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Displaying items by tag: Napa

Tuesday, 05 May 2020 13:43

Rombauer Supports Community

TASTE News Service, May 6, 2020  –  As Rombauer Vineyards marks its milestone 40-year Anniversary, the Rombauer family continues to support the communities who have assisted them over the years in building its celebrated portfolio of fine wines.

Tuesday, 09 July 2019 09:00

Culinary Arts Museum Opens in Napa

TASTE News Service, July 9, 2019 – Chuck Williams had a passion for quality, useful cookware and cooking tools, and it was this passion that led to the opening of the first Williams-Sonoma store in Sonoma, CA in 1956.

Monday, 29 October 2018 18:16

Napa Chefs Pair For “Cabernet Season”

TASTE News Service, October 30, 2018 – From mid fall to spring, visitors come to the Napa Valley to enjoy Cabernet Season.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 13:59

CIA Opens New Kitchen for Home Cooks

TASTE News Service, April 11, 2018 – Building on the momentum from the official opening at its Food & Wine Weekend with the CIA, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia is offering hands-on cooking experiences for home cooks and professionals in its new 9,000 square-foot kitchen.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 08:41

Compline Opens in Downtown Napa

Compline owners smallCompline co-owners Ryan Stetins and Matt Stamp

TASTE News Service, September 13, 2017 -- Compline, a combination of wine bar, restaurant and retail wine shop, has opened in downtown in the city of Napa.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 07:54

Napa Winery Releases Andy Warhol Bottlings

Cuv Warhol 39 RT11 Picmonkey

TASTE News Service, September 14, 2016 - Cuvaison, located in the Carneros wine region of Napa Valley, has announced the Andy Warhol by Cuvaison Collection.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 10:44

Call of the Vine

Call of the Vine Picmonkey

By Dr. Liz Thach, MW

2014 The Miranda Press

ISBN 978-0971587052

Soft Cover, 367 pages, $19.99


There are plenty of books that evoke the beauty and glamour of wine country. Often short on information, but containing gorgeous photography, they look good on a coffee table. Liz Thach’s Call of the Vine is not one of these.

Though wine professionals would be familiar with the names of the ten Napa and Sonoma vineyards the author profiles, few would have actually visited them. For the wine consumer, first-hand familiarity with these vineyards would be even less likely. Information on these gems of California agriculture has been fragmentary and mostly anecdotal.

Liz Thach has initials PhD and MW appended to her name. In addition to her doctorate, the Sonoma State Professor is also an MW or Master of Wine, a degree which is held by just 318 people in the world. You would expect her research to be thorough.  Vineyard specifics and farming practices for each of these famous vineyards are displayed in chart form. This may seem repetitive but does provide a basis for comparison and illustrates that there may be many paths to grapegrowing greatness. While such details may hint at reasons why these vineyards have become recognized as among the best in the world, it’s the human stories the author delivers that give them context.

Though all 10 of these wineries are situated in just two adjacent counties, nature has provided them with very different challenges and opportunities. Farming practices differ in adapting to these conditions. The winemakers and vineyard owners and managers of these notable properties differ in their viticultural (and enological) practices, but all express a respect for nature and regard themselves as stewards of their land.  Some, like Boots Brounstein, who with her late husband Al, planted Diamond Creek in the late 1960s, were present at the creation of great vineyards. Others, like Matt Ashby of Robert Mondavi, are inheritors of a responsibility to maintain vineyards long-known for excellence such as To Kalon, which was first planted just after the American Civil War.

Thach has chosen to tell the story of each vineyard in reprising her initial visit. Conversations with those giving her vineyard tours are recalled with significant points often related via responses to her questions. While they seem more recitations of what the conversations could have been, than verbatim transcripts, they bring the reader a low-key and more personal insight to the actual vineyard practices and to the personalities of those responsible for them.

