Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Have Moved!

While I have enjoyed using Blogger, I have decided that I needed a little bit more robust blogging program. I will now be using WordPress, and the new url for the How We Roll Blog will be simply

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

September Wine Month Guest Blog by Dave Cancilla

Today's blogger Dave Cancilla has been in the wine business for 38 years. His start came in his father's liquor store, and from there he has been experienced every aspect of the wine business - from production to marketing, from wholesale to retail. In between, he has found time to work in the hospitality industry and has selected wines for service at the White House. You can now find him at one of the friendliest wine stores in Sacramento - Beyond Napa Wine Merchants which is located in the Lyon Village Shopping center on Fair Oaks. He will be picking wines for an upcoming issue of Sacramento Magazine.

My Favorite California Wine

This kind of question is almost impossible for me to answer because of all the amazing wines I have been lucky enough to encounter over the years. But if you put my feet to the fire I would have say to say Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from the Monte Bello Vineyard.

Do I consider it the very greatest of all California wines? No, but I wouldn’t make that statement about any other wine either, there are just too many great wines. It is my favorite for more personal reasons than just how transcendentally rich, powerful, elegant, and distinctive it can be.
You see when I was growing up I could see Monte Bello Ridge above the town of Cupertino from my bedroom window. As I grew into adolescence and became interested in wine it was so exciting to think of great wine being produced that close to home. Then I grew old enough that they would actually serve me in the tasting room, and the excitement only increased!

To be honest I don’t remember the first vintage of Monte Bello I ever tasted, but I do remember that I have tasted every vintage ever produced commercially. The first vintage of Monte Bello was the 1962 and at the time I tried it, it was the oldest California wine I had ever tasted.

The vintages at the top of the list for me would be the 1966, 1967, 1985, 1991, and 1999, but don’t make me pick between those. My favorite Monte Bello memory (maybe my favorite wine memory period) is drinking the 1977 on its 15th birthday while sitting in the vineyard leaning against a vine.

The 1982 vintage actually taught me a lesson about great wine. Nobody would call it a great Monte Bello (they lowered the price from $50 to $15), but when you drank it (which we did plenty of) you could tell it was a Monte Bello. And that for me defines greatness in wine, not only that it is delicious, but that it is unmistakable in its character and singularity.

Funny that’s a pretty good way to define Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, no wonder I dig it so much!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September Wine Month Guest Blog by Treven Tilbury

Today's guest blog is by our friend Treven Tilbury. Treven is a Partner at the Law Firm of Downey Brand and is also quite the cook. His eight or more course meals are legendary among his friends. Personally, I never turn down an invitation when "Chef Trev" is cooking and if you ever get the chance to attend one of his dinners, you will now know what to wine to bring!

2005 Gemstone Proprietary Red

James Laube, a noted expert on Napa Valley wines, described the 2005 Gemstone:

"An absolutely gorgeous wine is the blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot, the 2005 Proprietary Red. Pure, vivid notes of black currants, crushed rocks, acacia flowers, and some subtle barrique smells are followed by a wine with hints of hot stones and a gravelly character. The wine has superb intensity, beautiful purity, and full-bodied power, but uncanny elegance and symmetry. This wine needs 2-3 years of bottle age, and should drink well for 25 years."

I don't know what crushed rocks taste like, whether I should want my wine to taste like acacia flowers, or what "barrique smells" are. What I do know is that the first time I tasted Gemstone, I was blown away. I had heard about the wine and the stories about how difficult it was to find because of the limited production and high demand.

Usually I chalk up such rumors to clever marketing, and a feeding frenzy by rare-wine collectors to obtain the most scarce offerings out there. In this case, I could not have been more wrong. For a friend's birthday, I offered to cook some steaks, and my friend's step father brought a bottle of Gemstone.

As soon as I watched it poured into the glass, I could tell it was something different. It was dark -- almost inky. The smell -- what oenephiles would call the "nose" -- was different. To me, most wines smell like, well, wine. This was different; it was complex in a way I typically am unable to discern. The flavors were even more complex, as even I could detect different flavors in the wine. I'm still not certain what they were, but they were there.

But the real magic came when the wine accompanied a slice of medium-rare prime beef. Delicious.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September Wine Month - My Own Selection

On Friday, one of our readers described how an off-beat name (Quackenbush) led her to discover a wonderful little wine. I have a similar story.

During a wine tasting trip to Napa about a year ago, out party stopped at Dean & Deluca for lunch. While waiting for our sandwiches to be made, I wondered over to their wine area, where I quickly became lost in the in the seemingly endless rows of reds.

While I recognized a few of the larger wineries, quite honestly virtually all of the bottles seemed to be simply variations on a theme – same size bottle, semi-interesting label and price points that were a little on the high side for me take a chance on.

However, all of that changed in an instant, when I came across a bottle that simply had a black and white picture of a man’s hands as its label. The name of the name of the wine – “Papillon” appeared to have been tattooed (hopefully temporarily!) on each of his visible fingers.

Two things struck me immediately – first “Papillon” brought to mind the movie by the same name which stared a very young Dustin Hoffman, and one of my all time favorite actors, Steve McQueen. Second, the man’s hands were filthy! I wondered why on earth would a winery choose to make dirty hands its selling point?

