THE 52 CALIFORNIA WINERIES YOU NEED TO VISIT IN 2019
BY ESTHER MOBLEY
You don’t have to venture far from Jack London Square in Oakland to taste some of California’s best Zinfandels. Mike and Anne Dashe began making Dry Creek Valley Zin in 1996 and now source fruit from a range of excellent vineyards, many of them historic, encompassing not only Zinfandel but also Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Carignan. Taste these wines at their warehouse-style winery; for just $15 you’ll drink better than you could at most Oakland bars.
Today, California wine country stretches all over the state, no longer confined to the familiar stretches of Napa and Sonoma. If you’re taking a road trip, you’re more likely than not to happen upon a wine region. But with more than 3,600 wineries in California, according to Wines Vines Analytics, how do you choose where to spend your money, time and alcohol tolerance?
Allow us to help. Here at The Press, our team of wine experts has been busy visiting tasting rooms from Mendocino County to Paso Robles, determining which offer the highest-quality wines, the most fun experiences and the best bang for your buck. As always, we conduct these visits according to the same principle with which our parent publication, The San Francisco Chronicle, would conduct a restaurant review: We visit anonymously and pay our own way. The fruits of that labor are the hundreds of independently conducted, expert-written winery reviews published on The Press.
But you don’t have time to read hundreds of winery reviews. So we’ve culled through our notes and come up with a collection of 52 — one for each week in 2019. This is not an all-time best-wineries-ever list; it’s a group of places that we think represents the breadth and diversity of California wineries and tasting experiences this year. Whether you want an in-depth educational tasting, an Instagram-worthy setting with delicious bites of food or simply a cheap, quick and easy tasting bar, we’ve got you covered.
The Press’ team of wine experts is led by me, Esther Mobley, and includes Virginie Boone, Matt Kettmann, Chris Macias, Sara Schneider, Tim Teichgraeber and Bryce Wiatrak. All of our work contributed to this feature.
NOTABLE SOMMELIER RECOMMENDS 4 CALIFORNIA WINES, 6 FAVORITE CRAFT BREWERIES
BY GARY STOLLER
Dashe Cellars "Les Enfants Terribles” Zinfandel 2016, Mendocino, California.
“This cuvée from Dashe, the well-regarded producer of wines from old vineyards in the North Coast, isn’t your typical zinfandel. The winery is based in Oakland, but it works with fruit from places like Sonoma and Mendocino. Based on the initial recommendation of a neighborhood sommelier who tended to favor ‘natural wine,’ Mike and Anne Dashe decided to try to make something different.
“They loved it so much that they’ve put it in to full production. Les Enfants Terribles is a different approach —no additions, including yeast, and 100% whole clusters of grapes. The latter creates a carbonic environment for the fermentation more familiar to lovers of Beaujolais than the typical California zin. Great with a little chill, it is a perfect red for tricky food pairings like Thai spice or other Asian flavors.”
Though the craft beer explosion may dominate liquor-industry headlines, it’s an exciting time, too, for American wines, according to a renowned U.S. wine expert.
“We are really moving away from the old days when wine was made to a sense of style,” says Chad Walsh, the sales manager for wine importer Skurnik Wines & Spirits and former sommelier at Agern restaurant in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. "California chardonnay, for example, was manipulated to taste the same whether it was from the Sonoma Coast or Santa Barbara, and now we’re moving toward making wine with a sense of place.”
The U.S. has an increasing number of mature wine-growing regions and old vines producing fruit, says Walsh, who adds that European experts consider a vine old after about 40 years. There is also greater interest in “de-industrializing farming in general,” he says, “which is only possible because consumers are willing to pay higher prices for things that they can feel good about putting in their bodies.”
Food & Wine magazine named Walsh one of its 2017 Sommeliers of the Year when he worked at Agern.
"Guided by the as-local-as-possible sensibility of chef Gunnar Gislason's kitchen, Walsh has used his expansive knowledge of U.S. wines to create an ambitious, all-American list," Food & Wine said. "His choices balance classic producers with proven track records against some of the most exciting upstarts in the wine world."
Prior to working at Agern, Walsh worked at two other notable New York restaurants. He was the sommelier at Aureole in midtown Manhattan and the beverage manager at the Dutch in SoHo.
Asked to name some current favorite U.S. wines, Walsh recommended four and provided reasons why.
2015 Zinfandel, Florence Vineyard | 92 Points
Appealingly old-school, with vibrant and briary raspberry, toasted anise and cracked pepper flavors that end on a vibrant note. Drink now through 2024. 110 cases made.
2015 Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Ranch | 91 Points
Polished and elegantly complex, with plump cherry, white pepper and smoky dill accents that glide on a sleek finish. Drink now through 2023. 287 cases made.
2015 Old-Vine Zinfandel, Louvau Vineyard | 91 Points
A briary and jammy texture combines with well-knit and lively black cherry, licorice and toasted sage flavors that finish with zesty tannins. Drink now through 2023. 103 cases made.
2015 'The Comet', Sonoma County | 88 Points
Plump and potent, with spirited blackberry, smoky anise and cracked pepper flavors. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane. Drink now through 2024. 473 cases made.
LONELY PLANT - WINE TRAILS
The full winery experience, without leaving the city. Winemaker Mike Dashe is one of California's most respected makers of Zinfandel: his Dry Creek Valley Zin is regularly shown in wine classes or tastings as the paradigm of the variety from the region. After learning the ropes at prestigious Californian Zinfandel house Ridge, he established his own label and took a risk by making it in one of the first contemporary urban wineries in Oakland. The gamble paid off: Dashe Cellars had become an Oakland destination. At the tasting bar you'll be right in the thick of all the winery activity; just across the room you'll see the cellar crew topping barrels and checking the progress of the wine. During harvest, expect a bit of well-organized mayhem as fruit comes in from all over the state to be transformed into the wine you're drinking. Dashe Cellars is one of California’s most revered Zinfandel producers, but it’s also one of the most affordable.
