Visiting a Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, I realize that this is much later in the day than I usually post, but it has been a crazy busy week and I wanted to start this next series. Hard core wine lovers have almost always have gone to visit a winery before. But if you don’t get to travel much and don’t realize that there are wineries in your area you might not be familiar with what it is like. Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin was on my way home from the Wine Bloggers’ Conference and therefore the perfect last stop before I got home later that day. The winery at Wollersheim was established in the 1840s by Agoston Haraszathy, better known to wine lovers as the “Father of California Viticulture” and the founder of Buena Vista Vineyards. Before he made it to Napa, he stopped for several years in Wisconsin, where he established the oldest incorporated village in the state, Prairie du Sac. The winery is still in operation to this day and this is from the tour when I visited at the end of June. Enjoy.

Wollersheim Winery
7876 Wisconsin 188
Prairie du Sac, WI 53578
1-800-VIP-WINE (847-9463)

Chimney Rock Winery – The Video Post

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I should list that as sometimes film maker as well as Editor.

This is my overview of the Chimney Rock Winery. The wind was blowing strongly enough for me to ditch the audio and go with this silent movie type treatment… Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Wines of Rutherford Hill

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The tour of Rutherford Hill was wonderful, but it is the wine that was amazing.

Rutherford Hill MerlotRutherford Hill Cabernet SauvignonI am ashamed to say that I can not remember the unique attributes of each of the wines that I sipped on my tour. I was taken with all the sights and sounds going on around me. They were excellent (I hate not having enough hands to do everything that I want to at the same time).

The wines that I drank along the route were the 2005 Merlot and the 2004 Merlot Reserve and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which were wonderful.

When we got back to the tasting room, I got to taste some of the more wonderful wines.

My VinturiThe 2006 Malbec smelled and tasted of blueberries and cherries. The 2006 Petit Verdot smelled of coffee and tasted of black cherries and chocolate. I got a special treat with the winemakers blend getting to taste it both poured regularly and decanted via a Vinturi.  Now in all fairness, the wine smelled and tasted good before I got to taste the version poured through the Vinturi.  But after it was?  WOW!  That is all I can say.  The aroma was fuller and more dramatic.  The taste?  With more body and soul. WOW!  I was so impressed with the Vinturi’s job, I bought one to take home.  It even has the Terlato logo on it.  So I will always remember my trip to Rutherford Hill (as if I could forget).

Angel's PeakCardinal's PeakFrom there we moved on to the to some of the Terlato Family Vineyard wines.  After reading Anthony Terlato’s book, Taste: A Life in Wine (I love my iPhone Kindle reader…  you take your reading with you literally everywhere.)  The Terlato wines are produced at the Rutherford estate vineyard, but in the vineyard within the vineyard.  The idea was to raise the quality of the Rutherford wines which represents the chief goal of the family.  Personally, I believe that the wines achieve this goal in spades!

EpisodePortThe Angels Peak’s is lush with a plum taste and tobacco-y.  The Cardinal’s Peak was more wood and leather with jam overtones.  My favorite of the three was the Devil’s Peak with its smooth and complex flavors.  The “Peak” series are Tony Terlato’s homage to the wines of Bordeaux, France.  These wines are blends of the best of the vineyard and made to express the best elements of the grapes.  The Episode wine, on the other hand, seem to be an expression of place – Napa.  The wine was intense and lingering on the palate.  I brought a bottle home as a thank you to my folks for helping me with my trip.  Dad, naturally is saving it.  I hope he allows us to open it for Christmas!

The last wine that I tasted at Rutherford Hill was the 2004 Zinfandel Port.  I have to admit that I am something of a Port snob in that I rarely find one that I like from America.  This one was made in the style that an authentic Port would be made but used Zinfandel instead of the traditional grapes.  The result is an American expression of Portuguese tradition.

I was sad to be leaving Rutherford Hill but as I lugged my box of wine (I can’t resist buying a few bottles) but was looking forward to the second part of my Terlato family adventure – my trip to Chimney Rock!

Rutherford Hill Tour

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I don’t know why so many of my adventures start with an element of panic. I sometimes think it is so I can appreciate them all the more.

picnic groveolives in the valleyAs I drove up Rutherford Hill Road, I finally started to relax and realized that the road looked familiar.. and the reason why became clear a moment later.. as I passed Auberge du Soleil, a restaurant that Kevin and I and our friend Charles visited and ate at when we were all in Napa together. As I pulled past the restaurant I reached a large parking lot at the top of the hill. Now, I had really reached my destination.

outdoor tasting roomentranceI left the car and approached a woman pulling out her cell phone. From her picture on Facebook, I immediately recognized Karen McFarland who is Anthony Terlato’s assistant in Napa Valley. We exchanged greetings as we headed toward the winery and stopped briefly to admire the view of the valley. The picnic grove and olive grove were beautiful, the olive are pressed for oil, but had recently been trimmed back so they would be another season before they bore fruit again.

tasting roomKaren in the Tasting RoomWe walked into the tasting room, walking past the outdoor tasting bar which was complete with a BBQ grill. I can imaging fun summer events there… and since it is California.. long into the fall as well. The tasting room consisted of a large u-shaped wooden tasting bar with pourers in the middle of the two sides to the bar.

