Russ Winton: Wine List

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).

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 www.discovercaliforniawines.com.

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.

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