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The New California Wine by Jon Bonné

The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste

Ten Speed Press – November 2013

“A comprehensive guide to the must-know wines and producers of California’s ‘new generation,’ and the story of the iconoclastic young winemakers who have changed the face of California viniculture in recent years.”

Mike, Anne and Dashe Cellars are featured prominently in this exciting new work by Jon Bonné.

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The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley Show That They are Producing Better Zinfandel Than Ever, as Well as Other Varieties

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by Andrew Chalk

Many readers will have visited Sonoma County in northern California wine country and sampled the Zinfandels made in the sub-region named Dry Creek Valley. The 70+ wineries there are so small (median production is only about 4750 cases) that most sell all that they make at the “cellar door” (either in a tasting room or through Internet orders). Additionally, 150 grape growers sell fruit to these winemakers and another 80+ wineries besides. This direct sales link is vital to small wineries as it vastly reduces their costs of distribution. One result, is that there are many good wines that do not make their way onto retail shelves here, or do so only at a restricted set of outlets (basically the finer wine stores in town).

To taste the gamut of Dry Creek wine making you really need to visit the area (and the ideal time is the weekend known as Passport To Dry Creek Valley each April). Notwithstanding that, sometimes the growers go out to their customers.  

This month, the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley brought several Dry Creek Valley winemakers to Dallas and I was fortunate to be a guest at their media event. Overall, the quality of their signature grape, Zinfandel, is higher than ever, with the over-alcoholic over-extracted sweet style of a decade ago replaced with wines that, while certainly bristling with power, also have complexity and the alcohol and sweetness in balance with each other and the other components. In a telling change from that ‘other’ style — these wines age. Examples from 2001 and 2004 exhibited resolved flavors and reassuring but approachable tannins that young Zinfandel usually lacks.

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Why an urban winery in the greater Bay Area?

Bob Miller, left, and his wife Kim Potter, of San Francisco, enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir during the Winter Solstice Wine Tasting and Grilled Cheese event at Treasure Island Wines on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. 

There's no majestic estate. No grapevines out back. And, instead of pests, these winery dogs chase street traffic and sidewalk skateboards.

Urban vinting may seem like a new or unusual concept, but it is as central to the history and success of the California wine industry as the Mission grape or the buttery chardonnay, from the pre-Prohibition commercial cellars in San Francisco to the first zinfandel Kent Rosenblum made on the docks of Alameda.

The majority of Bay Bridge wineries have sprouted in the last decade. Today, there are 50 in San Francisco, the East Bay and perched midway across the bridge. Most are small and family-owned, and some are making wines so good, the only reason you don't know about them is because their entire allocation has been snapped up by Gary Danko.

These vintners make wine here because they live here; because they can't afford to buy land in Napa, and, quite frankly, don't want to be limited by doing so. By chasing the best fruit and making wine for, in, and sometimes with the community, these winemakers are stalwarts of sustainability and locavore-living. They are challenging long-held beliefs that fine wines must be made next to vines or that credible winemakers focus on one varietal.

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Oakland wine trail: Six wineries to visit now

From the wineries of Jack London Square to the tasting rooms sprinkled downtown, Oakland's wine trail is an impressive complement to the city's world-class culinary scene. At the Fourth Street warehouse housing JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars, you can taste some of the most highly lauded syrahs and zinfandels in California. Venture across the freeway to the 25th Street Collective that Two Mile Wines calls home, and discover stunning examples of boutique sangiovese and viognier. Here's a sampling of wineries that stood out for us, have regular tasting room hours and form a mini wine trail of their own. Check their websites for hours and other details.

Dashe Cellars: Mike and Anne Dashe have been making stellar Sonoma County zinfandels and Rhône-style wines for 17 years (10 in the 16,000-square-foot winery they share with JC Cellars) using cool-climate fruit from low-yielding vines, native-yeast fermentations, and minimal handling. Be sure to try 2011's The Comet, an intense, old-vine zinfandel commemorating Comet ISON, and the 2012 Potter Valley Dry riesling, a dead ringer for the Mosel. Stay tuned for a first-time Sierra Foothills Grenache Blanc to be released in April. (55 Fourth St.; www.dashecellars.com)

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Chabot Space & Science Center And Dashe Cellars Launch THE COMET Wine

By Chabot Space & Science Center

Published: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 - 11:50 am

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 9, 2013 -- Partnership Renews Winemaking Tradition and Benefits Science Center

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with Oakland-based Dashe Cellars, announces the launch of THE COMET, a new wine produced and named to honor the Comet ISON, the recent comet attracting extraordinary media attention in November.  

THE COMET follows in a centuries old tradition of "comet vintages," in which vintners would create a special wine to commemorate years in which major comets passed Earth. Dashe Cellars has renewed the tradition with a unique limited edition wine, and 10% of the proceeds from sales of THE COMET will be donated to Chabot Space & Science Center.  

According to Dashe Cellars, "THE COMET was created by carefully selecting individual barrels of old-vine zinfandel made from the Todd Brothers Ranch in Alexander Valley, a high end vineyard in Sonoma County. These selected barrels were then blended with a small amount of dark, intense Petite Sirah to add balance. The wine include with intense aromas of black raspberry, wild cherry, and black currant fruit, with highlights of chocolate and black pepper spice. In the mouth, the wine has a great velvety texture and explosive flavors of blackberry, cassis, plum, clove, and black pepper, with a long, spicy finish that lasts for minutes. A rich, full-bodied wine, THE COMET has the intensity and complexity that is the perfect accompaniment to holiday feasts of any type."

Chabot CEO Alexander Zwissler stated, "Our partnership with Dashe Cellars is based on our mutual appreciation of science. Michael and Anne Dashe – both with science backgrounds – share our commitment to strengthening science education in our community. We hope Chabot supporters and wine enthusiasts will gift THE COMET to their friends and family, and spark discussions of what's happening in astronomy and science."

Although the Comet ISON was predicted to be "the comet of the century" by some astronomers, it fizzled out spectacularly on Thanksgiving Day after its perihelion, or journey close to the Sun. THE COMET wine is expected to have a longer life, but production is limited to 100 cases. THE COMET is available directly from Dashe Cellars at $35 a bottle, or by the case, and can be ordered online atwww.dashecellars.com/shop/Zinfandel/2011-The-Comet-Alexander-Valley or may be purchased from Dashe Cellars at the tasting room, located at 55 4th St. in the Jack London Square Historic Warehouse district.

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