Sierra Foothills Twist: Spanish Varieties Shake Things Up

There's a California Blue Oak tree atop the property at Twisted Oak Winery in Murphys, California. It’s not exactly twisted, beaten ruthlessly by winds or somehow malformed from earthquakes or lightening strikes, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The name of the winery however, is more fitting for owners Jeff and Mary Stai (pronounced “stye”) and their renegade and irreverent brand of wines, than for a tree. Launched in 2003, Twisted Oak Winery takes its philosophical cues more from Monty Python than UC Davis.

The Wines of Malibu. Yes, Malibu.

It’s easy to think of Malibu as nothing but beaches, bikinis and endless summers while celebrities stroll oceanfront properties, dodging the paparazzi and living the good life. And whereas that’s partly true, Malibu is also embracing its agricultural roots. Long before Westerners came to Malibu sporting convertibles and Speedos, the Chumash Indians lived peaceably along the coast and throughout the stunningly beautiful mountains that make up the Santa Monica Mountain range.

Wild Horse Winery: The Central Coasts Best Fruit

Wild Horse seems a fitting name for a winery located near Paso Robles, and one who, for 25 years has sought to create unique and compelling wines from the Central Coast. One of the things that makes Wild Horse Winery different, located just south of Paso Robles, in Templeton, is that they source fruit from 16 diverse AVA’s in California, including some of the smallest and largest appellations in the state.

Central Coast Wineries and their Unusual Names

In Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet," the heroine pointedly asked, "What's in a name?" There is a universal truth to our moniker, they are our identity, our essence. A quick glance at the wine industry reveals that the majority of wineries are named after their owners. However, amid all those surnames are a few winery names that beg explaination.

Pietra Santa Winery: Where Italy and California Meet

Few wineries in California grow Zinfandel and Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio at the same location, and do it well. Fewer still have five acres of imported Italian olive trees that they harvest to produce olive oil. And only one has California's famed San Andres Fault running through the property. But Pietra Santa Winery in Hollister, California, a mere 25 miles inland from Monterey, is a unique and unusual location.

Blending Pinot Noir on the Central Coast: Scents and Sensibilities

As with most things in life, collaboration is the key to success. In the world of wine, collaboration is evident between winemakers and growers, winemakers and coopers and so forth. Yet when the critical stage of blending a wine happens, many winemakers go it alone. Blending various wines means that different clones, different toast levels of barrels, and grapes from different vineyards, must be taken into account in order to produce a stand-out wine.

"Alsatian Style" California Wine - A Chat With Central Coast Winemaker Claiborne Thompson

The California Central Coast is home to many premium wine makers. Though less renowned than their Napa and Sonoma neighbors, Central Coast wine producers are consistently turning out great niche wines and marketing them to a rapidly growing base of Central Coast oenophiles. Based about 150 miles north of Santa Barbara in San Luis Obispo, Claiborne & Churchill is a fine example of a premium Central Coast winery. recently caught up with Claiborne Thompson (one half the namesake behind "Claiborne & Churchill) to discuss his winery's focused niche of "Alsatian Style" wines , the current Riesling "craze", and his transformation from academia to winemaker.

Digging Deep: Biodynamic Farming in Santa Barbara

“Biodynamics is a religious fervor that has nothing to do with growing grapes,” said one Napa winery owner. A November 2006 poll by Decanter Magazine showed that 52 percent of respondents thought that biodynamics was, “a load of horse manure.” Biodynamics sounds alternative and hip, but is it? Two wineries in Santa Barbara, Melville and Presidio, employ biodynamic practices and help shed some light on this complex idea of farming.

Bray Vineyards' John Hoddy on “BrayZin Hussy” and More.....

For a native from Michigan who never had a sip of wine until he moved to California in 1977, John Hoddy is making wines that are both outstanding and innovative for Bray Vineyards in Amador County. Working closely with renowned consultant Marco Cappelli, Hoddy has produced numerous award winning wines made from traditional Italian and Portuguese grapes, such as barbera, primitivo, verdelho, and vinho tinto, in addition to wines more typical of California, such as zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon. I had the pleasure of speaking with this laid-back, jovial, banker-turned-winemaker recently in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.