Wine Tasting

Taste of Howell Mountain Spring Tasting 2012

The Taste of Howell Mountain Spring Tasting will take place on Wednesday March 21st, 2012 at the historic Bently Reserve in San Francisco.

Wine tasting

The view from Howell Mountain

30 wineries from Howell Mountain AVA will be on hand pouring their wines and guests will have the chance to meet some of the wine makers as well.

For only $45 a ticket guests will enjoy wines that can run upwards of $100 a bottle. There will also be food pairings.  Some of the more well known wineries in attendance are:  Cakebread, Charles Krug, La Jota Vineyards, Dunn Vineyards, O’Shaughnessy and Outpost.

Other Howell mountain gems on hand include: Black Sears Vineyard, W.H. Smith wines and Cade.

Last June I attended the Taste of Howell Mountain summer event at the Charles Krug winery and I was really blown away by the quality of wines.  It took my palate quite some time to get over the fact that it would be a long time before I tasted that many high quality wines in one day!

Click HERE for tickets

London International Wine Fair | May 22-24 2012

London wine tastingThe London International Wine Fair 2012 is being held in London May 22nd through the 24th, 2012.  This free event is not open to the general public, instead it is a trade only event meant to connect producers with buyers.

Importers, retailers, restauranteurs and trade buyers will be able to sample over 20,000 wines and spirits from 35 countries.  Organizers expect over 20,000 trades people to attend.  In addition to the product samples there will be a number of educational seminars, and Master Classes.

For more information visit the official London International Wine Fair website

New York Wine Expo | March 2-4, 2012

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New YorkThe 5th annual New York Wine Expo is being held at Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City March 2nd through March 4th, 2012.

The world class event will feature a Grand Tasting showcasing over 760 wines and 190 wine maker on hand pouring wines for you!  In addition to the Grand Tasting there will be wine seminars put on by Wine Spectator, and also one seminar led by author and PBS personality, Mark Oldman.

Several seminars will take place throughout the weekend. Below please find a list of those currently on sale. Please check back for additional sessions to be added. Friday, March 2, 2012

6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wine 101: Taste Like a Pro with Wine Spectator

Explore grapes and wine styles as you taste eight wines from around the world, learn the tasting techniques used by pros and build a wine appreciation framework that you will use for the rest of your life. Naww… It’s just smushed grapes.) In this lively seminar, Wine Spectator’s Director of Education, Gloria Maroti Frazee, will attempt to cover everything you’ve always wanted to know about wine, but were afraid to ask… including the key buzzwords for describing wine, stemware, decanting and storage as well as tips for saving leftover wine, food pairing and ordering wine in a restaurant. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced wine drinker, you’ll have fun, learn a lot, and take home handouts that you can use to do tastings on with friends.
Price: $30.00

8:30 – 9:30 pm
Wine Spectator Presents…Portugal – Discover a World of Difference
Do you enjoy discovering new grapes and new wines? Do you like crisp, refreshing whites and full-bodied, rich reds? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’re in for a treat. One of the world’s most traditional wine countries is seriously stepping up its game and using indigenous grape varieties from diverse regions to produce delicious wines. Join Wine Spectator director of education Gloria Maroti Frazee in this exploration of Portugal and taste for yourself why wine critics are excited about Portugal’s new wave wines.
Price: $25.00

Saturday, March 3, 2012

12:30 – 1:30 pm
Wine 101: Taste Like a Pro with Wine Spectator
Explore grapes and wine styles as you taste eight wines from around the world, learn the tasting techniques used by pros and build a wine appreciation framework that you will use for the rest of your life. Naww… It’s just smushed grapes.) In this lively seminar, Wine Spectator’s Director of Education, Gloria Maroti Frazee, will attempt to cover everything you’ve always wanted to know about wine, but were afraid to ask… including the key buzzwords for describing wine, stemware, decanting and storage as well as tips for saving leftover wine, food pairing and ordering wine in a restaurant. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced wine drinker, you’ll have fun, learn a lot, and take home handouts that you can use to do tastings on with friends.
Price: $30.00

1:00 – 2:00 pm
The Rhône Valley: A River Runs Through It…with Mark Oldman
Renowned wine speaker, author, and PBS TV personality Mark Oldman  gives you an insider’s view of the wine of France’s celebrated Rhône Valley, which Saveur magazine recently said “yields some of the most delicious wine on Earth”.   In his charismatic, savvy style that the Aspen Business Journal deems “hilariously entertaining” and sells out audiences across the country, Mark clues you in to a wide variety of Rhone wines that will make you the envy of your wine-passionate friends. Price: $25.00

Tickets for the Friday night event are $75 until Feb 24th and $85 thereafter

Tickets for the Saturday night event are $85 until Feb 24th and $95 thereafter.