Tanks behind the WinerySetting Up For HarvestKaren introduced me to the folks working in the tasting room as poured me a glass of wine (I think I suggested Rose, just to break my Sauvignon Blanc habit from the weekend 🙂 )  Karen started telling me about the history of the winery.  The winery was established in 1974 and specialized in producing Merlot.  When the Terlato family purchased the winery in 1996, the first thing that they did was REDUCE production in order to concentrate on a higher quality of wine.  The family also invested money in state of the art winery equipment such as fermentation tanks that had glycol sleeves to heat or cool the wine to the appropriate temperature to adjust for changes in the environment.

Caves at Rutherford HilBarrel MarkingsWe began our tour looking at area behind of the winery that was being set up in preparation for the coming harvest.  Of course, the winery had previously been state of the art, when the original owners built the cave system at the winery.  The original cave was constructed from 1984 to 1986 and the additional space  was completed in 1989.  The caves extend for almost a mile and allow the wine to be aged in their oak barrels at a consistent 59o F with 98% humidity.

Wine DisplayMeeting RoomWhile we walked through the caves, we stopped occasionally at the displays that were located along the path.  A sign at each location would describe a type of wine or winemaking process and taste a different wine.  Additionally there is room set aside for meetings or other events. In fact, the caves themselves can be rented for special events and has often been used for special celebrity chef dinners hosted by the Terlato family.  The caves include plaques commemorating these special events.

The WineryTasting in the WineryAs we left the caves and headed back into the winery and continued the tour.  The winery is a state of the art winery within a winery facility.

At this point my tour of the winery returned me to the tasting room.  I had already tasted some of the selections from the Terlato Wine Group, but there would be more to come….

I was In-N-Out

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

For the last week and a half I have been posting about the events of one day, July 25th, 2009. It was a long, fun and exhausting day where I drank a lot of wine, learned a lot of interesting facts and met a lot of interesting people. But the day, like every day must eventually end.

The Order BoyIn the morning I got up and went down for the break out sessions of the conference. Apparently these were strategically arranged for Sunday to keep people from sneaking out of the conference early. And as they were sessions about how to figure out ways to monetize or improve your blog, I was there. But I am not going to bore you with the how-to minutiae of blogging. If you want a blog, you can figure out easily enough for yourself the relative ease of creating one and the difficulty of getting it to work the way that you want it to.

This post is not really going to be about wine, but rather the environment where I was finding the wine that I was drinking – California. Specifically some of the delicious options that can be found in Golden State.

WaitingCalifornia’s development as a major state in the Union was predicated on the completion of the two major transcontinental highways: The Lincoln Highway and Route 66. It is in this environment that the drive-through restaurant was born. And the first of its kind was the In-N-Out Burger that being in 1948.

In the weeks before the conference I heard people outside California posting on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter about the need to get themselves over to an In-N-Out Burger stand. As I had never had one, it seemed like a plan to go and see what the fuss was about. So I did. After the formal programs for the conference were over I got into my car and looked around for the nearest In-N-Out Burger joint (Which was easily found due to my onboard GPS system).

The place was packed. So I got in the line and waited for my turn. The boy in the headset soon came up to my car (or I moved up to his position) and placed my order. As instructed, I ordered the double-double (per Rory Gurland) animal-style (per Bill Daley and eaten in the same manner, no doubt). Next came the long drive up to the windows. First to pay. Then to collect my meal.  In fact, when I got to the pick up window, I announced to the woman manning (womanning?) it that this was my first In-N-Out Burger.  She smiled and said, “It won’t be your last… You enjoy that burger”.

What a Burger!I took it back to my hotel room where I ate it with relish (which is a description and a pun at the same time).  Oh, I did drink wine with it.  A Yellowtail Rose (which I have never seen in Chicago before).  The fries were perfect (ok. I ate those on the ride back to the hotel as they hold their temperature as well as an icecube in Death Valley).  The burger was delicious and juicy and I made a mess of myself… enjoying it thoroughly.

Afterwards, I took a long, long nap.  To prepare me for the day to come.

