Monday, February 27, 2012

2/27-Michael Horn talks to Alison Doran & Douglas Kruse

Alison Doran - Winemaker, Hill Family Estate Winery
Ryan Hill always stated that if you want to dream in color, drink wine. This dream soon became a reality for Hill Family Estate when winemaker Alison Doran joined the team and made the inaugural 2001 vintage. Alison was introduced to Doug while he was growing grapes and she was making wine for Lewis Cellars. Doug loved Alison’s style, personality and determination to produce the finest wines possible.

Alison developed this skill while being mentored by renowned wine expert Andre Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in winemaking from UC Davis and spending time in the legendary winery-filled region of Alsace, France. Today, Doug and Alison work closely together selecting the highest quality grapes and producing ultra premium wines.

"I find that women are not out to place an ego signature on their wines and create the biggest and most intense point scoring, fruit-bomb monster that is possible. There is generally a less intensive use of wood and the tannins are supple and softer. Many women are more aware of "Terroir" of the vineyard and do not abuse it in the winemaking process. There is an understated elegance in the bottle. The wines they touch sing of their own accord." 

Douglas Kruse - Jack Creek Cellars
In 1997 we began the pursuit of a dream; it started with 75 acres on Jack Creek Road in Templeton, CA. Before the first vine was planted we made our commitment to farm the finest fruit possible, even if it meant a longer period of time before the vineyard became financially viable. The first priority with the fruit produced from our vineyard has always been excellence, believing strongly that without remarkable fruit you cannot make a world-class wine.

After coming to the Central Coast for many years and falling in love with the area, our search began. We were starting our family and happened to be at a point in time when we could make a move and start a new adventure. Following many weeks of searching for the right piece of land we were blessed to be led to the JRK Ranch. Upon meeting and immediately loving the owner, we bought the front 75 acres of JRK Ranch and started planting our vines. Now known as Kruse Vineyards and Jack Creek Cellars, the two pieces of the JRK have been brought back together by our family, and we are blessed to enjoy one of the truly most magical places on the Central Coast.
Along the way our family has grown and we are now living what was once just a dream: a family filled with love and working together to create exceptional wines for you. It is truly a labor of love and passion which shows through from our practices in the fields, to the production in the winery, and finally our dedication in every bottle.
We believe strongly in family and friendship and while we work very hard to bring you the best wine we can, we also work very hard to enjoy this life and share in laughter and camaraderie with our children, family, and our friends; all of whom are the most amazing people in the world.
“We hope you enjoy the wines as much as we have enjoyed bringing them to you.”
Doug and Sabrina Kruse

Monday, February 20, 2012

2/20-Michael Horn talks to Georges Daou and Ben Papapietro

Georges Daou - Daou Wines
With a head for business and a heart full of passion for life, Georges Daou oversees the marketing and branding of DAOU Vineyards, keeping his sharp eyes on the direction of the winery and the steady growth of the family’s beloved vineyards. As children, Georges and his brother day-dreamed of a bucolic American ideal, replete with roaming cattle, ripening grapes and a thriving family culture.

Now, he wakes up most days simply amazed to discover that he’s living that dream. A warm, philosophical and very social man, he is an avid golfer, cyclist, and polo player. This love of both people and the great outdoors feeds his irrepressible joie de vivre. Georges' attention to excellent terroir, great climate and the fine arts of winemaking results in a unique experience not just for visitors to DAOU, but for wine connoisseurs around the world and, in fact, anyone who opens a bottle of DAOU wine. He looks forward to welcoming you to the top of DAOU Mountain, an inspiring place where life seems to stand still, and great times await you. Visit the winery and taste it for yourself.

“It takes nine months to make a baby, but nine years to make a great wine.” – Georges Daou

Ben Papapietro - Owner Papapietro Perry Winery
Wine has always been a part of Ben’s life. A native San Franciscan of Italian descent, Ben grew up with wine as part of every family meal and gathering. His grandpa made his own red wine blend in the basement, where Ben listened and learned.

