Monday, April 25, 2011

4/25 Jim Fiolek of Santa Barbara Vintners and Ken Brown Wines

Jim Fiolek, Exec. Director of the Santa Barbara County Vintner's Association, Tells Us About the Latest Wines & Events in Santa Barbara Wine Country!

The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to support and promote Santa Barbara County as a premium wine producing and wine grape growing region. The Vintners’ Association produces festivals, seminars and tastings and provides information to consumers and the wine and travel media.

For more info, go to

Ken Brown Tells Us About Ken Brown Wines!

The Focus at Ken Brown Wines is on very small lots of Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills. The wines are produced at our winery in Buellton at the gateway to the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, and most lots consist of 250 cases or less. Total annual production is only about 2,000 cases.

Ken works with growers, many of whom he's known for years, to hand select vineyard blocks for the program. Some of the remarkable vineyards they work with include Cargasacchi, Clos Pepe, Rio Vista and Sanford & Benedict. They also produce limited bottlings of Chardonnay and Syrah.

Ken's wife, Deborah, and Ken make up the staff of Ken Brown Wines, and they enjoy the close relationships they have with our wines and their customers.

Most of Ken's career has been spent pursuing the elusive traits that make great Pinot Noir. From his early days at Zaca Mesa Winery to his 20-year tenure at Byron Vineyard to his small family operation at Ken Brown Wines, he has continued to experiment with clones, rootstocks, soils and winemaking techniques, exploring the tremendous potential for Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County.

Ken's first experience with Pinot Noir in what is now known as the Sta. Rita Hills came in 1976 when he met Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict and tasted one of the first Pinot Noirs from the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard. Launching the Ken Brown label in 2003 reinvigorated his excitement about the vineyards and the wines that brought him to Santa Barbara County in the first place 30 years ago. Experience tells him that great achievements still lie ahead, and it is in that spirit that he continues the quest for the next echelon of quality in Pinot.

For more info, go to

Sunday, April 17, 2011

4/18-Michael Horn talks to Ray Franscioni and Dana Merrill

Ray Franscioni-Owner Ray Franscioni Wines

Ray Franscioni is third generation Monterey County. Ray and family have gained a reputation for providing the finest grapes to some of the industry’s best known producers. Vintners like Kendall-Jackson, Mer Soleil, Morgan, Cru, and Joullian purchase fruit for their best vintages from the various Franscioni estates.
It is only recently, though, that wine lovers could collect wines from the Franscioni vineyards under the family’s own labels. Teaming with award-winning winemaker Joel Burnstein, Ray Franscioni and family have introduced their limited Puma Road, Pedregal, and Lilia releases. Wines with a delicious sense of place, the result of two decades winegrowing experience...

Dana Merrill-Owner Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery                                                        
Dana Merrill’s family dates back 7 generations on California’s Central Coast to the Spanish rancho days. After growing up and farming in the Santa Ynez Valley, he obtained a degree in Ag Business Management from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He later entered the vineyard management business,  starting Mesa Vineyard Management, Inc. in 1989. The firm provides management services to growers and wineries.

In 2008,  Dana and wife Marsha, son Matthew and wife Nicole created the Pomar Junction brand featuring estate wines from their 120 acre Templeton vineyard and other vineyards they manage. A tasting room was opened as well in November of 2008. The brand is managed by  Matthew and Nicole oversees the  wine club. Son Keith handles the website and label design. The brand features the SIP Sustainable Certification commencing with some of its 2008 wines.

Dana has been active in industry groups including serving as  Chairman of the California Assn. of Winegrape Growers , as a charter member of  the Central Coast Vineyard Team and as a board member of  the  Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.  He was voted San Luis Obispo’s Agriculturist of the Year and Grape Grower of the Year in 2005 and his firm was awarded the IPM Innovator of the Year award by the California Dept of Pesticide Regulation in 2002 for its efforts to promote sustainable farming systems at Pomar Junction and elsewhere. 


4/11-Michael Horn Talks with Barrie Lynn and John Kochis

Barrie Lynn-The Cheese Impresario
She will be pairing Mezcal from Mexico with cheese.

