Sunday, January 16, 2011

Best Kept Secrets...

I think I may have found two of the best kept secrets in the state of California. Maybe it’s time to let the cat of the bag. Every Tuesday night, I have a ritual so to speak. Around 6 PM Pacific time, I turn on my laptop and go to this website: And for the better part of the next hour, I tune in to a great live broadcast with a bevy of wine information. To watch this broadcast does not cost a thing and I consider it one of the best learning tools out there. If you are a wine lover, wine writer, blogger or even affiliated with the wine industry, you should be watching this broadcast. The experience has proven invaluable. These guys have something really unique and special happening here. So, who are these guys and why should you be watching?

Cellars Of Sonoma is a small, neighborhood wine shop, located in downtown Santa Rosa, California in scenic Railroad Square. But it doesn’t stop there. What sets this place apart from others is the image they are projecting. They are more like a tasting room--featuring wines from various small lot wine producers that many of you have probably never heard of: Amorosa Bella, Bonneau Wines, Bradford Mountain Wines, DuNah Vineyards, Gann Family Cellars, James Family Cellars, Krutz Family Cellars, LaSirena, and TR Elliott Winery. These guys really go the distance to help promote these small producers! Owner Scott Jordan and his staff (including my friend Mike Westerberg) are very passionate and committed to their venture! They offer a wine club, public and private events, music events each week and the best part: on Tuesday nights, you too can be a part of the festivities by tuning in to the live broadcast and participate by asking questions online! It’s that simple! Each week, they feature a new guest: perhaps a winemaker, winery owner, social media phenomenon or even me… Yes, me.

On October 19th, I flew to California and guested as "Cellarmistress" on the live broadcast that evening. This is where I discovered my second best kept secret… Along with myself and my good friend Amanda Hagood, of The Traveling Grape, our special guest was Michael Gann, owner of Gann Family Cellars. I had never heard of Gann Family Cellars but I walked away from my experience knowing that I had discovered yet another great small family winery from Sonoma County! This winery makes top notch wine in many varietals (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.) Michael had a family history rooted in the wine industry but didn’t decide to take the plunge until 2001, when he and his wife Gretchen decided to make their dream of owning a winery a reality. The grapes for their wines are sourced in Sonoma County in the Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. I was able to sample two of their wines while I appeared on the show: the 2005 Alexander Valley Syrah and the 2005 Alexander Valley Petite Sirah. Both were beautiful, full-bodied wines.

The 2005 Alexander Valley Syrah was elegant and concentrated with cornucopia of dark fruit flavors. The finish lingered on forever. As I sat there tasting it, I dreamed of short ribs and polenta. It commanded that type of meal! The wine is available on the website at for $38 a bottle. Well worth the price!

The 2005 Alexander Valley Petite Sirah was a monster! Petite Sirah is making a comeback in a big way and this one is the classic example of the excellent wines coming from Gann Family Cellars. I wanted a big, juicy steak with this wine. It had firm tannins and lots of dark fruit. The color was almost an inky blue-black and I knew it spelled trouble!! At $38, this wine is a steal!

(Later that evening, we all went next door to Jacksons for dinner and Scott brought along the Gann Family Cellars Malbec. Though the vintage year escapes me at the present time, I'm here to say that it was fabulous! You just don't find a lot of California producers making Malbec. It would be worth your while to get a bottle of it.)

For more information on Gann Family Cellars, please visit their website at It was a real pleasure meeting Michael Gann and getting to sample his wines. You really need to experience these wines for yourselves!!

If you live in the bay area, you owe it to yourselves to visit Cellars Of Sonoma! Scott Jordan, Mike Westerberg and their team are so enthusiastic, you will feel right at home and have a wonderful time. And if you don’t live in the area, tune in every Tuesday at 6 PM Pacific time on their website for a fun, educational experience! These guys put on a great show!!! It won’t be a secret for much longer! Thanks for having me as a guest! It was one of the nicest wine country experiences I've had so far!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Crazy About Folie à Deux!

Ok, maybe a little crazy... Not long ago, bestowed upon me were a set of wine samples that I easily became "a little nuts" about. Ever heard of Folie à Deux? The surprise hit me like a ton of brix. (Ha Ha--that's a joke! Must be the psychosis...LOL!) A complete surprise because I had seen these wines at the store and on my travels to Napa Valley, I had many a time traveled past the winery, bright and shiny and on the left hand side of HWY 29 as I traveled to other destinations further north. Why did I not stop there ever? Beats me. But I will sometime soon... The wines I sampled represent a wholesome value that is not often seen in these parts: great wines at a low price!

We'll start with my favorite of the three reds I received, the 2008 Napa Valley Merlot. OK, I can see the frown on everyone's faces bringing thoughts of the ever shrinking Merlot section of the wine shops and wine aisles across America! It's still happening out there! No one wants to drink Merlot! Here's the issue though--by not drinking it, the public is missing out on some terrific wines and this one is no exception! One sip and I was totally hooked and I remember thinking, "How much does this cost???" The flavors were huge and rich--ripe raspberries, chocolate and spice. Beautiful long finish. At $18, this wine is a steal and I plan to steal a lot of it!! Yum!!!

The next wine I sampled was the 2008 Amador County Zinfandel. Amador County is best known for its meaty and earthy "in your face" rich reds that are a perfect winter weather accompaniment. This one is a bit lighter than some I've sampled in the past, but the flavors are still there! Brambly blackberry and cinnamon spice with just a hint of earthiness and only 14.5% alcohol. (I'm used to the fruit-bomb style over 15.5% Zins) I loved it! And here's the best part: This one is only $18 too! Another great value!

In the land where Cabernet is king and there is more Cabernet per square mile than people, it would be tough to compete and be recognized. I don't think Folie à Deux necessarily wanted to compete with the big boys out there more than they wanted to create a nice, balanced and food friendly Napa Cab that would be easy on your pocket book. The 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon does this. For $24, it's a wine you could serve at dinner several times a week and know you got your money's worth. Tasty dark fruits meld with smooth tannins and a smooth finish.

(I also received the 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay which I have chosen to save until later in the year when I do a post on different Chardonnays. Currently, I am suffering from white wine palate fatigue of the worst kind so it would not be fair for me to review this wine at the present time...)

So, in a nutshell, I truly believe that Folie à Deux are a great value and that you would be a little "crazy" not to discover them for yourselves.

Folie à Deux wines are distributed nationwide as well as found at their Napa Valley tasting room. The winery is located at 7481 St. Helena Highway in Oakville. They are open daily for tasting or you can schedule an appointment via their website,

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.