*EXCLUSIVE* Weekly Wine Journal Readers enter PROMO CODE “WWJ15” and get a $15 discount off your ticket.

Buy tickets HERE

Arizona Wine Grower’s Association | 2011 awards banquet

November 21, 2010 Phoenix, Arizona

Quiessence Restaurant

2011 Arizona Wine Growers awards banquet at Quiessence

This past weekend the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association celebrated its 3rd annual awards banquet and festival.

The awards banquet was held at the AAA Four Diamond award winning Quiessence restaurant.  The cozy little farm house is nestled in the back end of the 10 acre urban Farm at South Mountain.  Executive Chef and owner Gregory La Prad created a stunning 5 course meal paired with the Gold medal winning wine in each category.  Guests paid $125 each to dine with the Arizona Republic Wine Competition winners.  The intimate evening was the culmination of 12 months of difficult work for the wine growers and makers, but made all the worthwhile by mixing with their biggest fans.  I was lucky enough to be invited thanks to Chris Fiscus at Moses Anshell, Patti King at the AZWGA and Peggy Fiandaca president of the AZWGA.

Watch this 2 minute video featuring scenes from the banquet:

Arizona Wine Festival on the Farm | Nov 19 2011

wine tasting farm at south mountain

Arizona Wine Festival on the Farm, held amongst the pecan groves on The Farm at South Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

The 3rd annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Festival on the Farm will be held at The Farm at South Mountain this Saturday, November 29th, 2011

The annual wine festival is THE Arizona Wine event of the year – YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS IT! 😉

The Arizona Wine Festival will feature 20 wineries pouring wines from Arizona’s wine producing regions of Verde Valley, Wilcox, Sonoita and Elgin.  In addition  there will be a People’s Choice wine competition and educational seminars such as Wine Pairings 101.

wine peoples choice award

Wine education seminars and people's choice awards

The Festival will culminate with an amazing auction.  Last year some of the amazing items on the block included dinner for 4 prepared in your home by FnB’s Pavle Milic and Charlene Badman, and the top auction block which fetched $8000 was dinner with Maynard Keenan prepared by Mark Tarbel.

Tickets for the event are still available here:

Fleming’s 46 Diamonds Debut, October 26th 2011

Fleming’s Steakhouse has long been a supporter of breast cancer awareness in the month of October (and year round).   I met with Darrin Visser, managing partner of the Fleming’s on Scottsdale road and he gave me a brief rundown of some of the events and specials.

2 minute video

46 Diamonds Debut
An Evening of Exclusive Wine, Small Plates and High Fashion
Benefiting the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade

Wednesday, October 26
6 – 9 pm

Fleming’s at DC Ranch
20753 N. Pima Rd.
Scottsdale, Arizona 85255

Join Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar as it debuts its new private label wine – Forty-Six Diamonds, Toscana 2009. Enjoy a Arizona sunset on the DC Ranch patio while sipping this exclusive red blend created with Salvatore Ferragamo and the Il Borro estate all in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Guests will be able to sample the Forty-Six Diamonds, Cline Cellar’s Cashmere wine, and Fleming’s newest low-calorie cocktail – The Stiletto. Fleming’s newest Small Plates will be passed for noshing and the latest luxury handbags and shoes will be on display.

A portion of each ticket sale will be donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

RSVP with Fleming’s at 480-538-8000.