Ben’s heritage and love for wine always beckoned. The passion caught fire in his early twenties as he explored wines from around the world—Bordeaux and an occasional high-end California Cabernet. But the wines that really turned Ben’s head were Burgundies from 1956 and ’57. Seduced by those captivating aromas and elegant nuances, Ben volunteered to work during harvest at a friend’s Sonoma County winery specializing in Pinot Noir. There he honed his craft and never looked back.

During his 37-year career with the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, Ben met future partner Bruce Perry. Through their common passions—cooking and wine—they became fast friends.

Today, the Papapietro Perry cellar is simply a more elaborate version of Ben’s garage where he started making wine more than 25 years ago. “Authentic, not pretentious,” says Ben. “Confident, but not too serious. Humble. The winery is an extension of my home and personal hospitality.” 

Maybe that is why one corner of the cellar is dedicated to a makeshift kitchen where family favorites are prepared for the staff, and the occasional lucky friend who drops by at lunchtime.

In Ben’s words, “cooking and wine are indistinguishable.” He simply cannot imagine one without the other.

When Ben isn’t in the cellar or the kitchen, he and his wife Yolanda like to travel and pour Papapietro Perry wines wherever they land. Yolanda joined the family business in 2009 handling distributor relations and enjoys pouring with Ben at events.  When they're not traveling,  Ben and Yolanda enjoy spending time with their two grandsons.

Monday, February 13, 2012

2/13-Michael Horn talks to Jose Diaz and Mike Sullivan

Jose Diaz - 6th Annual Dark and Delicious Event

Sixth Annual Dark & Delicious Event
Dark are the 58 Petite Sirah Wines,
Delicious are the 36 Foodie Sponsors (Restaurants, Specialty Food Producers
and Caterers) and the National Pork Board
WINDSOR, CA: If you’re in the neighborhood to taste a lot of preeminent Petites, with 36 fine food restaurants, specialty food producers, and caterers, please join in the fun at the Sixth Annual Dark & Delicious in 2012. 
Friday, February 17, 2012 

Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda

6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

2301 Monarch St.

Alameda, CA 94501

Tickets: $63.00 per person

Free Parking  

Wine writer Steve Heimoff has said of this event: Dark & Delicious is one of the more fun events of its kind. There’s tons of great food provided by local restaurants, and scores of wineries pour their Petite Sirahs (plus there’s usually some additional stuff “under the table”). It’s $63.00 a person, which is cheap considering you can eat a bellyful of really good food and drink to your heart’s content. And no parking hassles: There’s a huge lot well staffed by young men who how to direct the traffic.

Sponsoring the event again this year is the National Pork Board. Each year, the Pork Board sponsors chefs, encouraging them to think outside the box with pork, proving how delicious Petite Sirah and pork can be as a food and wine pairing. Many creative dishes are enjoyed; with one example being NoshThis’s Bacon salted Caramels creation.

Mike Sullivan  Winemaker & Partner Benovia Winery

Ben Dewane and Novian Anderson never met, yet they raised their children with similar old-fashioned values. Hard work brings its own rewards, they would say. Be the best at what you do. Surround yourself with good people, and let them get to work. And never, ever produce anything that wouldn't make you proud.

With such similar family backgrounds, it's no wonder Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane would eventually find each other and marry. Together, they began a journey that led them to found a winery that would make them, and their fathers, proud--proud enough that their label pays homage to the two men, Benovia.

Their journey also inspired them to assemble the best possible team of respected winemaking veterans. They recruited Bob Mosby as general manager and found the perfect partner in Mike Sullivan, one of northern California's top winemakers, and someone who shares their passions. With Mike as co-owner and responsible for the wine making, they recruited Daniel Roberts as winegrower and viticulturalist, and Tucker Catlin as vineyard development director. Then they brought on Tina Alves as operations manager, Chris Kangas as vineyards manager, and Nick Finarelli as Enologist to bring even more depth to the winery's operations. They are good people, and together they make an even better team: a team of accomplished professionals with more than 150 years of collective experience producing some of California's best wines.

"At Benovia, our team is an extension of an extraordinary family," says Joe, "a family that eats, drinks, and breathes a lifelong passion for wine."

That passion led to the purchase of the renowned Cohn Vineyard atop a mountain near Healdsburg, where the couple lives, and led to a new winery in the heart of the Russian River Valley. The journey will continue with an exciting new Pinot Noir vineyard near Freestone, and the Martaella ranch (named after Joe and Mary's mothers), surrounding the winery itself.

