Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3/24-Michael Horn & Nicole Nielsen talk with David Hunt and David Duncan

David Hunt - Winemaker & Owner, Hunt Cellars
In Just a few years, Hunt Cellars has become one of the most highly acclaimed wineries in California, with numerous prestigious awards including: Many wines scoring in the high 90′s; multiple Best of Class, Platinum and Multi Gold Medals; “Cult” status. Many of our wines have received accolades from world famous wine critics, Dartmouth College, and wine writers. All of Hunt wines are handcrafted in very small lots, receive extended barrel aging and are sold primarily to our wine club and the finest restaurants across the country, including Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Ritz- Carlton, The Biltmore, Morton’s and more.
Our Story - It started over 20 years ago as a fantasy: living on a lush beautiful vineyard, producing your own style of favorite premium varietal wines that are well received and appreciated by those who have discovered the wines and shared them amongst friends. David Hunt, Winemaker and owner of Hunt Cellars, a winery committed to producing “Memorable Wines”. We believe that great wines leave indelible impressions when poured with wonderful meals and great friends and scintillating conversations. Hunt Cellars was founded on the philosophy of producing wines that you will look forward to simply sipping by a cozy fireplace or pairing with your favorite meals to enhance that special event or moment in time.
How It Began - When The Hunt Family decided to pursue their dream they were uncertain where they would choose to build their vineyard. The Hunts spent exhaustive days and weekends traveling to various premium wine regions from Oregon, Washington, and throughout the State of California. They finally narrowed their decision down to the Central coast to San Luis Obispo County. Paso Robles was selected because of its rich diversity in soils, superb growing climate and unique styles of wine making along with the spirit of graciousness and traditional American values. Eventually after looking at numerous parcels of vineyard potential property, they settled on uniquely beautiful property containing over 550 acres on Highway 41 in Creston. This unique property met their criteria in topography, soil composition and unparralled beauty. Within the 550 acres there are four terrior’s with varying elevations containing soil composites that mirror the great wine regions of the world. They were convinced that they could grow wonderful exciting intense fruit here on this property.
Destiny Hunt - The Hunt Family decided to name their vineyard, “Destiny Vineyards,” in honor of their new baby girl they named Destiny who was born in 1996. Just ask Destiny who has the best wines today and she will certainly tell you. Destiny Vineyard’s first planting consisted of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cab Franc, Viognier and Zinfandel. The Hunts decided to build a tasting room for their premium wines, which opened in October of 1999. In 1997 they began producing their first releases of memorable wines… Experience has taught Hunts that in order to make great wines you must simply have the best fruit. At Hunt Cellars, we believe passion, hard work and never giving up until we have put together all the components and structure that will give our wine the varietal character, flavor and velvet finish that will become a trademark of our wines.

NOTE: His Twomey Pinot Noir came in as runner up at the Pigs and Pinot event this weekend

Born in Durango, Colorado, David Duncan spent his teenage summers working on a farm and cattle ranch. His experience driving the swather and the baler and riding and roping cows imbued him with a respect for agriculture, a strong work ethic and a Western sensibility that is evident to  this day. David also grew up hearing and learning about wine, since his father, Ray Duncan, was co-owner with Justin Meyer of Silver Oak Cellars in California. David has fond memories of visiting Napa in the late 1970’s and 80’s while the Oakville winery was being developed and driving through the vineyards with Justin in his brown El Camino.
David always knew he wanted to work in the family business, and after graduating from University of Notre Dame with an English degree in 1988, he began his career at Denver-based Duncan Oil, Inc, his family’s oil and gas exploration business. He spent the next several years there, eventually going to night school to earn his MBA from the University of Denver in 1994. For his last four credit hours David built a financial model for Silver Oak Cellars.  The project was David’s first work experience with the winery, and from that point forward he was involved in the broader family business, including Silver Oak. In the 1990’s as he moved from Exploration Manager to President of Duncan Oil, David also consulted with his father on employee and strategic matters at Silver Oak. When the winery’s longtime general manager announced his retirement in 2002, Ray asked David if he wanted to move to Napa to run the family’s wine business. Although it  was an unexpected path – David’s wife Kary was serving as Assistant Chief of Medicine at the  University of Colorado – it took the couple less than 24 hours to say yes.

In addition to his duties at Silver Oak Cellars, David was instrumental in the development of the Duncan family’s brand, Twomey Cellars. Founded in 1999, Twomey was created with the idea of producing a Napa Valley Merlot with the depth and concentration that characterize Merlots of true distinction. With his entrepreneurial spirit and focus on winemaking excellence established at Silver Oak, David oversaw the acquisition of the Calistoga winery that houses Twomey Cellars Merlot, as well as the winery in Healdsburg where Twomey produces Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
Today, David works closely with his father and his brother, Tim Duncan, adhering to the principle of continuous improvement and the high standards of quality that Justin and Ray established in the  beginning. He sets a straightforward, down to earth tone at the wineries, empowering his employees to work hard and always do their best. “We have a great history but we will never rest on our laurels,” he says. “We care deeply about what goes in the bottle, and strive to make each wine excellent.”
After a fire at the Oakville winery in 2006, David recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Working with his family, winemaking team, and hospitality staff, David led the project to rebuild the winery, using his family’s 35 years of experience in the business to create a space ideally suited to producing Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and providing memorable hospitality for their visitors. The new winery opened in September of 2008.