Fleming’s celebrates “Month of Discovery” with 100 wines

 Newport Beach, California, September 2011 – The annual unveiling of the new Fleming’s 100™, the award-winning list of 100 wines by the glass at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, has become a much anticipated event for food and wine lovers.  This year’s “Month of Discovery” and its introduction of the new 2011/2012 list will appeal to both the wine novice and the connoisseur who are in search of the ultimate wine experience.   The month-long celebration in September includes:

The New Fleming’s 100 “Opening Nights” – Opening Nights, a series of wine tastings held Friday evenings in September (2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th), will provide guests with a rare opportunity to sniff, swirl, and sip their way through Fleming’s wine by the glass list.  Each Opening Night will feature 20 wines from the Fleming’s 100™.  The first four tastings will be wine selections available at all of the 64 Fleming’s nationwide. The final tasting will feature selections by each Fleming’s local Wine Manager and Operating Partner (please click here for wine selections to be served on each Opening Night).  Each of these five Opening Night events provides 20 different wines to try for just $25, and includes a preview tasting of selections from Fleming’s new Small Plates menu. Space for this popular event is limited and reservations must be made by calling your local Fleming’s location.

Small Plates Introduced on September 21 –   Debuting on the menu are seven all-new selections that are meant to be savored and enjoyed anytime — with a quick glass of wine at the bar, multiple plates shared casually among friends, or at the start of a multi-course dining experience.  Conceived as an avenue for enjoying the gracious service, hospitality and ambiance of Fleming’s, but with an emphasis on lighter, healthier and unique menu items, Fleming’s new Small Plates are more substantial than appetizers, but smaller than full steakhouse entrées. They include:  Sliced Filet Mignon, Jumbo Shrimp Scampi Skewers, New Zealand Petite Lamb Chops, Ahi Tuna Skewers, New Bedford Scallops, Filet Mignon Skewers and Fleming’s Lobster Tempura.

Silver Oak Wine Dinner September 13 or 17 – Fleming’s annual national wine dinner is designed to celebrate a single wine producer that has achieved iconic status among its peers. This year, it’s two!  Five superb wines from the “twin sister” wineries of Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars will be showcased. These vintages are exceptionally food friendly and pair wonderfully with the richly-flavored ingredients of our five-course dinner menu. The highlight of our evening will be a remarkable side-by-side vertical tasting of the 2006 and 2007 vintages of the Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Please visit for specific locations and dates.

“Winesdays” at Fleming’s – This is the month to find a new wine favorite at a special price every Wednesday in September. Enjoy 25% off** any bottle from the new Fleming’s 100 when you dine on Wednesday evenings.

Fleming’s “Icon Wine” series” now featuring Silver Oak– The Icon Wine series continues in September with Silver Oak 2007 Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which is available for $100 per bottle* (normal list price of $150 – $175) until September 30—or until inventory runs out.  The 2007 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is described by Silver Oak winemaker Daniel Baron as “a profound, fruit-driven wine from a great California vintage. It has a dark ruby color with a purple edge and an inviting nose of ripe black plum, blackberry, baking spices and soy sauce. On the palate, the wine is rich and full, reminiscent of the flavors of a berry cobbler.”

Win a Masterpiece of “Wine Art” – As part of the Month of Discovery, Fleming’s is giving away a signed, limited-edition giclée on canvas by the celebrated fine arts painter Thomas Arvid, who specializes in portraying the wine experience.  Arvid’s masterpieces are showcased on the walls of every Fleming’s restaurant.  To enter to win, please visit†.

* Excluding wine, tax and gratuity.
†† No purchase necessary. Must be 21 to enter. Visit for Official Rules.

About Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
The nationally acclaimed Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar offers the best in steakhouse dining – Prime meats and chops, fresh fish and poultry, generous salads and side orders — with a unique wine list known as the Fleming’s 100, which features over 100 wines served by the glass.  Fleming’s was launched in Newport Beach, California in 1998 by successful restaurant industry veterans Paul Fleming and Bill Allen.  Today there are 64 restaurants nationwide.  Fleming’s is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including Wine Enthusiast’s annual Award of Distinction and Wine Spectator’s annual Award of Excellence.

Review | Taste of Howell Mountain 2011

Charles Krug Carriage house

Taste of Howell Mountain 2011, at the Charles Krug winery

There comes a time in every wine drinkers “career” that they experience wine at a whole new level.  The experience is not a singularity, and the wine lover will begin a new journey in search of repeat adventures on this new plateau.   For me, The Taste of Howell Mountain was one of these events.