Joe and Mary have invested in all the right things to make Benovia flourish-vineyards with unique terroir and a well equipped winery. But their most important investment is people.

"We see these people as the soul of Benovia," says Joe. "Mary and I trust in their passion and in what they bring to the wine. They expect a lot of themselves, and they expect it from each other. We like to call them 'Benovians.' I think our fathers would be proud of them.
Tour Benovia

Monday, February 6, 2012

2/06-Michael Horn visits with George Skorka and Sean Tevik

George Skorka -
Sales Representative,
Strange Wines

Wine Warrior & Kalinist Sommelier and Maitre’D George Skorka wasn’t yet a teenager when he tasted his first wine, a cup of tea with the teaspoon of white wine in it, and he remembers it clearly, it always brings back memories: "The wine made the tea immediately lighter in colors, and it’s flavors with the odd but stimulating bouquet, good acidity and gentle richness mesmerized the little boy." By age 6 he was cooking daily fresh food from the farmers market with his grandmother. The Hungarian Olympic kayak team member made supporting money by being a bar back in the most famous night club in Budapest. Master Sommelier

After college and working in the classic floor system in many ranks, Skorka become assistant Food and Beverage Director in the 200 years old legendary Hotel on the Danube’s treasure Margaret Island in the heart of Budapest. At age 30 the revolutionary New York restaurateur Paul Kovi of the Four Season gave him a Gourmet Magazine review of Gyertya, his former Restaurant in Budapest. They collaborated in the New York Years in the complete rewriting of the Transylvanian Cuisine, published in 1984. “I must thank Paul for a half of my inspirations in life he was magical to direct people towards to spiritual values in our material business”- said Skorka, the other great amongst of my many mentors is Terry Leighton the renaissance man of Kalin Cellars. Escaping communist Hungary for political reasons in 1981 with $ 5 in his pocket and not to speak English, gave a great new opportunity to Mr. Skorka: start again. In a few months the busboy become a waiter in N.Y. Moved to Washington DC and from waiter became a Manager of the Kennedy Center, running Ronald Regan’s Inauguration Ball. In 1985 The Jefferson Hotel Maitre’D become the Maitre’D of the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles. In the next two plus decades Skorka spent in Los Angeles and became a Maitre D’/Sommelier in Shutters on the Beach and Casa Del Mar Hotel, New Chasen and Crustacean, La Merigot and many more. The wine buyer/MaitreD position in the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel become the major opportunity to discover a Central Coast’s potential before it become known for many. Skorka’s own restaurant in Beverly Hills 456 North Bedford was a turning point. Constant touring of the vineyard become a passion, and Skorka is proud of his contribution in Tantara Vinery. He spent years in the winery and his chosen barrel in the spring racking got the highest score from Robert Parker in that time.

Years with one of the leading wine Company as a District Manager further benefited him and the organization. He was one of the first among them to be tested with the Court of Master Sommeliers then three level advance exams. The entire group started to focus on the education of the employees afterwards. Skorka’s current plans are learning and teaching: After running the successful Jonathan Club and Bastide, his latest was the opening of BottleRock downtown. “The casualty but Riedel standards fit to the new generation” said the opening Skorka. Skorka is also on the advisory Board of the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, and in the last half decade he is a judge on the largest wine event in the USA: the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Skorka’s philosophy is shared with his winery find and sommelier certified wife, his mountain cabin and two Bernese Montain dogs: “I am very lucky, in my life I always being paid for what I love to do anyway…”

Sean Tevik - Operations Manager, Thomas George Estates
Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN, Sean had a natural affinity for food, beverages, and music at a very young age. While attempting a career in music he became drawn to the production of beer. Beer in turn led to simple distillations. The proverbial next step came in the form of wine while studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.

After courses with the International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers it was obvious that hands on experience in the wine industry was needed. After working as a Sommelier and wine director in Scottsdale, Arizona, Sean made the plunge to wine country.
Sean is now the Operations Manager at Thomas George Estates helping out with anything that needs to be done and staying as close to the wine as possible.