Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Sunny October Day in The Napa and Sonoma Wine Country With Gary Vaynerchuck

I had been sick all week, took a day off from work on Wednesday and only worked a half-day on Friday and so I felt like just laying around the house all day, to take it easy and get some rest.

But on Saturday October 24th the weather was absolutely fantastic with bright blue sunny skies and the air was warm, about 78 degrees, so I was just itchin’ to head out to the wine country. To top it off Gary Vaynerchuck of Wine Library TV was in town doing book signing at V. Sattui Winery and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet him.

So, off I went!

My nose and palate weren’t quite up to snuff so I wasn’t planning on doing too much wine tasting as I didn’t rust my senses to be able to accurately perceive the quality of a wine that day. Sadly, just two days prior I had to blind test two wines as part of a mid-term exams with my nose, palate and olfactory senses completely out of whack. It was a wonder that I was able to identify the even one of the wines.

As I entered the Napa Valley I felt like the beauty of the countryside was the perfect cure to the remnant of my cold. I was feeling absolutely fantastic as I view the landscape out my car window. This time of year most of the grapes have been harvested and the leaves on the vines are changing colors from green to light green, yellow and red.

After driving up to V. Sattui Winery and a brief meet and greet with Gary to get a copy of his book Crush It! signed I headed over to Sonoma to drive up the Valley of the Moon.

B. R. Cohn Winery - Sonoma

My one and only stop for tasting for the day was at B. R. Cohn Winery. My server was David Sharp, an extremely hospitable guy who was a wine maker himself for a number of years.

I tasted different levels of quality and price ranges of two of the varietals that they produce, Pinot Noir ($22 and $40) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($20, $55 and $100).

The first was the Panel Wagon Pinot Noir ($22) a light, simple everyday quaffable wine and the second was the more substantial 2007 B.R. Cohn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40). Unfortunately the tasting room doesn’t use Pinot Noir glasses and I am sure this wine could have been better displayed in more suitable stemware. As it was, the Russian River Valley Pinot is a fruit forward wine with black cherry cola, raspberry and strawberry with a touch of vanilla and little black pepper.

My third wine was the 2007 B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($20). I picked up on the nose a little bell pepper as well as black fruits, blackberry, black currant and black cherry with a touch of vanilla on the back end. I also I would judge this one to be your average Cabernet and at this price point I know of many Cabs out there of equal quality that between $10 and $15.

My fourth wine was the 2006 B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($55). Loads of plum, black currant, mocha and cherry followed by black licorice and a touch of eucalyptus and chocolate covered mint. It is well balanced with supple tannin, a lasting finish and is readily drinkable now but could probably also spend some more time in the bottle.

My final wine of the day was the 2004 B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection ($100). A full-bodied, well rounded wine with layers of black currant, cocoa, mocha, cedar, anise, and green olive. Surprisingly I actually preferred the 2006 B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon which is almost half the price. A nice wine but I wouldn’t shell out a Benjamin Franklin for it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Occasio Winery in Livermore California

One of the great things about going through the enology program at Las Positas College is the opportunity to meet fellow wine geeks in a friendly and yet academic setting. Some students are there just to take a couple wine appreciation classes to learn more about their favorite beverage. Other students are already in the business and are there to improve their knowledge of wine making practices.

Then there are also some like John Kinney, owner of Occasio Winery in Livermore, who are retiring from one career and are starting a second career with a passion for making wine in their own winery. I first met John in class last Spring at Las Positas College and I recently heard through the grape vine on campus that he had opened his tasting room. So, last Saturday I decided to venture out to Livermore and drop in to see John and get a tour around his winery, discuss his vision and wine making methods and taste what this new winery has to offer.

One of John’s convictions about wine making is that one should actually make wine from the AVA in which the winery resides. This may sound odd, but not only are there are many Livermore wineries that sell wine made from Napa grapes but some even do not even make their own wine! Some wineries purchase bulk wine and then bottle it under their own label.

