Food & Drink

Russ Winton: Wine List

September a month to celebrate wine, Wine Line

There are wine celebrations everywhere. September is California Wine Month. Also, Wine Line celebrates 10 years. The Navigator and I will pop a good value, readily available, under $20 bottle of bubbly. We will toast to those 240 printed columns filled with winey thoughts and words. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Wine Line as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Wine Line will always be a consumer-friendly column. If by chance my wine-isms become too pinkie-waving-snooty-tooty, please let me know. Here are a few comments from readers I’ve enjoyed over these 10 years.

Russ Winton: Wine List

A passport to Santa Cruz wineries

Last year I wrote about the passport program in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I said it was one of the best wine tasting deals. It features over 50 wineries, is offered four times a year and is good for two years. On the third Saturday of January, April, July and November, passport holders are welcomed at participating wineries throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. I must have really sold the program because relatives gave the Navigator and me passports for Christmas. Which makes me think, I’ll start putting my Christmas wish list in “Wine Line” every year.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Turlock’s Dust Bowl celebrates

Dust Bowl Brewing Company produced its first beer in May of 2009 with two employees, the owner and the brewer. Within a short time they opened the Dust Bowl Taproom in downtown Turlock. With a great location, outstanding food and an expanded portfolio of craft beers, the taproom became an immediate success. The cool words then buzzing around Turlock were “Hops of Wrath” and “Oakie Nachos.” Demand seemed to be nudging in on supply so expansion became a necessity. The new Dust Bowl Brewery, on Fulkerth Road, opened last July 18.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Anderson Valley: Pinot perfect

Our first visit to Anderson Valley was in the late 1970s. I had to pull the car over. The Navigator was car sick. The squealing tires should have been my clue. I drove the speed limit through Boonville, Philo and Navarro and then realized we were in one of the most beautiful wine regions in California. We stopped, did some tasting and discovered bone dry Alsace style wines. Our hosts were friendly and helpful with tons of information and most notably, no glitzy pinkie-waving crowds or snootiness. We loved it and still do.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Where to find affordable warm weather wines in the Modesto region

I normally put the “What’s On Our Table” section at the end of this column. I always run out of space. Not this time. I’m listing my table selections first and then my wino ramblings next. Here are some good value wines to beat the summer heat. If you’re into 2016 rosés, look for the Vinas Chilenas Rosario Estate Reserva (a steal at Trader Joe’s) and the Bokisch Vineyards Rosado Terra Alta Vineyard from Lodi. Le Grand Courtage Brut Rose is a French sparkling wine made in Burgundy. It’s a bargain at $18, about half the price of a bottle of an average Champagne.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Sitting and sipping at Ripon’s Lucca Winery

Our first visit to Lucca Winery was an invitation to a pick-up party in the Fall of 2014. Located on River Road near Ripon, we were surprised at the number of cars parked in the peach orchard, alongside the road and in the driveway. We were fortunate to find a space next to a tractor. Owner, Mark Lucchesi is a peach and almond farmer who loves to make wine. Judging by the size of the crowd, he has a number of loyal club members who love to drink his wine.

Russ Winton: Wine List

SLO Wine Country, Part II

OK, this is a first. In the 10 years of writing this column, I’ve never written one in two parts. A trip to San Luis Obispo Wine Country is a pretty big trip for us Valley folks. When you get there you want to do as much as you can. I left you two weeks ago in Morro Bay after wine walking in downtown Paso Robles, zin tasting on Highway 46, touring at Hearst Castle and then wine tasting along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. I goofed when I mentioned the Stolo Family Vineyards. I typed Solo in the next sentence. A reader wanted to know which one? It’s Stolo with a ’t’ and their wines are ‘a’mazing.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: No slowing down in Paso Robles

