Russ Winton: Wine List

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).

Russ Winton: Wine List

The crush is on now

September is a busy month for California wineries. There are major wine events going on all over the state, celebrating Wine Month. It’s also harvest time, which means wineries operate 24/7 and workers pull 12-hour shifts on the crush pad. September is also “Wine Line’s” birthday. The Navigator and I will celebrate with a bottle of bubbly. This is the best time to get out and visit a working winery in one of California’s 138 American Viticultural Areas. To find out which wineries are celebrating Wine Month, go to

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Taste the wines along Hwy. 49

Sutter Creek is a cool Gold Rush-era town. It’s a very quiet (OK, maybe a barking dog) and laid-back Mother Lode village. It wasn’t like that a few years ago when Main Street was Highway 49. The traffic was terrible and loud. Crossing Main Street then was a risky undertaking, but today, with the bypass, it’s a piece of cake.

Russ Winton: Wine List

American rosés on the rise

Every year, when baseball season starts, I know it’s time to start searching for newly released rosés. Normally, this means a trek to San Francisco to catch a Giants game and visit wine shops that carry plenty of rosés, especially those from Provence. French rosés have seen 11 years of double-digit growth in exports to the U.S. according to the CIVP Provence Wine Council. American wine drinkers have finally realized that a chilled, bone-dry rosé is perfect by itself or paired with almost anything. It’s perfect with grilled sardines, tapas, grilled vegetables, ratatouille, spicy foods, smoky foods, pink meats like ham, pork, hot dogs, shrimp, lobster and even French fries.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: The grape behind Chianti

I love Chianti wine, but didn’t know much about it. I knew Chianti was a district in Tuscany and the primary grape was sangiovese (sahn-joe-VAY-zeh). I knew it went well with pizza and anything with a marinara sauce. I also knew that a bottle of Chianti costs about $12, a Chianti Classico about $18 and a Chianti Classico Reserva is $25 or more. That was all I knew. Nothing more. Until the Navigator and I drove up to the Sierra foothills and paid a visit to Vino Noceto, California’s premier sangiovese producer.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Bargain gold-medal winners

The 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, with 7,164 American wines entered, recently released the results of the winning wines. What’s interesting about the competition is that the wines are judged in price categories. As a consumer, I like that. I’m always looking for inexpensive house wines. I call them Monday wines or daily wines. These are wines you’d serve with leftovers or to your mother-in-law or to your nosy neighbor or for cooking or drinking while you’re cooking.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Brussels sprouts and the best of 2015

The Navigator is a very good cook. She doesn’t like being called a gourmet, but she is. She really is. This makes our trips into the wine country that much better. Where there is good wine, there is always good food. Last year we visited the San Luis Obispo Wine Country and discovered an excellent restaurant called Ember in Arroyo Grande. This year we stayed in Avila Beach and discovered the Ocean Grill. The food is California coastal cuisine using products from more than a half dozen local farms.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Something to celebrate

Here it is, the day before Thanksgiving and I remember that this column turned 8 in September. The Navigator and I usually pop open a bubbly to celebrate, but not this year. I guess we’re just too busy in retirement. After I finish this column and put in my final “Cheers!” a bottle of Domaine Chandon awaits.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Consumers love red blends

In 1993, Americans drank 1.74 gallons of wine per capita, according to the Wine Institute. In 2013 that figure had risen to 2.82 gallons. That made the U.S. the largest wine-consuming nation in the world with 329 million cases sold in 2013. Last year marked the 22nd consecutive year of growth for all wine sales in the U.S.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: This white wine’s on the rise

Chardonnay is still No. 1 in the U.S. wine market, but sales were flat in 2014 for the first time in years, according to a Nielsen Report. The report also noted that the hottest varieties sold were sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. This is great news. Sauvignon blanc (SAW-vin-yon blawnk) is my go-to white wine. It’s lighter, less expensive than chardonnay and much more food friendly. Grapefruity, herbaceous, citrus-y and freshly mown grass are typical descriptors. Some have notes of gooseberries and a touch of minerality (think wet stones).

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Bargains in tasting

I’m back. You probably noticed I wasn’t on this page last week. Wine Line appears on the second and fourth Wednesday. If there’s an extra Wednesday in the month, it gives me more time to finish my homework, which is, you guessed it, tasting wine.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine buys on the increase

According to the Wine Institute, 2014 saw wine shipments in the U.S. increase in volume (4.4 percent to 225 million cases) and value (6.7 percent to $24.6 million). This represents 22 consecutive years of growth for all wine sales in the United States. Since 2010, we have become the largest wine market in the world. Jon Fredrikson, of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, reported that 75 percent of sales were value-priced wines (under $10). Premium wine (above $10) sales are just 25 percent but account for almost 50 percent of winery revenues.

Russ Winton: Wine List

You have leftover wine? Really?

I always thought the term “leftover wine” was an oxymoron. Isn’t it? The Navigator, a former English teacher, says no. I say yes. In our home it certainly is. But what if you do have some leftover wine? How do you store it, and how long will it last? This was a question a reader sent in last week.

Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line:Amador festival a success

The Amador Four Fires Festival, a new concept wine and food event, welcomed nearly 2,200 attendees at the Amador County Fairgrounds on May 5. The exceptional attendance for a first-time event surprised Deidre Mueller and Craig Palmer, co-producers of the festival.


Ousted Los Banos trustees Duffy, Jones allege Brown Act violation 0:23

Ousted Los Banos trustees Duffy, Jones allege Brown Act violation

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Los Banos officials count down lighting of 2016 Christmas Tree

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Merced residents light up neighborhood with annual Christmas display

Video shows burglary suspect at Buchach High 0:31

Video shows burglary suspect at Buchach High