The Taste of Howell Mountain was held on June 18th in the carriage house and on the stunningly beautiful and lush grounds of the Charles Krug winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley.  The Charles Krug Winery’s 850 acre estate surrounded the grove of massive oak trees which provided much needed shade.

Charles Krug winery

View from the balcony

Guests paid $125 a ticket to attend the event to raise money for the Howell Mountain elementary school.  There were silent auction items, and even a pinata worth about $400 in wine prizes.  But the real money raiser was the live auction which got underway at 3pm in the grand ballroom upstairs in the carriage house.  Randy Dunn Vineyards had two stunning lots up for auction: a 27 year vertical of 750ml bottles and a 19 year vertical of magnums, both from his Howell Mountain Estate.

In all, 32 Howell Mountain Wineries were pouring including Outpost, O’Shaughnessy, Robert Craig, Robert Foley, Black Sears, Lamborn and Cade.

Outpost winery

Outpost Winery

I experienced a taste overload shortly after visiting my first table, Outpost.  They were pouring  2008 Howell Mountain Grenache, Zinfandel and Cabernet.  All three were absolutely outstanding and are sold out!

One of the things I noticed about a lot of the wines I was drinking was how incredibly rare they were.  Most producers produced less than 1,000 cases of the wines they were offering.  Many producers produce less than 500 cases.  These wines are simply not available in most specialty wine shops let alone a grocery store.  Most are sold exclusively through mailing lists and prices start at around $75 a bottle

carriage house charles krug

The live auction

In addition, the Howell Mountain AVA is quite remote and private.  Most of the vineyards are not open to the public and tastings if done at all, are by appointment only.

Over a wine lovers lifetime they will experience many pivotal moments in wine.  For me a recent moment was ’83 Chateau d’Yquem.  The taste of Howell Mountain was not unlike that life changing event.  Simply amazing wines, beautiful setting, and to benefit children?  It couldn’t have been a better day

Check out my Facebook Page for more photos of the event!

Behind the scenes at Cameron Hughes Wine

Cameron Hughes Wine tasting room

Inside the Cameron Hughes headquarters

On Friday June 17th I spent the morning at Cameron Hughes Wine headquarters in San Francisco.  Having been a fan of many of his wines over the years I was quite excited to see behind the scenes.  Cameron and his wife/business partner Jessica were tied up on business, but they were kind enough to set me up with their on staff Sommelier for a private one-on-one tasting.

San Francisco office

Media Tasting Room

The first thing I noticed is the headquarters are very modest.  There’s a reason why Cameron Hughes is able to deliver exceptional value, and it’s not because he has lavish digs in a posh neighborhood.

I met the sommelier and she brought me into the tasting room, where there was an impressive collection of CH Wines on the wall, as well as a sizeable line up for our morning taste test.

I will post separate reviews of each wine I tasted in future posts, but for now I will give a brief overview.  First thing I noticed was the Riedel stemware.  Very nice, I am a stickler for appropriate wine glasses and I was relieved to see the very best on hand.

Quite a few of the wines had not yet been released so it was nice to get the inside “scoop” as they say in the news business.  Among the collection were some interesting whites, an Albarino from Clarksburg “Lot 240” and a Chardonnay from Willamette Valley “Lot 215” as well as a Rose from Napa, “Lot 256”

Cameron Hughes office San FranciscoAfter the whites we breezed through a GSM, a Pinot Noir and a couple of Syrah’s but Cameron is better known for his reds, and in particular his Cabernet Sauvignons.  Which is were the tasting started to get really interesting.

I had a chance to taste the brand new release, Lot 230 from Chalk Hill Sonoma.  This lot is the 4th release from the same vineyard allocation.  It’s drinking very big and bold right now, alcohol is in check, but the wine could use another 6 months in the bottle to calm down a bit.  That would put it ready to pop and pour approaching the Holiday season.  Next up was Lot 211, a Napa Valley Cabernet.  I was lucky to taste it as all 3,100 cases of it are sold out!  The wine won gold at the Critics Challenge and LA International Wine Competition.  More on this wine in the future.

