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.

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Sam Malhotra

Today's guest blogger is Sam Malhotra, propertior of Lakeside Beverage. If you haven't been to Lakeside, I would suggest stopping by on a Friday or Saturday night when he hosts an informal wine tasting. I should also disclose that Sam owns the vineyard that produces the wine he is featuring - however, I made a trip up to Lakeside (for quality control purposes of course!), and I can assure you that the wine matches his story.

A Memorable Wine and Memorable Moment

I have a soft spot for WORK VINEYARD 2003 NAPA CABERNET SAUVIGNON. A true Bordeaux Blend - 90% Cabernet, 5% Merlot, 3% Syrah and 2% Malbec. Only 170 cases were made. The wine is exceptional with a complex character. This deep, dark and profoundly concentrated wine boasts a dense ruby/purple-tinged color as well as a gorgeous nose similar to that of a French Bordeaux that is intermixed with notions of crushed blueberries and violets. Full bodied and unctuously-textured wine with flavors of dust, leather and chocolate, it is a terrific, full throttle, palate staining, impeccably well balanced wine that can be drunk for the next 10-15 years. But the reason I love this wine has a little to do with its full bodied taste and more to do with my family. Here is our story...

One evening, Lamya (my wife), Zina (our daughter) and myself were dining at the Calistoga Inn in downtown Calistoga. Our son, John and his girlfriend Jackie arrived and started screaming "Dad I did it".....Mom I did it." When we asked what, he replied that he proposed to Jackie! It was "yes" and he had given her a beautiful 3.5 karat diamond ring.

During the happy news, Lamya stood up from our table and addressed all the people in the restaurant by knocking on the rim of the glass and saying "Hello everybody. My name is Lamya and I have happy news to celebrate with you! Our son John proposed to his girlfriend Jackie and they are going to marry next year and I want all of you to know that the wine is on the house.”

Meanwhile, I am kicking Lamya's foot trying to tell her that we only had one bottle of wine on our table and how are we going to serve 60 plus people? All of a sudden I saw the restaurant manager approaching us and asking what kind of wine we were going to serve and I replied 2003 Work Vineyard Reserve Cabernet which we produce at our Vineyard. I sent our son to the vineyard, which was next door to the restaurant, to bring a case of wine to share with our fellow diners. John was there and back in the 15 minutes and brought a whole case of wine which we shared with everyone! Everybody enjoyed the wine and we encouraged them to visit our Vineyard and family the next day. The restaurant was filled with hugs and blessing to John and Jackie. It was a simple dinner that turned into a big celebration...and a wine to remember.

Editors note: Work Vineyard Reserve Cabernet is exclusively available at Lakeside Beverages, and is priced at a very reasonable $44.95 per bottle.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Scot Pollard

OK, who doesn't love ex-King Scot Pollard? From his ever changing hair styles (my personal favorite was "Samurai Scott"), to his bone jarring picks, there has never been a player in Kings History (dare I say NBA History?), quite like Scot! So if you are like me and have missed watching him on the court, here is a little dose of his humor, combined with a very funny story about a wine tasting and buying adventure.

So Many Great Wines I Can’t Choose Just One!

This spring I was invited to attend the Premier Napa Valley Wine Auctin by my very good friend and ''wine guy'' Marcus Graziano. Marcus owns Capital Cellars in Roseville. This event features 200 wineries who make a barrel or two of their best. They then have a barrel tasting, and afterwards an auction (always a great idea to serve alcohol before the auction!).

We thought we would make it to all 200 wines. Apparently the buckets they keep next to the barrel are for spitting the wine into after you taste it. No one in our group felt that the deliciousness we were enjoying should be spat out! Thus, we made it to just 20 or so wines. After the tasting, we rushed to grab a bite to eat, before returning for the auction and make a play at our favorites. Marcus is old hat at this, since he has consistently been among the top purchasers of wine at the event. He had some wines in mind he wanted to purchase for his business, and I decided that I would split a couple of the purchases with him. We both agreed on our ''breaking points'' for each wine.

Soon I discovered that the price jumps quickly when the wine is so good and so rare (and then you factor in a little inebriation!). In fact, Marcus and I indirectly helped set a new Premier record for 5 cases of Scarecrow wine. I’m not gonna say how much, but i will say I have purchased nice cars for less! It ended up going to a man behind us who was simply not going home without the wine. Thank goodness for that! I didn't want to have to explain the small capital investment to my Financial Advisor!

We ended up being able to snatch up the barrel of 2005 from Realm Vineyards which I hadn’t previously heard of. It tasted wonderful, and I can't wait to receive it next spring after they bottle it. We were also able to “win'' the bid for a special Robert Foley/Switchback Ridge blend. (I put that in quotes because in an auction, a "win" means you paid more. How is that winning?) While tasting this wine, Kelly Peterson of Switchback Ridge came over to tell us about it and asked for a pic. She's a cute lil thing so I picked her up like I do my kids for photos. Hope I didn’t embarrass her too much!

I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting this release this fall, and I’m super excited to enjoy this vintage as well! The Premier Napa Valley event was one of the greatest days of my life! I learned so many things about wine, the auction, and mostly the people who make it. How great is it that a beverage can bring so many people together to celebrate it, food, and life?

I can't describe the texture, flavors, and depth of a wine. I know what I like, and I try new stuff all the time to see if I like it too. What I do know is that I've made a lot of friends talking about and trying new wines. If you can measure a man by the company he keeps, than I owe a large debt to the liquid that has introduced me to the best people on the Planet.

Editor's Note: Speaking of Planets (and Scot Pollard), follow Pollard on his Blog or on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Neil Swinney

This is the second in our series of guest bloggers describing their favorite California wines. Today's blogger is our friend Neil Swinney, the General Manager of Morton's.

