California: Wine, Californian Wine Regions, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, & More Profiled

Q&A with Tom Lane – Winemaker at Bianchi Winery, Paso Robles

Tom Lane began his winemaking career at Navarro Vineyards in 1985, then moved to winemaker position at Concannon Vineyard in 1992 where it was twice cited as “Winery of the Year,” before he joined the family-owned Bianchi Winery in Paso Robles. While at Concannon, Tom helped the winery earn hundreds of accolades, including Wine and Spirits Magazine Winery of the Year in 1995 and 1997. Tom’s educational background includes Bachelors degrees in Biology and Chemistry from Chico State University, a Master's degree in Biology (Plant Taxonomy) from Kansas State University, and further graduate studies in Botany at Ohio State University.

Q&A with Mike Benziger of Sonoma’s Benziger Family Winery

Mike Benziger leads one of the most prominent and one of the last in-tact families in the wine industry. Based in Sonoma, the 30-year old Benziger Family Winery is widely known for their pioneering exploration and practice of Biodynamic, organic and sustainable agriculture and grape growing. Though they did not start out this way, as time evolved, they began to embrace a different way of farming. The validation of this, is high scoring wines in the national press and medals at wine competitions.

Wines to Go Buy This Week: Sonoma Pinot Noir by La Follette, MacPhail, and Freeman

Pinot NoirSince I wrote last week about how much I (used to) hate chardonnay, this week I am turning attention to the varietal I love: pinot noir. Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me for my favorite wine producers -and the list is long- so I am going to focus this week on my favorite Sonoma pinot noir producers. There are numerous producers of fantastic pinot in Sonoma so I'm sure I will get plenty of emails from people wondering how I could leave out so and so or who are incredulous that my recommendations exclude "less expensive" options.

So let me respond in advance: The threshold for inclusion on this list is that the wine must be in regular rotation in my house and be the "go to" bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir to serve to guests or to uncork to celebrate small victories (a concept I enthusiastically embrace..... life is too short not to celebrate good days with a fantastic bottle of wine. Who wants to die with a huge collection of great wine aging in the basement?). Must a good Sonoma pinot noir cost $40+? Of course not, though so often they do. With that said, the three wines to go buy this week are:

Q&A with Daryl Groom, Founder of Groom Wines

Originally from Australia, Daryl Groom has held numerous positions in the wine industry including Vice President of Winemaking & Operations for Peak Wines International, and Beam Wine Estates, and both Senior White Winemaker and then Senior Red Winemaker for Penfolds Wines in Australia. His foundation was producing Penfolds famed red wine, Grange, which he oversaw from 1984 until his move to the U.S. in 1990. He has been named ‘Winemaker of the Year by the LA Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, the Huston Chronicle, Quarterly Review of Wines, and others. He currently produces his own label, Groom Wines. He judges six international wine shows annually and has been on the NBC Today Show and a repeat guest on E! Television in the U.S. 

Best Sonoma Red Wine Worth Seeking Out (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Sonoma County red wine for the price:

Sonoma seems to always have an uphill battle as its sibling, Napa, constantly gets the spotlight. But there are exceptional wines coming from this region. The Clos Du Bois Reserve Tempranillo ($22) is ripe with blackberry, black plums, soft and spicy blackberry, blueberry and black cherry positioned correctly with oak and acid. One-fourth of this wine is cabernet sauvignon, which builds a dense, strong structure most tempranillo’s do not have. Layered with a juicy fresh crushed dark fruit mouth feel, this is a surprisingly commanding wine that at first blush seem like it might have come from Napa. But no, Sonoma wines stand on their own. Michael Cervin, Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer

Mendocino Wine: Going Green

Mendocino wine country is a lot like my sister – the middle child who never gets any attention. Napa and Sonoma are the best known regions, Paso Robles is “up and coming” and Santa Barbara had “Sideways” to thrust it into popularity. Mendocino seems left out of the equation. Geographically, Mendocino (just Mendo as it is known) is north of Sonoma, but few wine lovers ever seem to make it that far. They should.

California Napa Syrah Vintage Charts

Napa Syrah    
2009 89 D/H
2008 89 D/H
2007 92

Sonoma Chardonnay Vintage Charts

Sonoma Chardonnay    
2009 89 D
2008 94 D/H
2007 92

Sonoma Cabernet Vintage Chart

Update: IntoWine has partnered with the California Wine Club to offer you great deals on 

Napa Cabernet Vintage Chart

Update: IntoWine has partnered with the California Wine Club to offer you great deals on 

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