Whatever it was, their marketing ploy worked on me, as I picked up this one bottle out of literally thousands to choose from for a closer examination. After examining the hands a little bit closer, I turned the bottle over and immediately smiled – there was a familiar name – Orin Swift! Their marketing of first release – “The Prisoner” (which was the subject of an previous guest blogger) also featured a unique picture of a man in chains.

Without even checking the price, I headed to the cash register. I simply had to share this bottle with my friends who were with me. Of course I did get a another little surprise at the register – the price was only in the $50 range – not bad at all for a Napa Valley Red Wine that contains over 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Returning to our limo, I proudly showed off my purchase, and before the bottle came back my way, it was nearly gone as we simply enjoyed it with our sandwiches as we headed off to our next winery.

This wine is still one of my favorites – I especially like its finish, which seems to last forever, which is about as long as I hope to remember the how, why and when I first picked up a bottle of this wine. (PS - the dirty hands? I later learned that they were the hands of a field worker who had picked some of the grapes that went into Papillon - and yes, the tattoo was temporary).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Angelina our Wine Concierge

One of Angelina's duties as our Wine Concierge is to plan our customers wine tours, so that their experience matches their tastes as well as their budgets. As such, she has had to acquire an extensive knowledge of not only the largest wineries throughout Northern California, but also the smaller boutique wineries that may often go overlooked. Here is a short story of how one of her days ended with finding a new "friend" that she now shares with us.

A New Friend

As I only recently moved to this great state, my knowledge of California wines was actually pretty much limited to the well known producers, especially the big and bold Cabs that California is renowned for. However, now that I live here, I am struck by all the varieties of grapes that are grown throughout Northern California.

That is why it was extremely hard for me to choose just one wine for this review.
However, after narrowing done my selections, I choose a wine that I associated with a unexpected but yet wonderful experience. Here is the story.

About two months ago, I was working in Napa on a Wednesday afternoon when I looked at my watch and realized that traffic was going to get the better of me so I stopped at a local restaurant off Hwy 29 called Press.

Being a first time diner, I didn’t know what to expect but as luck would have it, Wednesday is the night that Press features a “Blue Plate Special” for only $10 and wines at half price!

The “Special” that Wednesday was Chicken Milanese topped with micro greens and fresh tomato. The Milanese breading was perfectly crunchy with a hint of Italian spices, the chicken extremely tender and the tomatoes garden fresh.

Since I still had to drive back to Sacramento, I consulted with the bartender regarding their half bottle selections. Since I was having chicken, we decided on a half bottle of Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc.

Now, I’ve had my share of Pinot Blancs but this particular style was bright and had enough sugar to tame the Italian spice on the breading so that each bite was enjoyable. The acidity was low so it didn’t attack my mouth after a bite of tomato while still allowing the micro greens to burst with minerals. It was a smooth wine and could easily have gone with Thai food - which I find can be one of the most troublesome of foods to pair wine with.

I don’t particularly like dining alone but this wine has now become my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed its company. I think you will too!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Kara

When I first announced that we would be having guest bloggers writing about their favorite California wines, I requested that our readers also submit their own stories. Here is one from Kara, about a surprising little $20 wine that she tried on a lark. If you have a story that you would like to share, please do so by simply using the comment button below or by sending an email to

Here is Kara's story:

Just the other night I picked up a bottle of CA Zinfandel by the name of Quackenbush. I admit that the name made me laugh and that is why I picked up the bottle, but after reading the back I decided to give it a shot.

The label said they grow Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in Lake County. I was intrigued by the little synopsis on the back as well as the $20 price tag. I figured this could go either way. We were barbecuing that evening and had a bunch of grilled veggies along with some bratwurst. I figured, why not? Let's open this bottle up. Being the only true wine drinker there, I figured that I would get most of the bottle to myself. I was wrong!

After tasting it myself I offered it up to the beer and Tequila drinkers hanging out with me. They all tried it and two of them even switched to the wine. I was pretty impressed. The wine had a lot of complexity, beautiful fruit on the nose and a great finish that lasted longer than I expected. While it was high in alcohol that certainly wasn't the only thing it had going on. All in all I decided that I would definitely buy this wine again.

The next day I decided to do some research on this Quackenbush Zinfandel and realized it is a second label for Rutherford Grove. With the beautiful wines they put out there I am not surprised that they managed a winner from their Clear Lake vineyards also.
Editors Note: The full name of the wine is Quackenbush Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel and it may be purchased through Rutherford Grove's On Line Store.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Champagne is Fizzling in France!

While we celebrate California Wine Month here in the States, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the French Champagne industry in suffering.
With worldwide sales expected to be down almost 25% from the high set in 2007 of 339 million bottles, the French Champagne producers have agreed to let almost a third of this year's crop rot on the ground rather than add to their backlog of unsold product or even worse in their minds, discount their product.

According to the Journal, this is the first time since the bumper crop of 1955, that the French have not harvested all of the usable grapes. Since it takes at least two years for the grapes being picked now to actually reach market as Champagne, we can only hope that next two years crops don't fail, or there could be a severe shortage of one of the finest regional products in the world.