Lunch at Peju Province Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Our next stop after the CIA was to head into Rutherford and to lunch at Peju Province Winery. Founded in 1982 by Tony and Herta “HB” Peju the winery has been producing red, white and rose wines at their boutique winery.

We were joined by Katie Lewis, Communications Coordinator who gave us the background of the winery and chatted with us as we ate our lunch of sandwiches and salads. (I loved the cantaloupe and prosciutto salad… it solves the issue of how to eat the wrapped cantaloupe/prosciutto by making it all bite-sized and I will make it here at the house when I can keep a cantaloupe for longer than 12 hours) As we were finishing our meal Herta Peju came out, poured Sauvignon Blanc and began speaking about her wines.  Wine, horticulture and art seem to be viewed as kindred spirits at Peju.  The vineyard was already producing wine grapes for when the Peju’s first purchased the property.  Eventually, the family began producing their own vintages beginning with the first block of Cabernet Sauvignon that is known as the H.B. Vineyard.  Soon after, the family’s garage was converted into a tasting room and the winery began to grow.

Peju PR Girl... She is as cute as a buttonLunch at Peju

Currently, the winery produces 35,000 cases annually and has expanded from the original 3o acres to include 350 acres in Pope Valley and 86 acres in Dutch Henry Canyon.  In fact, as the next generation of Pejus have joined the business, sustainability has become a bigger issue.  In the last few years the vineyards have received certifications from the California Certified Organic Farmers, Napa County Green Winery and Bay Area Green Business.  The winery has installed 720 photovoltaic panels atop the winery roof which produces enough electricity to power 40 average homes and will reduce Peju’s electrical demand by 36%.

Herta joins us for lunchFifty/Fifty and Cabernet Sauvignon

We were given two glasses with which to taste during our lunch and chat and I used the opportunity to try some of those wines side by side.

For instance, I was able to try the Provence blend alongside the Rose of Syrah. It is remarkable to taste seemingly similar wines and find how different they really are…

ProvenceRose of Syrah

More about Peju coming up….

Napa Valley Wine Auction Preview

From our Mid-Atlantic correspondent, Richard

From: Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards
To: Richard
Subject: Napa Valley Wine Auction Preview

Auction Napa Valley tickets on sale March 31, 2008

Auction Napa Valley E-Auction Preview

The buzz in Napa Valley has startedit’s almost time for the granddaddy of charity wine auctions, Auction Napa Valley 2008, The American Wine Classic. But you can get in on the bidding excitement, without even attending the event!

Starting on May 23, wine lovers everywhere around the globe will be able to bid on and win lots via the Internet in Auction Napa Valley’s E-Auction.

We invite you to join in the fun by checking out and bidding on these 80 incredible auction lots including the one from Flora Springs that features rare and one-of-a-kind bottles and collections of wine; private events and weekend stays hosted by Napa Valley vintners; luxury items; and more.

What’s more, proceeds support Napa County health, youth development and housing nonprofit organizations. Over the past 27 years, Auction Napa Valley has donated close to $78 million to local nonprofits.

The online lot preview is now open. Start viewing the lots from Flora Springs and our neighbors. We can guarantee the most difficult task will be trying to decide which lots to bid on!

Friday, May 23: E-Auction opens at

Friday, June 6: E-Auction closes in three waves, 2:00, 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. Pacific time.

The E-Auction: it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s a great way to experience the best Napa Valley has to offer with items that often can’t be purchased anywhere else all while raising money for a great cause.

My Oeno-homage to Stephen Colbert

Love him or hate him, Stephen Colbert has provided an invaluable service to us all by individually highlighting our nations congressional districts on the Colbert Report in segments known as “Better Know a District”.

We here at VinoVerve think that he is on to something…. Especially if you start to apply the concept to wine.

The American Viticulture Areas are designations established by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF, yes, really, I thought it sounded crazy too) which has in our post 9/11 world has been re-designated as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The AVAs are indications of a shared terroir (geography and geology), wine making history and name recognition. In this sense it is more like the Italian Indicazione Geografica Tipica.

Why do we think that we should learn more about the AVAs? Well consider how many you know about. Napa Valley? Russian River Valley? Heck, do you know any outside of California? You do? How about outside of the west coast? Ok, smarty pants… how about outside of New York? Now, I have you.

It turns out that the first AVA designated in the US was in Missouri. Surprise!

Did you know that there have been active wineries in the Altus AVA for over 100 years? Oh and so you know, Altus is in Arkansas.

In honor of our new appreciation for American wine regions, we are going to begin exploring them in a segment that I have dubbed:

The Stephen T. Colbert Memorial: Better Know an AVA….

Let the truthiness begin!