Monday, October 29, 2012

10/29-Michael Horn visits with Lisa Bishop Forbes & Bob Cooley

Lisa Bishop Forbes - Winemaker, Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery
The quest for quality is the basis for all winemaking decisions on the Chalk Hill Estate. The vineyardists coax Mother Nature to create perfect fruit that, once harvested, is delivered to the winery with only the most delicate touches. In the Winery, the Winemaker, Lisa Bishop Forbes, and her dedicated staff gently shepherd the grapes through the fermentation process to the bottle. With an estate-wide, shared aesthetic, the process is light-handed, non-invasive, and sustainable, allowing each bottle to emulate the essence of the vineyard.

Bob Cooley - VP of Sales and Marketing, Benovia Winery

There's a family of old hands in the wine business at Benovia and they are having the time of their lives. Together they bring many decades of experience and expertise to this winemaking venture. So they've been here before, but it's never been quite like this.
What makes Benovia different is not that they make wine -- or even that they make really exceptional wine. What makes Benovia special is the family of people who eat, drink and breathe a passion for making something special. It is a journey that they expect to take a lifetime.

The word they keep using over and over again at Benovia is "fun." It's fun to play ball with real pros. It's fun to be part of a team that is making some of the most extraordinary wines in California. They expect a lot from themselves. That's what makes their daily endeavors at Benovia the most fun of all. In the end, the goal is to make wines that would make their fathers and mothers proud.

And just as importantly, they work to give others the opportunity to savor a moment in time that transcends the ordinary, and whisks them away on a delicious escape to the extraordinary.

We at Benovia invite everyone who loves fine wine to join us on this amazing journey.

Monday, October 22, 2012

10/22-Michael Horn visits with Kevin Egan & Heather Muran

Kevin Egan - 21st Century Spirits / Blue Ice
21st Century Spirits started its first offering with the creation of Blue Ice Vodka, America’s finest potato vodka from–Idaho– home to the luscious Russet Burbank Potato. Idaho is the true birthplace of Blue Ice Vodka; it is where the people behind the brand come from and live, where the natural ingredients are sourced and where the product is made.

Since then, 21st Century Spirits mission has been to create a family of spirits that are carefully selected to represent the best offering available in its category. Bolstering a consistent stream of innovative products such as Blue Ice Organic Wheat vodka, 21st Century Spirits is sure to continue as one of America's premier spirits providers for centuries to come. 

Heather Muran  -  SLO Wine

You know you are in the heart of wine country. Back country roads lined with vineyards, rolling hills, a light breeze, and blue, blue skies. A feeling of peace sets in. From the people who greet you, to the laid back setting of San Luis Obispo, an un-crowded, un-hurried and un-pretentious wine tasting getaway awaits.
Midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the SLO (that’s what we locals call it) wine region is comprised of three pristine viticulture areas: the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley and Avila Valley. Our small, mostly family-owned wineries are well known for their hand-crafted bottlings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Zinfandel and more.
The marine influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean provides a mild summer and warm fall, resulting in an unusually long growing season. Combined with the region’s rocky volcanic soils, these growing conditions produce fruit with intense varietal character and complex flavors that are typically found in the world’s greatest wine regions. The SLO life. Wine tasting with family and friends. Exploring the sidestreets and byways of our many small towns. Playing on white sandy beaches, savoring the outstanding cuisine of our local restaurants, or just hanging out. It’s how we live. And you’re welcome to join us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

10/15-Michael Horn visits with Tobin James

Tobin James - Owner Tobin James Cellars

It all started with an extra six tons of grapes that a winery could not accept and process. Tobin (Toby) James, a lowly assistant winemaker at the time, asked the owner of the winery if he could have the grapes and make wine out of them for himself. The owner replied, "sure kid, knock yourself out". A year and a half later, gold medals began pouring in for Toby's first Zinfandel, the 1985 "Blue Moon" Zin.
After making his wines at another local winery for a few years, and tasting and selling them out of a local wine shop in town, Toby finally took the plunge and built Tobin James Cellars in 1994.
Built from the ground up on the site of an old stagecoach stop, it might seem more natural to stroll into the old-fashioned western-style saloon, place your booted foot on the brass rail of the bar and order a shot of whiskey from the bartender. However, in the Tobin James tasting room, award winning wines are poured from behind the grand, antique 1860's Brunswick mahogany bar from Blue Eye, Missouri.
Tobin James Cellars, located 8 miles east of Paso Robles on Highway 46, sits among 71 acres of vineyard's and oak dotted hills. A magnificent setting for magnificent wines! As soon as you approach, you see something unique. The wooden structures, heralded by the rotating blades of a towering water pump, have a character all their own, There is even a restored stage coach stop that is now being used as a guest house that will take your breath away. It seems everything structural is relevant of age and history.
Come visit Tobin James Cellars for a truly unique wine tasting experience, or call us for a delivery and find out for yourself why our wines are "Paso Robles in a glass"! You will see why this Paso Robles Winery is a favorite stop for locals and visitors alike.

