need to do is click here to send me email telling me which new-to-you grape you want to try this year. You can also enter by sending me a message on Twitter (@terroiriste) with your answer. The contest ends on Monday, March 19 at noon Pacific time. I will randomly select a winner, and notify you by email or tweet.

Rhône Varietals

The French government recognizes 22 varieties in the various appellations that comprise this large and diverse wine-growing region. Rhône Appellations (including Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Condrieu, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Bandol, Cotes du Rhône and several others) each choose a different subset from the collection of grapes known (from their place of origin) as Rhône varietals. For a wine to be considered a “Rhône Ranger” wine, and poured at an official Rhône Rangers tasting, the 22 recognized accepted varieties must comprise at least 75% of the blend.

Red Grapes

The most common red Rhône varietals are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, with Syrah predominant in the Northern Rhône and Grenache in the Southern Rhône. Other relatively common red grapes include Cinsault, Carignan, and Petite Sirah. Finally, the list includes some grapes that are found only in trace amounts even in France, and are just beginning to be explored in the United States, including Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terret Noir. For the sticklers out there, the Rhône Rangers have adopted Petite Sirah, a French cross also known as Durif, due to its extensive interplanting with traditional Rhône varietals in Calfiornia.

White Grapes

The principal white Rhône varietals are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, each found throughout the Rhône Valley, with Grenache Blanc a widely planted but less well known contributor in the Southern Rhône. The other white grapes include Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.

Want to learn more about Rhône grapes? See http://www.Rhô

Schedule of Events for the Celebration of American Rhônes

15TH ANNUAL RHÔNE RANGERS GRAND TASTING, GENERAL ADMISSION TICKET, Sunday, March 25, 2012, 2-5 PM, Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion. $45/ticket—> BUY NOW

15TH ANNUAL RHÔNE RANGERS GRAND TASTING, VIP TICKET, Sunday, March 25, 2012, Early Entry at 12 noon, Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion, $75/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #1: RARE WINES, COME TASTE THE UNUSUAL, Saturday, March 24, 2012, 12:00 PM, Fort Mason, The Firehouse. Participating Wineries include Clos Saron, Holly’s Hill, Lagier Meredith, Ridge, Tablas Creek, Two Shepherds. $45/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #2: WINE & SWINE, A PAIRING OF RHÔNE VARIETIES WITH BACON, Saturday, March 24, 2012, 2:00 PM, Fort Mason, The Firehouse. Participating Wineries include Inspiration Vineyards, Katin, Mount Aukum, Skylark, Treana/Hope Family Wines. Our “Baconologist” is Duskie Estes, Co-Owner, Black Pig Meat Co & Zazu Restaurant. $65/ticket—> BUY NOW

SEMINAR #3: AMERICAN SYRAH FROM A VARIETY OF REGIONS, Sunday, March 25, 2012, 11 AM, Fort Mason, The Golden Gate Room. Participating wineries include: Big Basin, Caliza Winery, Chateau Ste Michelle, Cornerstone Cellars, Domaine Berrien Cellars, Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Donelan Wines, Folin Cellars, Tarara Winery, Zaca Mesa. $55/ticket—> BUY NOW

About the Rhône Rangers

The Rhône Rangers are a group of roughly 150 wineries dedicated to making wines from the 22 grape varieties originally made famous in France’s Rhône Valley. These varieties range from the better known Syrah and Viognier to the up-and-coming Mourvèdre, Grenache and Roussanne, to obscure (but delicious) grapes like Counoise and Picpoul.

The Rhône Rangers started from a small gathering of American vintners who began meeting informally in the 1980s. As their numbers expanded, the group organized under the name “Rhône Rangers.” The Rhône Rangers is a non-profit organization focused on promoting the enjoyment of Rhône varietal wines produced in the United States. These grapes include the 22 traditional varieties approved by the French government for the Côtes du Rhône, as well as Durif (Petite Sirah). In order for a winery to join the Rhône Rangers, they must produce at least one wine that contains 75% of any single approved varietal (or combination of these varietals). Visit us online:

Micro wineries – big successes

Last weekend I drove up to Santa Rosa, to a tasting event for a group of micro-wineries hosted at Inspiration Vineyards. I enjoy supporting small businesses in general, and wineries in particular. My friend William Allen of Two Shepherds created and marketed the event – I got to be the very first member of his new wine club! – so special thanks to him, and to all the wineries, who poured some delicious wines.

Here are some brief tasting notes for selected favorites of mine. These aren’t the only wines I liked by any means, but other wines from the event have already been reviewed by other bloggers.

2010 Colagrossi L’Inizio, Nevarez Vineyards, Paso Robles (50% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussane, 25% Viognier) ~300 cases produced
Refreshing, an ideal warm-weather sipper., it would also pair well with fruit, salad, or light fish.

  • Nose: Tree fruit, pear and jasmine.
  • Palate: Lemon, pineapple, and pear.