Though Call of the Vine is illustrated with frequent black and white photos, they’re grainy and fall short of matching the quality of the narration. But this is a book that communicates through the scholarship of its author and her diligence in bringing the reader interviews with vineyard stewards that might not be available anywhere else. It’s a good read for the serious wine fan.

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Zin Grapes at Heritage Vnyd PicmonkeyRipe Zinfandel cluster at Heritage Vineyard in photo by ZAP

TASTE News Service December 5, 2014 - For the first time in 24 years, four new Zinfandel selections have been named by authoritative experts from UC Davis and Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) Heritage Vineyard Project. The collaboration between ZAP and UC Davis is marking the culmination of 17 years of research to date. The four named Zinfandel vineyard selections are Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi, and George Zeni. Each represents a unique set of research data sourced from historic old vine plantings that are geographically diverse from the other selections, proven to make quality wine based on “small lot” productions and immediately recognizable in the marketplace.

“Since 1997, ZAP’s Heritage Vineyard Project has set a clear direction for the future of Zinfandel. With ZAP’s ongoing support, UC Davis scientists have conducted research to cultivate virus-free Zinfandel material for growers and provide winemakers with grapes that exhibit consistent characteristics and predictable quality results,” said Rebecca Robinson, ZAP Executive Director.

Ravenswood Founding Winemaker and a project founder, Joel Peterson, explains that "The Heritage Vineyard Project gives viticulturists knowledge about the clean material unavailable until now with options to achieve better results in the vineyard and with the wine. At the end of the day, it’s about knowledge, choice and getting results that are more predictably defined."

The UC Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS), which evaluates and virus-tests rootstock for commercial distribution, had only certified four selections of Zinfandel in 1990. In 2009, FPS released 19 Zinfandel selections from the Heritage Vineyard Project to nurseries. Now, for the first time, the FPS numbers are linked to four of these selections, Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi and George Zeni. “Ultimately, by creating greater diversity, ZAP has fulfilled a primary goal to provide superior clean, documented Zinfandel selections to growers as the basis for future plantings,” Robinson adds. “These named selections represent the history and lineage of Zinfandel that will create the new historic vineyards of California’s traditional variety. Naming also delivers additional context to the selections, providing more information to consumers who are interested in Zinfandel, ultimately enhancing the viability of the varietal,” Robinson continued.

Lytton – FPS 24Ridge Lytton Springs Zin PicmonkeyBeginning with a colorful 19th century captain and evolving into a model sustainable enterprise and historic vineyard, Lytton Springs tells a story of land development, boom and bust, chance encounters, and the rebirth of the wine industry, all reflected in the old vines still standing today. The Sonoma County property originally developed as a resort by Captain W.H. Litton didn’t take advantage of existing vineyards. Not until the land passed through a number of owners over nearly a century was the value of the vineyard truly recognized and its vines- produced fruit coveted by some of the most enviable wineries in the region.

Mark Vernon, Ridge's president, prizes the significance of this vineyard. "We are very fortunate to care for these Lytton Zinfandel vines. Some of them have been producing world-class wine for over 100 years and our mission is to keep them healthy, happy, and productive for another century, if possible."

Today, Ridge Vineyards owns the 69 acres of old vines that exist as a mixed field blend of predominantly Zinfandel with Petite Sirah, Grenache, Carignane, Mataro, Syrah, and Viognier. These provide the backbone and character of Lytton Springs wines. As with each of its vineyards, Ridge takes a straightforward approach, growing intense, flavorful grapes with minimal impact on the land, using sustainable growing practices. The soils in this part of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay with gravelly clay loam on hillsides. Lytton Springs Zinfandel has a ripe nose of raspberry, plum, pepper and chaparral. Blackberry, mineral and vanilla notes dominate the palate.

Moore – FPS 25Bob Biale PicmonkeyBob Biale Planted in 1905, the R.W. Moore Vineyard remains one of the oldest vineyards in the Napa Valley Coombsville appellation, still flourishing among all the modern-era plantings. Productive for more than 100 years, this vineyard has thrived through a series of stewards, beginning with seafarer Pleasant Ashley Stevens and currently under the watchful care of Bill Moore and his nephew-in-law, Mike Hendry.