When I first ask Neil to write for this series, he told me that he would, but I should be warned that his "favorite wine was actually Scotch." Of course I didn't believe him, and true to form, he has decided to write about a wonderful winnery that produces only Cabernet Sauvignon. Here is what he has to say:

As the Maitre'd' D for Morton's of Sacramento, my guest's often ask me what my favorite winery of all time is. My reply has always been Diamond Creek. To me, this is the quintessential Napa wine with a great story behind it.

Founded by Kenny G's uncle, the late Al Brounstein in 1968, Diamond Creek from the first release has been special. With it's three unique micro vineyards (each with its own distinct climate and soil), the winemaker at Diamond Creek truly shows that the French are not the only ones who appreciate great terroir.

In 2005 each of the vineyard's fruits are already coming tantalizing close to a three digit score (a perfect 100)! However, my current favorite remains the 1979 Volcanic Hill. It is still drinking well with good minerality and a "Paulliac cigar box" profile emerging as it sheds it's youthful baby fat.

Best paired with a heavy debate on politics and religion. (Editor's Note - "and a Bone-in Rib Eye" should be added to that last sentence!).

Stiletto Crawl

For the ladies that went on Sacramento's First Stiletto Crawl last month, here is a little video montage of the event.

For those of you who missed it, the next crawl is scheduled for the Roseville area on October 14th.

Luxury Limousines is proud to have chosen as the exclusive transportation provider for these fun events.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

California Wine Month Guest Blog by Craig Amazeen

In honor of California Wine Month, How We Roll and Luxury Limousines have asked some of our friends and customers to tell us about their favorite California wines. Each day we will feature a new guest blogger and a new wine. We hope you enjoy these stories and encourage you to share them with your friends or send us your comments. Cheers!

Leading off we have noted Red Sox Fan (who also happens to be the Vice-President of Broadcast Operations & Production for YOUR Sacramento Kings), Craig Amazeen.


When my friend Bill Murray at Luxury Limousines asked me to write a blog about wine, I askedmyself what could I possibly contribute?

I had a gnawing sense of wine ignorance magnified by minimal understanding of the wine language...horticulture?, enology? Malolectic Fermentation?...yikes... and thus a lack of confidence about what to write.

And then it dawned on me like the moment a strong mountain cab explodes on your tongue...rippling a squadron of flavors across your mouth. I like wine. I really like it. And more importantly I know why I like it.

Wine in my life has become a connective force. Whether it's having a post-work glass of The Prisoner with Kimberly while watching Top Chef Masters, a bottle at dinner (Jarvis maybe) with close friends selected to enhance the brilliance of Patrick Mulvaney's menu (or a Morton's Steak) or a Luxury Limousines journey to Napa to see old friends (Hello Ralph at Krug!!) and make some new ones (Hello Collin at Larkmead), wine sharing is a comfortable, centering method of life enhancement. It's a social endeavor with no rights, no wrongs...just opinions, tastes which leads to discussions, which leads to friendships...and isn't that what life is about?

So with that as a wine has been a deeper connective force for me than "The Prisoner" by Orin Swift Cellars. During one of my many tastings some less than sober cat once blabbed every wine should have a story...even BE a story. For me The Prisoner is that wine...that story.

So here's the story.

Picture if you will, sitting with a group of friends at Auberge du Soleil. Outside patio. Scent of flowers and great conversation permeating the perfect 73 degree afternoon. The current bottle of BV reserve is running dry and by your internal calculations you're next to order/purchase. The wallet is a little thinner than you wish it was and worse the wine list of over 1500 carefully selected bottles is beyond intimidating. It's considered by many to be the finest wine list in the country.

So I do what my old hockey coach told me. KISS theory. Keep It Simple Stupid.

1. Recognize that everyone at the table had been enjoying the red blends.
2. Assume there are red blends somewhere in their book (crazy wine list).
3. Pray there's one under $100.
4. Hope that the server doesn't laugh at you when you order.

As you may know 'assume', 'pray' and 'hope' are all bad strategies....but it was all I had.

So halfway down the page, amidst the Hills, the Cellars, the Reserves, and the Vineyards I came across "The Prisoner". Seriously, who names their wine "THE PRISONER". A little Goth, a little morbid. A little crazy.....hmmmm...I like that. I also like the $66 price tag.

Let's take a chance on a wine that took a chance. Maybe I'm stumbling onto a new generation of rogue winemakers who don't spend their time and money on decorating their tasting room but rather on good old fashion R&D. At this point, in my head I already had a story. I ordered a wine with the most ludicrous name I had ever seen.

Six to seven minutes later, our server emerged from the cellar and stood by me with a strange smirk that only I had spotted through the glass tilting conversation that distracted the others. The table silenced as I inquired, "why the wry smile?"

"The servers here taste almost all the wines, it's part of the job", she said. "This one has become a cult favorite amongst the staff...and when I was making my way back from the cellar, the other servers were giving me head nods and finger points...We're big fans". So for the one AND only time in my life, I felt like a wine connoisseur.

The best part of the story and the real magic of the experience though is that THE PRISONER delivered. Layers and layers of flavors with the strength of a pure cabernet, a tobacco, blackberry spice with a slender, plush, multi-flavored finish. We all loved it.

Quick note here...The Prisoner is a featured wine on the Auberge du Soleil Private Menu.

THE PRISONER (and it's story) has now become local legend amongst my friends, a connective force if you will, as we have all shared it with others on birthdays, holidays, special dinners and gifts as well (think MAGNUM!).

Craig Amazeen is a frequent client of Luxury Limousines when in need of some Prisoner.