Welcome to The Cheese Impresario!

Here we are going to talk about all kinds of cheeses from all around the world. We will learn together and I will help you bring the world of cheese closer to your heart and learn the great enjoyment that it can bring to you, your family, and your guests. 

Agave cultivation  (in  Mexico: Agriculture) 
Distilled from blue agave. The drink takes its name from the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, the centre for its production and distilling. Yet another alcoholic drink derived from an agave is mezcal, which is produced primarily in Oaxaca.

Relation to tequila  (in  tequila (distilled liquor)) 
Mescal (also known as mezcal), a similar distilled beverage, is less expensive and stronger in flavour and is made from an agave plant that grows wild in the Oaxaca region.

John Kochis-General Manager Bridlewood Estate Winery

John Kochis is the General Manager of Bridlewood Estate Winery and is responsible for the day to day business of the Bridlewood Winery including the tasting room, wine club, & winemaking.  John is also one of the national brand spokespersons for Bridlewood and works very closely with marketing on brand and strategy concepts.  He is also president of the board for the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association.

Upon graduation from the University of Oregon in 1995, John began his career with Gallo in Portland, Oregon as a distributor salesperson.  He was promoted to a District Manager in 1996 and then on to a Field Marketing Manager calling on Eastern Oregon Distributors before accepting the position as the State Manager of Nevada in 1998.  In early 2000 John was able to return to Portland as the Retail Sales Manger inside Valley Wine Company.  He then accepted the opportunity to move to the international business as the Provincial Manager of Alberta in 2003 and after a year was promoted to the Western Regional Manager of Canada.  In 2006, John repatriated back to the U.S. as the Director of On premise for the Northwest Region based in Seattle, WA manager with 5 states.  This position increased in scope a year and a half later with 6 additional states as the Director for the newly formed Mountain West Region.  In late 2008, the opportunity at Bridlewood was presented and John made the move to Southern California beginning as the General Manager in January of 2009.

 John is a Certified Specialist of Wine and lives in Santa Barbara with his wife Chalan, a registered Nurse, and his two children, Ava (7) and Chase (5).  

Monday, April 4, 2011

4/4 Michael Horn talks with Marc Mays of Estrella Creek Wines & Steve Hall with Robert Biale Vineyards

We're Visiting with Marc Mays, Owner of Estrella Creek Wines!

Marc is just one of the 4M’s of 4M Vineyards. The other 3 are his parents Peter and Beverly and brother Marlon. Having lived in the Paso Robles area for over 30 years, they have seen the number of Paso Robles wineries grow from 3 to it’s current number of over 200.

Wanting to utilize on the ideal grape growing location that they have been blessed with, the Mays family decided to plant 10-acres of Syrah and Petite Sirah in 2001. The original idea was to grow high-quality fruit to sell to discriminating vintners. After realizing the countless hours they spent personally tending to their vines- individual attention to pruning, fruit thinning, and hand harvesting- they decided to take their grapes to the bottle and created their own family wine label, Estrella Creek.

Working with local winemaking consultants they bottle Estate Grown Syrah, Petite Sirah and Viognier as well as proprietary blends Stargazer, consisting of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah; and the recently released Moondancer, a Syrah and Grenach blend.

For more information on 4M Vineyards and Estrella Creek Wines, please visit

Let's Take A Trip to Robert Biale Vineyards with Winemaker Steve Hall!

Steve grew up in California in a typical Greek-American wine drinking family and, from a very early age, enjoyed the classic red jug wines from Gallo and Almaden at the dinner table.

After attending UC Berkeley, Steve landed a job as chemist at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars a few years later. Steve learned winemaking techniques at se NV wineries, including a recent stint at Jarvis as associate winemaker.

A big fan of Biale wines since the first release, he joined the Biale team as winemaker for the 2008 vintage.

Steve is dedicated to making wines that show the best qualities of each vineyard, and feels privileged to work with the historic vines that are so prized at Robert Biale Vineyards. Petite Sirah vineyards dominated Napa acerage not too many years ago. The deep color, good sized tannins and mouth watering fruit at a buyer friendly price make Petites a great alternative to the expensive Cabernets.