Monday, April 29, 2013

4/29-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen talk with Paul Clary

Paul Clary - Clary's Ranch
Clary Ranch is located in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast AVA, about 5 miles due west of Petaluma and 11 miles from Tomales Bay. Clary Ranch Wines was founded by grower & winemaker Paul Clary, who planted the estate vineyards in 2000.
The vineyards consist of 5 blocks of Pinot Noir on about 12.5 acres and 2 blocks of Syrah on about 2.5 acres. The Pinot Noir clones are Dijon 133 & 667, and Pommard 4. The Syrah clones are Syrah 174 and Shiraz 1. The Pacific winds blow strongly through the end of August, and the grapes depend upon the warm, still days of September and October to ripen. Clary Ranch is on the extreme edge of cool-climate viticulture on the continent. The latest Syrah harvest has been just before Thanksgiving!
The grapes are harvested at night, and brought to the winery cold. After destemming and crushing, the juice is cold soaked for 5-10 days. Natural fermentation is allowed to begin, and the fermenting must is inoculated with a commercial yeast (Assmanshausen for Pinot, a Rhone strain for Syrah) after the Brix has dropped about 10 degrees, in order to provide natural flavor complexity while insuring against a stuck fermentation. The must is punched down 3-4 times daily, never pumped over. The wine is pressed just before dryness, and allowed to complete fermentation in barrel. Malolactic fermentation is facilitated by the remaining heat of primary fermentation.
Barrel aging lasts for 18-24 months. 50% new barrels are used. Pinot Noir is aged in French oak barrels from various coopers, and the Syrah is aged in a mixture of French and American oak. After bottling, the wines are aged for another 1-2 years prior to release.
The resultant wines reflect an elegant balance that has been heralded by wine critics and fans alike. In 2007, Wine Spectator named Clary Ranch as among "The Hot New Dozen of California Pinot Noir". Wine Enthusiast said that Clary Ranch is one to "keep an eye on". Allen Meadows of Burghound, often tough on California Pinots, has enthusiastically acclaimed Clary Ranch Pinot Noir as having "impeccable" balance. Clary Ranch Syrah, in very limited production, has a fast-growing base of fans who have fallen in love with its peppery black fruit, which provides the absolutely perfect complement for grilled and roasted meats.

Monday, April 22, 2013

4/22-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen talk with Kris Curran, Bruno D'Alfonso & Chris Slaughter

Kris Curran - D'Alfonso-Curran Wines
Kris grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley. Her early love of animals cultivated her passion for science which, in turn, led her to earn an animal science degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.  She became enticed by the scientific side of winemaking while working with Bruno at Sanford Winery and received her second bachelors from Fresno in winemaking.  Kris began as assistant winemaker at Cambria and later became a founding winemaker at Koehler and then at Sea Smoke Cellars, where she produced seven vintages. After leaving Sea Smoke, she worked as winemaker for Foley Wines from 2008 to 2010.  Although Kris is popularly known for crafting Pinot Noir, her passion is Spanish varietals. She was the first California vintner to popularize Grenache Blanc, which Curran started making in 2003. Kris loves the variety and challenge of mastering different production techniques. “I have come to appreciate the unique personality of each varietal with which I work. I combine this understanding with my scientific knowledge in pursuit of crafting the best wine possible.” 

Bruno D'Alfonso - D'Alfonso-Curran Wines

Bruno spent his formative years hunting and fishing in the wild, open spaces of southern California. His love of the outdoors led him to earn a degree in soil science from Cal Poly. Bruno's fascination with fine wines inspired him to seek a second bachelors degree from UC Davis, this time in winemaking. Shortly after, Bruno had the wonderful fortune of working with two California winemaking icons: Richard Graff of Chalone Vineyard and Richard Sanford, the Pinot Noir pioneer of the Santa Rita Hills AVA.  After three vintages with the late Mr. Graff at the Edna Valley Vineyard, Bruno joined Mr. Sanford to help begin Sanford Winery. He remained Sanford's winemaker for twenty-three vintages and during that time became a partner. Bruno is one of the best Pinot Noir winemakers in the business and is currently producing exceptional Pinot Noir under his BADGE and Di Bruno labels. "Over the years I have begun to understand the 'designing' of wine. That has become my goal: to create wonderful, stable, long-lived, stylized wines."