Cameron Hughes Cabernet

2007 Hughes-Wellman Cabernet

My visit to the Cameron Hughes Wine offices culminated in a tasting of the 2007 and the unreleased 2008 Hughes-Wellman Cabernet’s from St. Helena.  These wines are not part of the Lot program.  The wines are a joint project between Cameron’s father and his friend of over 50 years ,Sandy Wellman.  These small production (less than 800 cases made) wines are made with the help of Cameron Hughes winemaker Sam Spencer.  The price tag is by far the most expensive in the CH Wine lineup at over $50 a bottle.   The 2007 was drinking wonderfully, the 2008 could use another year in the bottle.  But having said that, the $50 price tag is an exceptional deal.  Both of these wines drink every bit as good as most of the $100+ wines I enjoyed on my trip to Napa Valley.  Once I get my storage logistics sorted out I will definitely be stocking up on both of these vintages, I just hope there is some left by the time I order!

Cameron Hughes Wine

A 1 minute video of scenes behind the scenes:

Taste of Howell Mountain 2011 | June 18th | St. Helena

Napa wine tastingTaste of Howell Mountain 2011
I will be attending the Taste of Howell Mountain 2011 this year as a guest of the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association.  I just received the press release on the event and have posted it below.  I will be posting a review of the event and will be tweeting live from the event. Follow The Weekly Wine Journal on Twitter for live updates
Angwin, CA – HMVGA President Frank Dotzler of Outpost Winery announced today that a special consumer wine tasting, Taste of Howell Mountain, will be held in conjunction with a charity silent and live auction on Saturday, June 18th at the Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main St. in St. Helena.  Currently available  wines will be showcased by 32 wineries who are members of the association.

Aside from being the first sub-appellation within Napa Valley to be officially recognized by the federal government, Howell Mountain is also one of the most exclusive and sometimes elusive of appellations.  Production from primarily family-owned wineries is quite small, though of notoriously high quality, and the wines are sometimes hard to find on store shelves.  That circumstance renders this once-a-year only consumer tasting even more special as guests will be able to sample current release wines from nearly all the mountain’s producers.

During the wine tasting from noon to 5 pm, there will also be a silent auction of dozens of wines and other interesting items for bid from noon to 3 pm.  This will be followed by a live auction upstairs in the Carriage House at 3 pm.  The live auction includes a line-up of 29 auction lots featuring many “wine lifestyle events” such as weekends in wine country and special, private events at member wineries, an fly fishing trip at Mammoth Lake, not one but two library vertical collections from Randy Dunn going back to 1982, a great farmer’s-market-to-table Julia/Julie day for foodies, large format wine bottles, etc.

Short List of Auction Items

Proceeds from both the silent and live auction go to the Howell Mountain Education Foundation which benefits the Howell Mountain Elementary School in Angwin where the student population has doubled in recent years.  A major renovation of this tiny school founded in 1886 was completed three years ago, only to find that enrollment filled the new school to overflowing!

Now in its 15th year, the Taste of Howell Mountain will be held in the newly remodeled historic Carriage House at the Charles Krug Winery hosted by the Peter Mondavi family.    With its sweeping lawn and gracious Carriage House building, it is a natural and enjoyable setting for this casual event which includes gourmet appetizers as well as an amazing slate of wines.  This year’s theme is Fiesta! and it promises to carry on the tradition of casual elegance, great wine, and good company.

A full list of the wineries pouring is below.  Tickets are $125 per person and are available now online at or you can order by phone at 707-965-2665.

Wineries Pouring at 2011 Taste of Howell Mountain

Arkenstone Vienyards Black Sears Blue Hall Vineyard Beringer Wine Estate

Bremer Family Winery Cade Winery Charles Krug Winery Cimarossa Vineyards

Cornerstone Cellars D-Cubed Duckhorn Vineyards Dunn Vineyards

Haber Vineyards Highlands Winery Howell at the Moon La Jota Winery

Lamborn Family Vineyards Notre Vin Winery O’Shaughnessy Winery

Outpost Winery Pina Napa Valley Red Cap Vineyards Retro Cellars

Robert Craig Wine Robert Foley Vineyards Roberts + Rogers

Rutherford Grove Spence\ St. Clement Winery

Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery W.H. Smith Wines

White Cottage Ranch Winery