2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah, Dry Creek Valley.
Co-fermented with Viognier, the style is reminiscent of the northern Rhone valley. Paired surprisingly well with the chocolates offered by Truffle Gateau (see my comments below).

  • Nose: Blackcurrant and vanilla
  • Palate: Blueberry, chocolate and coffee.


2010 Two Shepherds MRV, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley
(47% Marsanne, 47% Rousanne, 6% Viognier) 50 cases produced
Aged 6 months in neutral oak, on lees, racked once prior to bottling. A "winter white", would be wonderful paired with roast chicken or grilled root vegetables.

  • Nose: Melon, pear and stone fruit
  • Palate: Orange peel, pear, and spice


2007 Wesley Ashley Intelligent Design Cuvée, California Central Coast, 500 cases produced
(51.5% Carignan, 15% Grenache, 14% Cinsault, 11% Petite Sirah, 4.5% Mouvedre, 4% Pinot Noir)
100% French oak, 36% of the oak new. Wines aged separately for 18 months, then blended and bottled unfiltered. Full-bodied yet easy to drink.

  • Nose: Dark fruit and spice.
  • Palate: Cherry, plum and raspberry.


A note about Truffle Gateau: Normally I am not a fan of wine and chocolate. Somehow, however, these folks make the pairing work.
Recommended by over 400 California and Oregon winemakers, their dark chocolate Truffles pair surprisingly well with Cabernet, Zinfandel, Pinot, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Port wines. They didn’t have these at the event, but they also recommend their milk chocolate Truffle Gateau with a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Viognier wine for another outstanding pairing. Anyone who’s tried the pairings with whites – please let me know in the comments what you think!

All-in-all it was a great time in the industrial park. I hope they do this event again soon – and don’t miss it when they do!

New Zealand Wine Day – wine list now published

Playing at home for New Zealand Wine Day on February 4th? The wine list has been published, and here it is:

Flight 1

  • Quartz Reef, Methode Traditionelle NV, Central Otago
  • Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
  • Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough


Flight 2

  • Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, Auckland
  • Pegasus Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Waipara
  • Neudorf Moutere Riesling, Nelson
  • Spy Valley Envoy Pinot Gris, Marlborough
  • Vinoptima Gewürztraminer, Gisborne


Flight 3

  • Seresin Rachel Pinot Noir, Marlborough
  • Vavasour Awatere Valley Pinot Noir, Marlborough
  • Escarpment Pinot Noir, Martinborough
  • Palliser Pinot Noir, Martinborough
  • Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay


Flight 4

  • Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  • Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  • Amisfield Pinot Noir, Central Otago
  • Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay
  • Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay


Click here to get it in downloadable and pretty PDF format and take it to your local wine shop!

An Inspired Micro-Winery Collective Open House!

On February 4th, before you join the NZ Wine Day celebration, head on up to Santa Rosa for an Open House for a new Micro Winery co-op tasting room hosted by Inspiration Vineyards! It’s a great chance to taste wines you normally can’t.

Event Photo


This is their first winery open house featuring custom crush clients – small wineries that are making their wines under their roof.


These wineries don’t have public tasting rooms, so this is a unique opportunity for you to TRY & BUY wines from seven uniquely different wineries, each with their own winemaker present to tell you their stories and introduce you to their wines.

Experience small lot, artisanal wines from:


In addition to the wines being poured, there will some small bites provided, and the Ultra Crepe truck will there, if you’d like to pair your wines with some wonderful crepes.

Event Photo

Advance Tickets Includes $15 Wine & Food Credit

Upon check-in at the door, you’ll receive $10 back in wine bucks, redeemable on the day of the event at ALL seven wineries.

Additionally, by registering in advance on Eventbrite, you’ll receive another $5 back in wine & food bucks that you can redeem for either wine or food from Ultra Crepes.

Remember, the Superbowl is the next day, so this would be a great way to stock up for your superbowl party! 


Interested in attending? Click here.

New Zealand Wine Day is coming soon!

Saturday February 4th, 2012
Virtual Tasting 7:00pm Central Standard Time

In association with Wine Channel TV we’re celebrating Waitangi Day (NZ’s National holiday) with a virtual wine tasting and cooking demonstration – and you’re invited to ‘come along’! With Celebrity Winemakers in attendance, and a live audience in Chicago, you’ll have the opportunity to message in questions as you sip along with us from the comfort of your living room. Gather up a group of friends, register, and tune in with fellow-wine lovers from around the globe for this fun, social way to taste and learn about New Zealand’s finest wines!

Be sure to stock up with a few bottles from our featured wineries at a participating retailer beforehand. To stay up-to-date with #nzwineday news including competitions, participating retailers and restaurants, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

See you online!

– The Complexity Team

Got Questions? Email us!

Note: Once you’ve registered for this FREE event we’ll send you everything you need to know about how to access the virtual wine tasting online. You will also be automatically entered to win a Complexity Fine Wine t-shirt and other great Kiwi prizes!

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