Chris Slaughter - Executive Director Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Assoc.

Chris Slaughter is the Executive Director of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association representing 60 winery, restaurant and associated business including Byron, Cambria, Foxen and Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, to name a few of the renowned cool climate brands.  The weekend of July 20th, the association will host the 4th annual Chardonnay Symposium, named as one of the top ten wine events in California by LA Weekly.

Join over 50 Chardonnay producers from around the world for an insightful weekend of education and exploration designed to enlighten wine consumers, industry professionals, and media on Chardonnay wine producing regions and wine making styles, and their effects on America’s favorite wine.  The Chardonnay Symposium is the only event of its kind in the United States focusing on the golden grape and is host to the world’s most celebrated Chardonnays served alongside Chardonnay-inspired food pairings specifically designed to enhance the wine experience.

A highlight of the weekend is the educational panel session moderated by Wine Enthusiast’s Senior West Coast Editor, Steve Heimoff with ward-winning winemakers and vineyard experts.  This year's panel , "Bring in the clones," includes Merry Edwards, Jeff Stewart of Hartford Court, Clarissa Nagy of Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, James Ontiveros from Native 9 and Alta Maria and Karl D. Wente.  And kicking off The Chardonnay Symposium weekend is a star-studded tribute to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat at the beautiful Bien Nacido Vineyards.  Sommelier Rajat Parr, longtime friend and partner Bob Lindquist of Qupe, The Hitching Post's Chef Frank Ostini, the much buzzed about winemaker Gavin Chanin, and others will be on hand to regale the crowd with stories of Clendenen's influence on the wine industry.

To learn more about The Chardonnay Symposium or purchase tickets, please visit or email

Monday, April 15, 2013

4/15-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen talk to Tobin James

Tobin James - Tobin James Cellars

Tobin (Toby) James grew up on a vineyard in Indiana, worked in a wine shop in Cincinnati and knew at the age of 18 that he would own a winery. He apprenticed at the Estrella River Winery, eventually being hired on full time and becoming their cellar master. From there, he headed to Eberle Winery to eventually make their wines with Gary Eberle.
When Peachy Canyon started, the owner needed a winemaker. A deal was struck so that Toby would become the founding winemaker and also have the opportunity to continue making Tobin James Cellars' wine at the same facility. The very first wine Toby made won a spot on the coveted "top 100" wines of the year with the Wine Spectator. Toby's reputation continued to grow, and in 1993 decided to build his own winery on highway 46 east of Paso Robles.

Monday, April 8, 2013

4/8-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen visit with Guinevere Aide & Ari Heavner

Raw Chef Guinevere Aide
I'm an old soul with a young heart, I'm a friend to the friendly, I have edge, I can be sarcastic, sexy, a pain in your arse. With the good comes some bad. I'll be the first to say i'm not perfect. But I try... And god knows I try a lot harder these days. Shy? I am NOT!! Understanding? I try to be. If I do something I'll regret in the morning, let me sleep in. Im young,trying.laughing.crying,and im sure as hell STILL BREATHING. So, more about myself? I was born in (Who really cares?). Oh yes I love adventure. I love people and the boundless potential for surprise they hold. I love my friends. I love to travel, I like to cook and I love the food network. I love writing short stories and horribly bad romantic poetry that I often delete straight away because it's so embarrassing. It's difficult to distill the broader scope of one's life into a single paragraph- I'd suggest you simply get to know me by TALKING to me. I don"t bite...

Ari - Idle Cellars
Idle Cellars is a micro-winery located in Sonoma County, California. We, Ari Heavner, Ben Larks and Eric Henson believe in the artistic craft of wine making, and work hands-on from grape selection to bottling. The three of us, an entrepreneur, an artist and a wine aficionado, met while working at Deerfield Ranch Winery under the tutelage of master winemaker Robert Rex. We studied and strive for the perfection of an elegantly balanced wine; equal parts technical mastery and art. It was Robert who taught us that the essence of winemaking is "getting to know your grapes" and to be with your wine literally from the vine to the bottle. We've taken this knowledge and our deep understanding of our agricultural surroundings to choose the best varietals and processes for each wine. With Idle Cellars we seek to provide the best of Sonoma and of wine craftsmanship. We hope our wines bring people together, be it at a lively dinner party or a lazy BBQ and give all who drink it the same joy we had making it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