Monday, March 17, 2014



Although originally built as the Balletto's produce packaging and shipping center, the building at 5700 Occidental Road sure makes for a great winery.

With its 12-inch-thick, insulated walls, serious temperature control, a deep concrete foundation and floors that slope toward drains, the change from a produce facility to winery was pretty painless. Out went the stainless steel tables for making mixed green salads and in came the stainless steel tanks for making wine. With a few tweaks here and there, the transformation was complete.

Currently we have 16 variously sized tanks inside and space for about 1,800 barrels. Our outside crush pad has a few more tanks and room for three different presses (two bladder presses and one basket press). Because almost all of our Pinot Noir is harvested in a three week period, we have 34 six-ton open top tanks to handle the on-rush of fruit. In both 2009 and 2010, we filled every tank, which made for a lot of punchdowns!

The Balletto Family has over 600 acres in the Russian River Valley and select 10% from many different clones and soil types to make their wine.  They feel fortunate to sell the remaining 90% of their grapes to other wineries.   In July 2010, the Balletto Family was honored being awarded the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year.  



The son of an Air Force enlisted serviceman, Rick was born at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, Nevada. The family later moved to air bases in Wyoming, Minnesota, Alaska, and finally to Los Angeles, California. Rick completed his high school years in Lompoc, and entered college at UC Santa Barbara. After two years he transferred to UC Berkeley, where he graduated in 1973 with a degree in Sociology.

It was during his student days at Berkeley that he discovered the wine country of Sonoma and Napa. The bucolic countryside, and the sights and smells of the wine cellars attracted Rick. He had absorbed much of the philosophies of the counterculture during his college days, and the craft of winemaking seemed to embody many of them. Not knowing anything about the business, Rick shelved his daydreams to the back of his consciousness in favor of plans to obtain a law degree. Rick decided to take a year off before entering law school, and traveled to South America. Rick traveled throughout Colombia and Ecuador for nearly five months. It was during this trip that he came to realize that his heart was not in law but rather the possibility of working in a winery. When he returned he sent dozens of inquiries to wineries looking for work. He got lucky and was hired as a rookie cellarman at one of his favorite wineries, the historic Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma.

It was here at Buena Vista that he met the famed winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff, who was the consultant there. Andre saw the enthusiasm and motivation Rick had and took an interest in helping his career. Andre told Rick about the new Firestone winery he was consulting for in Santa Barbara County. Andre was very excited about the potential of this new wine region. Having spent part of his teen years in the area, Rick was intrigued about moving back and still staying in the wine business. After Andre told him that the Firestone winery was looking for a cellar foreman, Rick interviewed, received the job and moved to Los Olivos in May 1976.

Rick met his wife Diana at Firestone and they were married in 1977. Soon after he decided to seek a more responsible position in Northern California, and took the job of Cellarmaster at Chappellet Vineyards in the Napa Valley in 1978.  Though Rick enjoyed his time at Chappellet, the contrast in styles between Napa Valley and Santa Ynez Valley made Rick realize that he felt more at home in the less hectic, more down to earth Santa Ynez Valley. Rick found out about a position at a new small winery, J. Carey Cellars, was hired on the spot as the winemaker and moved back to the Valley in May 1979.

The portfolio at J. Carey Cellars consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. By this time in the development of the wine regions in Santa Barbara County, it was becoming clear that the initial successes were coming from the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Rick was making neither of those at J. Carey Cellars, so in 1982 he decided to start his own brand to focus on just those two varietals.

In 1985, Rick became the winemaker for The Gainey Vineyard, a new state of the art winery located on the 3600 acre Gainey Ranch. Over the next twelve years Rick enjoyed much success in producing some of the best wines in the area and thereby establishing Gainey as one of the region's top wineries.

In 1997 Rick and Diana felt like it was time to devote their full energies to their small wine business, and both left their jobs to build their business into what it is today.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

3/10-Michael Horn & Nicole Nielsen visit with Chris Taranto and Jeff Friedman

Chris Taranto - Communications Director, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance
32nd Annual Wine Festival May 15 - 18, 2014

Paso Robles Wine Country, Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Region of the Year, invites you to see first-hand what makes this region a star! Join us for the 32nd Annual Wine Festival – a celebration of the innovation, triumphs, and character of this spectacular region, May 15 - 18, 2014.

The 32nd Annual Wine Festival kicks-off Thursday, May 15 with a selection of Winemaker Dinners. On Friday, May 16, select wineries feature their Library, Reserve, White/Rosé, and Futures complemented by fresh and local gourmet bites at the RESERVE Event.

