Russ Winton: Wine List

November in Yosemite, priceless

Anytime in Yosemite is priceless, but in the fall it’s special. There are no crowds, no traffic jams or food lines. Consider the beautiful fall colors, the crisp clean air, the amazing wines from four California wineries and toss in a gala five-course dinner and you have The Grand Grape Celebration. We love Yosemite and this event, held in the Grand Majestic Hotel, is one of our favorites.

I convinced the Navigator a few years ago that we should go – it’s Yosemite plus food, plus wine, what’s not to like? We went and now we make an effort to go every year.

I’m not a very good numbers guy but here is why the event is a good deal. This year we’ve chosen Nov. 28-30 with Rombauer, Qupe, Benovia Winery and Selene Wines. Each winery will present a one-hour seminar/wine tasting in the Grand Hall. One evening is a meet-the-vintners reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres and the final night is a five-course gala dinner with wine pairings in the beautiful Grand Majestic Dinning Room. We normally opt for the two-night stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. I conservatively figured what a la-de-da wine country inn would charge for the same type of package and came in with a figure of about $1,440. The Grand Grape Celebration package for two is just $840 and in spectacular Yosemite National Park, so close to home. Check it out at

We celebrated California Wine Month at Papagni Winery in Madera. The decorated space in the winery was a perfect fit for the plentiful appetizers from local restaurants and caterers, the pouring wineries and the smooth music from the Blue Skies Trio. The alicante bouschet from Papagini, the syrah from Fasi Estate Winery and the tempranillo from Toca Madera Winery were high on my list. Thank you, Madera Vintners Association, for a nice evening. Side note, if you decide to head to Yosemite, why not take the Yosemite Wine Trail on Highway 41? Idle Hour, Westbrook Wine Farm and Fasi Estate Winery are on the way.

What’s on Our Table

The Michael David 2016 Lodi Petite Petit is big, bold, dark and delicious.It’s 85 percent Petite Sirah and 15 percent Petit Verdot. It has flavors of black cherry and blueberry with a rich, long finish. It’s a great barbecue wine, sale priced about $15. On the other side of the wine spectrum is the 2015 Bonterra Merlot. Its plum, dark berry and cherry flavors with soft tannins create a silky smooth $14 red wine. Multiple bottle purchases of both advised. Cheers!

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