4/1-Michael Horn and Nicole Nielsen talk with Dan Morgan Lee & Steve Peck

Dan Morgan Lee - Winegrower - Morgan Winery

With more than thirty years’ experience, Dan Lee and the Morgan label have been synonymous with artisan, vineyard-centric wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey.
Coming from a small town in California’s Central Valley, Dan Morgan Lee had prepared initially for the study of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis.  It was late in his college career that he discovered enology satisfied his interest in both science and agriculture. Immediately enrolling in the graduate enology program, Dan completed his studies and was hired as winemaker at Jekel Winery in Monterey County.
After serving his apprenticeship at Jekel, Dan moved up the road to Durney Vineyard where he continued to make Monterey wines. While making wine full-time for Durney, Dan aspired to craft his own label.  It was at a meeting of the Monterey County Winegrowers Association that he shared his vision with a banker. In addition to becoming his business advisor, that banker would also become Dan's wife.
In 1982, Dan and Donna Lee opened the doors of Morgan Winery. Their very first Monterey Chardonnay earned a Gold Medal at the LA County Fair and a Platinum Medal from Wine & Spirits Magazine. Since then, Morgan has become one of the Central Coast’s most recognized labels, earning “Winery of the Year” honors from Wine & Spirits in 1996 and from the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003. In 2005, Dan introduced a second label, Lee Family Farms – intended to provide a fun outlet for his exploration of “alternative” varietals.
Able to pick and choose fruit sources from around the state, Dan eventually turned more of his attention to the Santa Lucia Highlands and single vineyard releases.  Dan and Donna invested in their belief in the Highlands with the purchase of the Double L Vineyard in 1996. Today the Double L is one of the best known vineyards in California. Dan’s leadership and expertise in the district led to his being named the first Board President of the newly formed Santa Lucia Highlands’ winegrowers association in 2005.
Dan and Donna Lee reside in Salinas. Twin daughters Annie and Jackie (the inspiration for the “Double Luck” vineyard moniker) are in college; son Josh is in high school. 

As the red winemaker for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Steve Peck combines a gifted palate, a passion for viticulture and a comprehensive technical knowledge of winemaking practices.
Born and raised in California, Steve began cultivating his love of viticulture and winemaking as a teenager while traveling to vineyards and working alongside his uncle. A dedicated home winemaker, Steve’s uncle taught him the importance of hands-on attention to detail at every step of the winemaking process. This early exposure to vineyards and winemaking inspired Steve to enroll at the University of California, Davis. While studying chemical engineering and fermentation sciences, Steve put himself through school as part of the team at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. This three-year experience augmented Steve’s academic studies with a practical understanding of premium Napa Valley winemaking methods.
After earning his degree, Steve pursued opportunities in the biotech industry, working for Merck and Co. and Genencor International. Throughout this period, Steve remained dedicated to the art of winemaking, crafting his own red wines nearly every vintage, including several Cabernet Sauvignons made from Paso Robles grapes. Eager to return to a career in winemaking, Steve joined Five Rivers Winery as winemaker in 2001. In addition to his role as winemaker for Five Rivers, Steve was also responsible for producing the red wines for Jekel Vineyards beginning with the 2004 vintage. In these capacities, Steve had the opportunity to work with an extensive array of vineyards in Monterey County, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County, and was responsible for orchestrating harvest scheduling for dozens of growers. During this period, Steve consistently earned acclaim for his red wines.
In 2007, Steve was appointed winemaker for the full portfolio of J. Lohr red wines including J. Lohr Estates, the J. Lohr Vineyard Series and the J. Lohr CuvĂ©e Series, as well as red wines for Cypress Vineyards and Crosspoint. Working with Senior Vice President of Winemaking Jeff Meier, Steve strives to maintain the flavorful character of each wine by focusing on the natural characteristics embodied in J. Lohr’s estate vineyards. “Steve is inquisitive and intuitive,” says Jeff,” which are fundamental qualities in a superior winemaker. On top of that, he’s a genuinely personable leader with a great technical mind and a real passion for winemaking.”