Monday, October 8, 2012

10/8-Michael Horn talks with Greg La Follette, Jim Fiolek and Bill Smart

Greg La Follette - Winemaker, La Follette Wines
Greg’s route to winemaking began inauspiciously when he realized that his first love – playing the bagpipes – was simply not a practical career path. He earned a double BA in Plant Biology and Chemistry from California State University, Northridge, then a Masters in Food Science and Technology at UC Davis.  It was at Davis that he became fascinated with the scientific components of mouth feel. As it turns out, his particular interest in the Burgundian techniques of sur lie aging and battonage emerged on the crest of a tidal wave of interest in new production techniques in California. His studies, funded by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, gained the attention of winemaking icons such as Dick Graff, and paved the way for Greg’s future success.

In 1991, Greg left Davis for Beaulieu Vineyards, where he was the research viticulturist /enologist for famed master winemaker André Tchelistcheff. He travelled to Australia, working on Chardonnay for Yarra Ridge, then returned to Napa Valley to work for Jarvis and then again at BV. He consulted for Kendall-Jackson, and was on his way to becoming a top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer when he joined Flowers Vineyards & Winery in 1996 as head winemaker and general manager. The winery he built at Flowers during his tenure is still considered one of the best gravity-flow, gas-assist green wineries in the world.

In 2001 he founded Tandem wines to produce small-lot Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He has also consulted on vineyard and winery projects around the world, including the new UC Davis teaching winery.  In 2009, Greg met Pete Kight – Proprietor of Quivira Vineyards & Winery in Dry Creek Valley – and saw an opportunity to partner, enabling him to have more time to focus on winemaking. Tandem was renamed La Follette, and Greg continued on as Winemaker of the new winery.

La Follette wines showcase not only Greg’s skill with cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also the world-class Sonoma County and Mendocino County vineyards he sources from.

Jim Fiolek - Executive Director Santa Barbara County Vintners Assoc

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

Bill Smart - Director of Communications - Dry Creek Vineyard
The history of Dry Creek Vineyard is a long and colorful one.   Founded in 1972 by David S. Stare, Dry Creek Vineyard paved the way for a renaissance of winemaking and viticulture in the Dry Creek Valley.  Before his arrival, the Dry Creek Valley was little more than a few family farms and prune orchards.   It was Dave’s vision to start a Loire Valley inspired winery that reintroduced consumers to the wines of northern Sonoma County.

Without a doubt, David Stare is a pioneer. Heading west in the late 1960s, Dave personified the character and work ethic of early Gold Rush pioneers. Educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dave worked for the B&O Railroad for several years but quickly realized that his true calling was in the wine industry. Inspired by his trips to the Loire Valley, Dave headed west to California to start his own family winery.  

Upon his arrival, Dave began taking winemaking classes at UC Davis as a graduate student. On the weekends, he spent time looking at vineyard land from Monterey to Mendocino. It was during one of those weekend trips that fate drew Dave to the Dry Creek Valley. When he saw an old prune orchard across the  street  from the  Dry Creek General Store,  Dave  realized  that  he 
had found his dream location. He purchased the orchard and began planting vines. Captivated by his memories of  Loire-style wines, Sauvignon Blanc seemed destined to figure prominently in the Dry Creek Vineyard portfolio. However, several famed vineyard specialists advised him against planting Sauvignon Blanc.  Always defiant, Dave planted the varietal anyway and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, our second-generation family owned winery continues to evolve and grow to meet the demands of a global wine marketplace.  The primary mission of our winery is to produce distinctive wines that over deliver on quality.  For more than 30 years, this pursuit of winemaking excellence has lead to many international awards and accolades. With a loyal following of wine club members and customers, the future of Dry Creek Vineyard has never been brighter. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