On Saturday, May 17, more than 60 wineries come together in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to showcase their wines alongside culinary samplings, special tastings and seminars during the Grand Tasting. Wineries at the Grand Tasting will be arranged by five “regions” for a seamless and focused tasting experience: Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style, Zinfandel, Burgundian-style and Other Wild Wines for your tasting pleasure.

Travel beyond the Park to explore more than 130 winery events throughout the weekend including winemaker dinners, live music, barrel samplings, and more! Use the event brochure below (coming soon) to help plot your course.

Wine Fest Special Pricing Ends March 15 - Can Hardly Wait for the 32nd Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival, May 15 - 18? We can't wait either, which is why we are offering $10 off RESERVE, Premium and Festival ticket levels! Better hurry though, this discounted pricing ends Saturday, March 15!

Enjoy fresh and flavorful cuisine and sample fantastic yet-to-be-released, Library and Reserve wines during Friday evening’s RESERVE Event. Wines from more than 60 wineries are complemented by artisanal bites from local restaurants and food trucks at the Saturday Grand Tasting.

CAN'T HARDLY WAIT PASS  - $10 discounts on RESERVE (only $125), Premium (only $75) and Festival (only $55) tickets are available for all the early birds through March 15.

LOCALS ONLY - $45 Festival admission to the Grand Tasting for San Luis Obispo County residents. That's a $20 savings! Just enter your local, SLO County zip code at checkout. Special Locals Only pricing is valid through March 15.

The richness of Sicily is reflected in Stemmari wines, all single varietal, intense, and elegant, a pure expression of the Sicilian terroir.
Celebrated for its hot sunny climate, historic monuments and rich culinary tradition, Sicily has been producing rich flavored and full-bodied wines since Greek and Roman times. Well known for its warm Mediterranean climate, hot sun, intense sun-light, and fertile soil, Sicily has blossomed into one of the world’s most promising wine regions.

Arancio cultivates its own grapes in two large estates along the windy south coast of the island. A total of 1,700 acres of estate vineyards are planted in single varietal fields in order to offer 100% single varietal wines to the final consumer.

Arancio’s new state-of-the-art facilities are utilized to take full advantage of what this bountiful land has to offer. A new generation of talented and passionate Sicilian winemarkers and vineyard managers produce Arancio wines that are consistent representations of Sicilian and International varietals grown in the hot Sicilian climate. Arancio wines are well reviewed by all major international magazines, year after year.

Monday, March 3, 2014

3/3-Michael Horn & Nicole Nielsen visit with Violet Grgich & Larry Lipson

Violet Grgich - Co-proprietor & Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Grgich Hills Estate
Violet’s passion for wine began at an early age, as she literally grew up accompanying her father in the vineyards and cellar. She spent her summers at the winery, doing everything from bottling line work to laboratory analysis and working in the tasting room.

Attending the University of California, Davis, Violet earned a BA in music while taking classes in biology, chemistry, and enology.  After graduation, she returned home to Grgich Hills to continue her education in the wine business, learning about daily operations of the winery from Mike. She received her Master of Music in harpsichord at Indiana University, and then joined the winery fulltime in 1988. She’s now responsible for daily management of the winery, as well as sales and marketing. She says that she has the ideal job: “I believe that wine is part of a healthy, happy and long life. Wine brings people together and makes them happy, which makes my job extraordinarily fulfilling.”

Involved with every aspect of the wine business, Violet enjoys wearing many different hats, often at the same time.  She explains, “My dad insisted that in order to lead the winery I needed to work at every single position, starting at the bottom.” Violet continues to enjoy learning something new each day and following her grandfather’s and father’s philosophy of “Every day do something just a little better.”

Violet is pleased that the next generation of Grgich’s has joined the winery: Noel Grgich Shipman, her son born in 2005, accompanies her on sales trips, and enjoys every minute of it.

Winery info:  Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen Mike’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became our signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.
Today, we remain committed to making distinctive wines with quality, consistency and longevity. We are proud that world leaders such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand chose our wines to serve at state dinners, but we are just as proud that every single day discriminating wine drinkers count on Grgich Hills to turn their own dinners into special occasions.
We treat each of our six different wines as a special child, carefully nurturing their development and character. Our pride and joy is our Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavors and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, we also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honor of Mike's daughter, Violet.

While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. This strategy continues to pay significant dividends.
Committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, we farm our five estate vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, rely on wild yeast fermentation and use our passion and the art of winemaking to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines.
Beginning with the 2003 vintage, all Grgich Hills wines were labeled “Estate Grown.” This guarantees a consistently superior level of quality and it means that Grgich Hills will always remain a shining symbol of prestige and good taste. In recognition of that important milestone, the winery changed its name in 2007 to Grgich Hills Estate.


For fifty years Larry Lipson was the food critic for the Los Angeles Daily News and now reports from Costa Rica weekly with his thoughts and favorite picks for Food & Wine.  His lovely Wife Lillian is also on hand at the Lipson Institute for advanced wine studies.