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  • Oakland Wine Festival to Debut in July

    Oakland Wine Fest Logo

    TASTE News Service January 24, 2015 – The first annual Oakland Wine Festival will be held on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at the Mills College campus. The wine and food event that will feature celebrated winemakers from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, and Lodi as well as international wine regions. This day and night will also bring Oakland’s favorite chefs together to showcase their creative talents.

    “The Oakland Wine Festival is the result of the desire to acknowledge an overlooked community of wine lovers who appreciate having world-class vintners and chefs within arm’s reach,” said organizer Melody Fuller.

    “A key part of our mission is to build new relationships and deepen old relationships between winemakers, wineries, wine aficionados and curious wine enthusiasts from Oakland and the Greater Bay Area,” said Fuller, an alumna of Mills College.

    The Festival will begin at 9am on July 18th with wine panels, seminars and master classes in the morning, followed by a unique offering of ‘Intimate Luncheons’ with winemakers at noon, followed by a seated ‘Elegant Baby Grand Wine Tasting’ from 2:30pm to 6:00pm. Exclusive winemaker dinners will commence at 8:00pm. More details will soon be available on the Festival website.

    The Elegant Baby Grand Tasting represents one of the more unique aspects of the Festival. Every guest will have a series of eight, seated appointments with the winemaker or principal of the featured winery, thus turning the traditional walkabout tasting on its head. The Intimate Luncheons are also of note, as every participating winemaker will be seated with no more than seven guests for a four-course, wine-paired experience. These luncheons will be hosted at various settings throughout the campus.

    Melody Fuller mug shogtMelody Fuller As part of the six-month countdown and celebration of Oakland’s first major wine and food event of this nature, the Festival kicks off in January 2015 with a series of monthly wine tasting classes and soirees at some of Oakland’s favorite venues. “The Oakland Wine Festival is committed to staying engaged with the Oakland community and has worked to collaborate with other businesses who want to share in this wonderful event,” explains Fuller.

    Further information about the festival is available at www.oaklandwinefestival.com.

    About the Location:

    The Oakland Wine Festival is also about place. Founded in 1852, Mills College is a 135-acre oasis at the foot of the Oakland hills in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Classrooms in the 26,000-square-foot Betty Irene Moore Natural Sciences Building and historic lecture halls will be the venues for the Festival’s myriad events. The evening winemaker dinners will be presented in the four-story Victorian Mills Hall, a state and national historic landmark built in 1871.

  • January 23, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

    Lagunitas logo Picmonkey II

    Scare City #2


    Lagunitas Brewing Co.

    Petaluma, California

    Style: Rye Porter with Cocoa

    Alcohol: 10.25%

    IBUs: Unknown

    Serving Style: In bottles and kegs (our sample from draft)

    Availability: Most of the Far West and in major markets US-wide.


    Appearance:  “Dark—definitely porter.”

    Aroma:  “Some darker malt—a toasty malt.”

    Taste:  “You can definitely taste the cocoa on the back end. Enough residual sugar so it mixes with the cocoa and you pick up that chocolate.”

    Food Affinity:  “Beef—would go well with pot roast. You could also pair with a chocolate dessert.”

    Anthony Cutrona beer reviewer Picmonkey


    Reviewer Anthony Cutrona is a mechanical engineer . . . and a home brewer.

  • January 23, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

    Sutter Home Red Blend Picmonkey

    NV Red Blend


    Sutter Home


    Alcohol: 13.8%

    Suggested Retail: $6


    “We didn't particularly like this wine, though others will. Sometimes we select a wine for this weekly feature because it allows us to address a more diverse view of wine than just our own preferences. This non-vintage (NV) red wine is such a case. Wineries are discovering that there's a substantial audience for red table wines sweeter than the traditional style. The Sutter Home Red Blend is well-made; not flawed in any technical way, but it's just too soft and sweet for us. It's comprised of quality grapes—Zinfandel (50%), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). Deep berry flavors predominate and there's some vanilla quality, too. What it lacks for our taste—acid, structure and complexity—may make it appealing to that very large percentage of people who have not yet found any red wine that they like. To call this entry-level red wine, is not really damning with faint praise. It's modestly-priced and might be a good bottle to have on hand when you're preparing a meal featuring red meat for guests who might not ordinarily favor red wine.”

    Food Affinity: “(See comments above) Might also be a winner for those who like chocolate truffles.”

  • Grgich Hills Marks 35th Anniversary of Chicago Chardonnay Showdown

    Mike Grgich mustard in vnydA master with Chardonnay

    TASTE News Service January 17, 2015 - In 1980 “The Great Chicago Showdown” brought together 221 of the best Chardonnays from around the world. Chardonnays from France, California, New York and even Bulgaria were collected for a historic first, the largest blind tasting of that time of one single varietal. The first vintage that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted at Grgich Hills, his 1977 Chardonnay, emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon and the Chicago Tribune called it “The best Chardonnay in the world.” With this win so close on the heels of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, where the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Mike made took first place over some of the best French white Burgundies and American Chardonnays, he soon became affectionately known as the “King of Chardonnay.”

    In 2015, Grgich Hills Estate will celebrate the 35th anniversary of this historic tasting and its legacy in Chardonnay with vintner dinners across the country, a photo contest, a new mobile application launch and much more, all culminating into two festive gala dinners. The first will be in Chicago on May 7, 2015 and the second in the Napa Valley at the winery on May 16, 2015. Mike Grgich believes this is a significant event not just for Chicago and Grgich Hills but for all of America since it proves that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

    Grgich Hills launched “The Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown” celebration on January 15, 2015. “This is a great opportunity for our winery not only to celebrate my father’s many accomplishments but also Chardonnay, a varietal that is enjoyed and loved by so many people,” said Violet Grgich. As Mike explains, “There is no scientific formula for making great wines. You make wines with your heart.You pour your love into them and nurture them like children, and transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”

    Editor's note: For more information on the winery's celebration of this event visit www.grgich.com. If you're planning a visit to this or any other of Napa's wineries, first visit the North Coast sections of the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to thousands of Lodging and Dining options.