10/1-Michael Horn talks with Clay Mauritson

Chris Russi - Winemaker, Thomas George Estates

Building on his early career experience as a vineyard manager, Chris Russi takes a vineyard-first approach to his role as the winemaker for Thomas George Estates. “The idea of winemaking shouldn’t be about the winemaker,” says Chris. “It should be about the vineyard, the quality of each block, and the character of the vintage.” Reflecting this philosophy, Chris applies a gentle, small-lot approach to winemaking at Thomas George Estates, fermenting as many as 50 individual lots of wine in a given vintage, with techniques tailored to subtly accentuate the best natural attributes of each. Combining both traditional and modern methods, as well as a belief in the importance of experimentation, Chris works closely with Jeremy Baker and Vineyard Manager Ulises Valdez to create wines that achieve the full potential of Thomas George’s estate program. Though each wine is made to be unique and complex, Chris has helped to define a bright, balanced house style that emphasizes lower alcohols, excellent acidity and the modest use of new oak.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris first began making wines with his grandfather, who had come from Italy with a knowledge of winemaking and an old Italian basket press. From him, Chris learned not only the process and importance of making wine by hand; he also earned an appreciation for the results of the labor, often raiding the barrels of finished wine with his friends when his parents’ backs were turned.
After graduating from Santa Clara University with a degree in combined sciences, Chris spent a year working as an environmental biologist in Carmel Valley. Between weeks in the field, Chris explored his passion for wine with trips to the tasting rooms of Monterey County, where he gained an appreciation for cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Eager to focus on wine, he took a position at Orsi/Kimelis Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley, where he ultimately became ranch and vineyard manager. After accepting a position in the lab and cellar of Geyser Peak Winery, Chris met winemaking legend Daryl Groom (of Penfolds Grange fame). Daryl mentored Chris in the practical side of winemaking and encouraged him to pursue winemaking as a career. He also helped Chris to expand his knowledge, recommending him for a job at Peter Lehmann in Australia’s Barossa Valley. When Chris returned from Australia, he was determined to make wine on his own, and enrolled in the UC Davis viticulture and enology program.
After earning his degree in 2000, Chris became the winemaker for Christopher Creek Winery in the Russian River Valley, where he remained until coming to Thomas George Estates in 2008. Since joining Thomas George Estates, Chris has established himself as one of the Russian River Valley’s rising stars. A true working winemaker, Chris loves the labor of winemaking, and does everything in the winery with the help of Cellarmaster Francisco Cardenas. He is also actively involved in all farming decisions, and works alongside Ulises in a constant effort to enhance Thomas George’s acclaimed estate program. In keeping with his love of growing grapes, Chris is the proud owner of a small, 100-year-old Zinfandel vineyard, which he farms himself. This exceptional fruit is used to craft a vineyard-designate Zinfandel for Thomas George Estates.

Clay Mauritson - Winemaker Mauritson Wines
Up and coming young winemaker, Clay Mauritson, is the sixth generation in a family of grape growers. Born and raised in the Dry Creek Valley, Clay was destined for the wine business.

In college Clay exhibited his prowess on the gridiron, playing outside linebacker for the University of Oregon Ducks in the 1995 Rose Bowl and the 1996 Cotton Bowl. Clay graduated in 1997 with a degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Marketing and a minor in Economics. Armed with his new degree he came back to Sonoma County to officially enter the wine industry.

Clay worked for 5 years at Kenwood Vineyards in the Sales & Marketing Department (starting even before he graduated from college), spending much of his time traveling and making sales contacts as Assistant National Sales Manager. After leaving Kenwood, Clay had the opportunity to work with the winemakers at Taft Street Vineyards and Dry Creek Vineyards, allowing him to hone his winemaking skills and gain additional knowledge of winery operations. From the 1998 vintage Clay produced his first bottling of Dry Creek Zinfandel under the Mauritson label, and in 2002 he began devoting his efforts full-time to the Mauritson Family Winery project.

Clay's winemaking philosophy is simple…you need exceptional fruit to make exceptional wine. This is where the advantage of having a family heritage of grape growers becomes obvious…270 acres of family vineyard and strong relationships built over the years with other growers have given Clay access to some of the best fruit that Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile have to offer. Devoted to making exceptional wines, Clay is on his way to becoming one of California's foremost young winemakers.