In 2009, Moore’s family, Mike and Molly Hendry, decided to start their own winemaking project and asked if Robert Biale Vineyards would like to share the grapes with them. Bob Biale could not have been happier. "The wine from here displays a true sense of place—an identity that is due to its well-drained foothills soil, cool climate, modest rainfall, and good genetics. Small berries, thick grape skins, low yields, and slow ripening are the keys to growing great Zinfandel, and these sturdy old vines deliver it all," said Biale.

The vineyard, with its ten acres of old head-trained vines and prominent red barn, is as iconic a setting as it gets in California viticulture. Zinfandel represents about 95% of the vineyard, with Gamay, Mourvedre, Carignane and Petite Sirah making up the rest. Given the age of the vines, well-draining gravelly loam soils and dry-farming, the vineyard yields an exceptionally low 1.5 tons per acre, leading to expressive wines with intense blackberry fruit, earthy complexity and natural balance that only come with age.

Teldeschi – FPS 10The Teldeschi old vine vineyard features 30 acres of vines planted by the Reiner family between 1913 and 1919 in the gravely clay loam Tuscan Red Hill series soils of Dry Creek bench. The vineyard was purchased by the Teldeschi family in 1946 and has been farmed by them up to the present. The vineyard is dry-farmed and cross cultivated with a plow. It produces on average about 3.5 tons per acre and typically ripens in the first week of September. The ripe grapes have a distinct black cherry, vanilla flavor, deep colors, healthy acidity and moderate tannin.

Ravenswood first purchased fruit from Frank Teldeschi in 1982 and began vineyard designating this wine in 1997. The wines regularly receive among the top scores for Zinfandels in any given year by a broad range of top scoring periodicals. The wine is a traditional California field blend that includes Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane which exhibit the exceptional flavors and aromas that epitomize Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel; rich flavors of sweet cherry liquor, vanilla and smoke that lead to a ripe, dense, long and bright fruit finish.

George Zeni – FPS 26Owned and operated by four generations of the same family, the Zeni Ranch still holds true to many of the traditions of the founder of the family, Eduino Zeni, who planted the first vines in the 1880's. Currently, the three acres of head-trained, dry-farmed old vines feature Zinfandel as the primary varietal. This original old vine portion of the vineyard is owned and managed by Ray Zeni, George’s son, and grandson of Eduino, along with Ray’s wife Jane, and their son’s Robert and Mike.

"The gnarly ancient vines yield sparingly but reward the winemaker most magnanimously. At least, that's what the wine labels used to brag," according to the Zeni family. Producers throughout the years have included: Kendall-Jackson, Edmeades, Ridge Vineyards, and Pacific Star.

Speaking passionately about the Zinfandel grapes growing on top of the ridge, the late George Zeni explained why winemakers such as Jed Steele trekked up the steep and twisting 15 miles to get the fruit from their historic vineyards. “They wanted our mountain grapes...there was more sugar and it’d make a better wine. In fact, they’re still doing that right now. Why do you think Kendall-Jackson comes over here and buys Ciapusci grapes and my grapes? That’s where they get all their gold medals....I must have a dozen gold medals over there....So does Ciapusci.”

Zeni Ranch Zinfandel is perhaps best described by Frank Prial in his 1995 New York Times article discussing the '93 Edmeades Vineyards (Zeni Ranch) Zinfandel: "Mendocino County, and particularly the Anderson Valley, is great Zinfandel country, as this wine illustrates. It's a big-bodied wine with a deep, garnet red color. The taste is intense, and the flavors are concentrated. The wine has power and a long, lingering finish. The oak is a bit forward, but let's face it, oak is where the action is these days. Keep the wine around a couple of years and the oak will blend in. But who's going to keep it around that long?"