Here is a tip – if you visit a winery in Livermore (or anywhere else) without wine making equipment or most their grapes comes from some an AVA other than Livermore ask them if they MAKE their own wine! Also, check the label on the wine. If the label states the wine was “Cellared and Bottled By…” and does not state “Produced By…” the wine probably came from somewhere else. The phrase “Produced By” indicates that the named winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 75 percent of the wine in that particular bottling. The phrase, however, does not mean that the winery grew the grapes. The term “Made and Bottled By” means that a minimum of 10 percent of the wine was fermented at the winery-the other 90 percent could be from other sources. “Bottled By” alone on a label indicates that the only role the winery most likely played in the wine'’ production was to purchase and bottle wine made somewhere else.

There are many wineries around the world that own their vineyards and produce their wines from their grapes, these are indicated by the designation “Estate” on the label. However there are wineries that do not own their own vineyards but rather source their grapes by contracting with vineyards. Likewise, there are many vineyards that do not produce wine but rather focus their labor on producing high quality grapes for contracted local wineries.

All of John Kinney’s wines are “Produced and Bottled By” Occasio Winery, sourcing quality grapes from local Livermore vineyards from which he is able to selectively choose quality grapes.

Occasio Winery has a very limited production and on my visit the tasting room was serving three wines with a fourth to be released in November.

My first taste was the 2008 Occasio Pinot Gris Del Arroyo Vineyard, Livermore Valley. This wine was a Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 Indy International Wine Competition. This is a copper-pink dry, light crisp wine with fine acidity and aromas of pear, apple, and melon and sells for only $16 so I brought a bottle home.

My second wine was the 2008 Occasio Sauvignon Blanc Del Arroyo Vineyard, Livermore Valley. This wine was a Silver Medal Winner at the 2009 Indy International Wine Competition. The profile of Sauvignon Blanc can have a great deal of range depending on the terrior, on the nose and palate I picked up melon, citrus and a slight herbaceous quality. This is a very light wine that would pair well with seafood and sells for $18 a bottle

My third and final tasting was the 2007 Occasio Petite Sirah Livermore Valley. This wine was also Silver Medal Winner at the 2009 Indy International Wine Competition. This wine is deep Garnet in color and the first impression on the nose was very robust and fruit forward. As I continued to swirl the glass more pepper notes began to come through. The is s big, full-bodied wine with jammy qualities of black fruit and spice, subtle notes of new leather and toasty oak envelop the flavors through the finish, giving way to notes of caramel and vanilla on the back end and finish. A fine representative of the Livermore Valley, this wine sells for $28 a bottle so I brought one to add to my collection.

Soon to be released is the 2007 Occasio Merlot Thatcher Bay Vineyard, Livermore Valley ($32) which I hope taste on a return visit. John also informed me that he would soon be making a very limited production a dry Zinfandel Rosé to be released around Christmas.

If you visit Occasio Winery in Livermore tell them you heard about them from Erik Wait’s “Adventures in Wine tasting”!

For more information check out their web site:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gary Vaynerchuck of “Wine Library TV” Book Signing Friday & Saturday, October 23-24th

If you’re a wine fan as I am and you like to seriously enjoy your wine without being too serious about yourself with all the wine-snobbery that can be so common, then Gary Vaynerchuck (that’s VAY-Ner CHUK) is your kinda guy.

Gary’s on-line wine podcast at Wine Library TV ( http://tv.winelibrary.com/ ) is both informative and entertaining and his enthusiasm and passion for wine is contagious.

But Gary is no mere schlocky wine entertainer, he is all about getting down to business. Now Gary has written about this passion in his latest book Crush It! and will be appearing in San Francisco and in St. Helena this week at:

When: Friday, October 23, 2009 at 5:30 PM


561 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 931-7292

For a map and directions check out:


When: Saturday, October 24 2009 at 11:00 AM


V. Sattui Winery
1111 White Lane
St. Helena, CA 94
(707) 963-7774