Lonely Planet's Wine Trails, the first book in Lonely Planet’s “Perfect Weekends” series, introduces the secret gems in well-known regions such as Napa and Sonoma, Tuscany, Burgundy and Rioja, and also explores off-the-beaten-path regions in Georgia, Greece and beyond.
Detailed itineraries recommending the most interesting wineries and the best places to stay and eat in 52 wine regions near major cities make this perfect for travel enthusiasts who enjoy wine. Winemakers offer personal insights into what wines to taste and why they’re special and help you to understand a place, its people and their traditions through the wine that is made there. Gorgeous photography, maps and in-the-know authors complete the package.
Notice anything different? We have a new logo!
There are several questions that we hear pretty regularly, "What does that black egg-shaped tank do?", "As an urban winery, do you also have urban vineyards?", and our favorite "What is the story behind the Monkey and the Fish?". If you've ever wondered where our logo came from, you are not alone!
The story behind our logo is a story of adventure, romance, and wine; so what better way to tell that story than with a monkey and a fish? Anne and Mike started Dashe Cellars the same year that they were married; in 1996. When they helped design the label, Anne said they were like “two creatures going on a journey.” The designer immediately jumped on the fact that Anne came from a fishing village in Brittany, and. Mike, being from Tarzana, CA, was a perfect monkey. Voila! A Monkey and Fish label was born. The rest is history.
Now, after 22 years in business, we wanted to shake things up and update our logo a bit. We hope that you love our new representation of the Monkey and the Fish as much as we do!
10 RED WINES FOR FALL THAT ARE THE PERFECT TRANSITION FROM SUMMER ROSE
BY LIZZY ROSENBERG
For many, many years, I limited my wine of choice to whites and rosés. As much as I wanted to classily sip red wine like Cersei Lannister or Olivia Pope, I just could not get myself to enjoy it no matter how hard I tried. However, I wanted to start drinking more seasonally appropriate wines. I transitioned into opting for reds in the fall and winter by drinking lighter and fruitier reds. Now, I've learned to love them all. If you'd also like to switch from pink, summery sips to bolder reds, these 10 red wines for fall are the perfect transition.
Most red wines are deeper and richer than rosé wines, so you can opt for a lighter red to ease in. If you want to get technical, Merriam-Webster defines rosé as "a light pink table wine made from red grapes by removing the skins after fermentation has begun." As for what makes a red wine, the online dictionary calls it "a wine with a predominantly red color derived during fermentation from the natural pigment in the skins of dark-colored grapes." So, it makes sense that moving from rosé to red is a natural transition. To help you, here are a some red wines that are perfect for welcoming fall.
2015 'The Comet', Sonoma County | 92 Points, Gold
2015 Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Ranch | 92 Points, Gold
2016 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley Reserve | 85 Points, Silver
2016 Late Harvest Zinfandel | 89 Points, Silver
2017 Chenin Blanc | Bronze
Thank you to sommelier and friend of the winery, Mark Ellenbogen, for finding this SF Chronicle article from 2008 in the archives!
If you would like to taste a wine from our "Les Enfants Terribles" line, Click Here to visit our online store and pick up a bottle!
VINTNERS SAY LOW SULFER CAN RESULT IN PURER FLAVORS
BY WOLFGANG WEBER
PHOTO BY CRAIG LEE/THE CHRONICLE
Contemporary attitudes toward the use of SO2 are changing, most notably in Europe, but also increasingly in the United States. Indeed, working with little to almost zero SO2 is one of the rallying points of the natural wine movement, a blanket term used to describe wines made according to a philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard and cellar.
In recent years in both France and Italy, winemakers such as Marcel Lapierre in Morgon and Stanislao Radikon in Friuli have pushed the envelope on SO2 use, simultaneously embracing a traditional approach — no additions of sulfur — while at the same time eagerly cultivating the market for such wines in Europe and the United States with a modernist fervor. As with organics and biodynamics before it, wine made without SO2 may be the next trend in the current green craze.
2015 'The Comet', Sonoma County | 93 Points, Gold "Best of the Best"
2015 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley | Silver
2016 Late Harvest Zinfandel | Silver
2015 Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Ranch | Bronze
This competition rates wines exclusively produced and bottled in the following California North Coast AVAs:
- Sonoma County
- Napa County
- Lake County
- Mendocino County
- Marin County
- Parts of Solano County
Eligibility includes any bottled wine labeled with these AVAs as their main source of grapes and whose winery is in California.
Best Red Blend!
Thank you to the judges who ranked our 2015 'The Comet' as the Best Red Blend at the Wine & Spirits San Diego International Wine Competition. To be recognized out of the 1,400 wines submitted is absolutely wonderful.
2015 'The Comet' Red Blend, Sonoma County | 90 Points
Made from half Zinfandel, 40% Petite Sirah and 10% Carignan, given minimal exposure to new oak, opting instead for older French barrels, this wine is dark in color and bright and bubbly in acidity. Cherry and vanilla flavors complement one another alongside a dusty texture and finishing hit of black pepper.
- Virginie Boone
Give a gift that will make a lasting impression! Dashe Cellars is helping to make your holiday shopping fast and easy. Beautiful gift boxes; superb pre-selected wine sets…..and this year we’re offering
Complimentary Ground Shipping
Complimentary Black Satin Finish Gift Packaging
on all sets in our Holiday Shop.