The four-year drought in California didn’t seem to affect the little town of Paso Robles. The last time the Navigator and I did the downtown wine walk, there were 13 tasting rooms. Now there are 21. Taste Anglim’s excellent Rhone-style wines. For big bold reds try Pianetta’s, and make sure you don’t forget the remaining 19! It’s a perfect activity for an afternoon arrival. Walk and taste, sneak in a nap and then have an early dinner at one of a dozen or so downtown restaurants.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Get up and go

The Sierra Foothills are as green as green gets, creeks are gushing, lakes are filling, birds are chirping, bees are buzzing and in the vineyards, buds are just about breaking. It’s time to get out of that plushy recliner, dump out your coffee and put the newspaper down. It’s road trip time. Roll down the car windows, see, hear and smell spring auditioning. If you’re a Modesto Wine Line reader, head to Jamestown. If you’re a Merced reader, make that 37 mile trek to Mariposa. Both towns have several excellent wine tasting rooms. Don’t miss Gianelli Winery in Jamestown or Casto Oaks in Mariposa. Downtown parks are available if you decide to pack a picnic and there are plenty of restaurants if you don’t. So what are you waiting for?

Russ Winton: Wine List

Valley Wineries Score Big

When asked to name a few wineries I can count on, my answer has always been Bogle, McManis and Delicato. The wines are readily available, with a tremendous value to price and well under $15. In fact, almost all are in the $10-$12 range, which means sale prices put them in the $8 range. In my opinion, a steal. The judges at the 2017 S.F. Chronicle Wine Tasting agreed, as all three wineries returned with truckloads of medals.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Napa on a nickel

Our first trip to Napa Valley was in 1972. We camped at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. We rode our bikes on Highway 29. Our 2-year-old co-pilot was fastened in a seat behind the Navigator. We tasted wines. We survived.

Russ Winton: Wine List

What was on our table in 2016

When Wine Line was fermented in 2007, I thought I should mention wines that were a really good deal. In other words, they should be an excellent value to price, readily available and under $15. Nothing has changed, except the price. That has moved up to $20. Sorry about that. Here are wines that made our table in 2016 and received two thumbs up from me and the Navigator.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Favorites of 2016

The Navigator and I kept pretty busy in 2016. We tasted outstanding wines in Livermore, Clarksburg, Amador County, Avila Beach, Napa Valley, the East Bay, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. We tasted sweet potato vodka in Atwater, mojitos in Cuba and bourbon in Kentucky. We also spent a few days at the Stanford Hospital. The wines there were not so memorable. The best news of 2016 was that the drought really didn’t affect the harvest. It was early, with normal yields and exceptional quality. That’s four consecutive years of excellent wine harvests. Here are some more highlights of 2016.

Russ Winton: Wine List

What I really want for Christmas

I get the same question every Christmas. The Navigator tells me the kids want to know what I want. First of all, they are not kids. They are real grown-ups. My stock answer has been books, booze or balls. For clarity, I mean books on wine, single malt scotch and golf balls. The kids have been very generous the past 20 years. I have plenty of books, a cabinet full of single malts and, because of a neck operation, golf is out. So now I have enough golf balls to open a driving range. So this year, the three B’s are nixed. But what does one give a wine writer or a serious wine lover for Christmas? The answer is simple. What I really want for Christmas is a wine Passport.

Russ Winton: Wine List

SLO wine country calls us back

The Navigator and I returned to Avila Beach in August to celebrate my birthday and to use “our week” at the San Luis Bay Inn. When we stayed in January, we had a great time and decided that we would like to stay at least one week a year, every year (read timeshare).

Russ Winton: Wine List

Which chardonnay for you?

Chardonnay is the most popular white grape variety and is planted worldwide. France is chardonnay’s original home and there it’s called chablis or white burgundy. If planted in cool climates (France), it will taste of citrus (lemon, grapefruit, lime) or minerals (wet rock or flint). In warm climates (California), you’ll get tropical fruit (pineapple, mango or banana), stone fruit (apricot, peach), tree fruit (apple, pear) and melon (cantaloupe, honeydew).

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