Ultimately, that is the question. All the "named" selections today from the famed vineyards, Lytton, Moore, Teldeschi, and George Zeni—are still nourishing vines that are more than 100 years old—still going strong, advancing the legacy of Zinfandel for generations to come, preserving Zinfandel for the future.

Grgich Scholarship winners PicmonkeyCroatian winemaking students pose with Mike Grgich: From left: Daniel Božac, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, Petra Balažić and Marina Šeparović. Daniel interned at Cakebread Cellars in Napa while Peta and Marina worked at Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles. Without the knowledge of the selection committee, Petra is also a niece of Ivo Jeramaz, Mike’s nephew and Vice President of Vineyards and Production for Grgich Hills.

TASTE News Service November 21, 2014 – Winners of the Miljenko Grgich Scholarship Fund at the University of Zagreb in Croatia finally met their benefactor in the Legacy Room at Grgich Hills Estate on Tuesday.

Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich is a graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Department of Viticulture and Enology. In 2013 he donated one million dollars to establish an endowment fund with the Croatian Scholarship Fund in the United States that will provide scholarships to students in the master’s degree program at the University of Zagreb in viticulture and enology. His goal is to help educate future grape growers and winemakers in Croatia so that they may develop a world-class wine industry there. Additionally, the scholarship will provide financial assistance each year to a small number of students seeking internship at a winery in the United States.

Mike Grgich describes his Scholarship Fund “as a way to allow me to say ‘thank you’ to those many people who helped me and at the same time help the next generation achieve their own dreams by starting a foundation for professional wine studies.”

Located at 1829 St. Helena Hwy (Hwy. 29) in Rutherford, Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills after the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Mike outscored the best of France in the now-famous 1976 Paris Tasting.

Today, this iconic winery farms 366 acres naturally, without artificial pesticides or herbicides, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. Mike is assisted by his daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production. For more information, visit

Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to the Napa Valley, you might first check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will links to the websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.

Mike Grgich in vineyard PicmonkeyMike Grgich at age 90Rutherford, CA March 26, 2014 - Mike Grgich began his life as a peasant in communist-controlled Croatia and arrived in the Napa Valley with $32, his life savings, sewn into the sole of his shoes. He was able to fulfill his American dream first by having his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay win the 1976 Paris Tasting and then by founding his own winery, Grgich Hills Estate in 1977. A bottle of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is currently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with his signature beret, original suitcase and textbooks, and was included in the book “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects”. For his contributions to the wine industry, Mike was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008.

Grgich established the Miljenko “Mike” Grgich American Dream Scholarship to provide deserving young wine professionals an opportunity to succeed and to honor the adoptive country that has given him so much. His father taught him to “Every day learn something new, do your best and make a friend.” This scholarship helps enable the next generation to achieve their own dreams through a professional wine studies program accredited by The James Beard Foundation. Grgich turns 91 on April 1st, the same date all scholarship offerings will be officially posted on the foundation’s website.

“We wanted to share my dad’s success and legacy in a meaningful way and The James Beard Foundation’s mission and educational pursuits resonate strongly with us” adds daughter and Vice President of Operations Violet Grgich.

Born April 1, 1923, Grgich grew up in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, where generations of Grgich’s family grew grapes and made wine. His goal of moving to the U.S. was inspired by success stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Grgich and business partner Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar in July 1977 (later changed to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006 after becoming entirely estate grown). The winery continues to receive international awards for its balanced, elegant wines and is recognized as a leader in sustainable vineyard practices. Grgich Hills’ entire acreage is certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power.

Grgich’s contributions to Roots for Peace, an organization founded by Heidi Kuhn and dedicated to the conversion of former minefields into successful grape-growing areas, have helped demine areas in his former homeland. A Croatian TV documentary about Grgich’s life, “Like the Old Vine,” premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.

Editor's note:  Planning on visiting Grgich Hills or other Napa wineries? In the North Coast listings of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find links to the websites of wineries, as well as links to websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options.

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