tasting time

IMG_2232Hall is one of those small-scale wineries that make tasting your way through the Napa Valley so enjoyable: intimate, artisanal, organic, they produce fourteen-odd varietals each season, two of which you might find in your local liquor store – if you’re lucky. Because they’re such a diminutive producer, the majority of their wines sell out via subscription. Which means to taste the breadth of their fabulous Cabernet, you really need to visit the St. Helena estate vineyards. Though currently in the throes of constructing a major new guest experience facility – of which I’ll tell you more later – I still got the chance to relax in the dappled sunlight of the tasting garden and sip my way through a handful of choice bottles. Cabernet is like the Chardonnay of reds: people either love it or loathe it. If your palate falls into the latter camp you might be surprised, however, by the pure and vivid flavors Hall achieves. Unfined and unfiltered, these wines are layered, expressive, and totally delicious.


mastering french wine, online

American wine master Sheri Sauter Morano – along with experts from the wine-producing regions of Savoy, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, and Bergerac – is hosting one of the more curious wine tastings around:  online.  The hour-long French Wine Webinar happens today at 2PM and is designed around some fabulous wines from the Rhone Valley, Rhone Alps, and Aquitane regions of France. You’ll learn about the regional origins and vineyards, as well as flavors and pairings.  Sounds just like a wine tasting – without the wine.

But go on, give it a sniff.  If it’s any incentive, host Morano is one of only 26 certified Masters of Wine in the US.

Plus at the end, three trivia questions related to wine will be posited.  Try and answer correctly – the winner get two tickets to France, plus a three-night stay.  I’ve got your free pass for signing up right HERE.


almost-live blog: swanson vineyards

No visit to the Napa Valley would be complete without stopping into one the hundreds of vineyards that cover the valley like kudzu.  Throwing a dart at a map, I ended up at Swanson Vineyards, a cheeky little producer of delightfully decadent – yet accessible – estate wines.

Greeted outside with a glass of crisp and cheery Rosato I was soon happily ensconced in their  louche and luxurious salon. The Harvey Tasting is an informally formal tasting experience that covers the breadth and depth of Swanson’s cellars:  a 2008 Chardonnay was perfectly paired with caviar on potato chips; the Merlot was served with an intriguing hard cheese, Mimolette Vieux; a ripe, ruby Petite Sirah – my favorite – was made even more complex with a sliver of cave-aged Gruyere; a Vosges Haut Chocolat bonbon made the perfect foil to a 2006 Alexis, an estate blend; and paired with a well-veined Danish blue Castello, the 2005 Tardif was as magnificent as any French Sauternes.

Needless to say it made for a most entertaining – if boozy – afternoon.  I left with a couple of bottles intended for home, reflecting on the benefit of occasionally embracing the music of chance.


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