Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Wines of El Dorado - A Visit to the Sierra Foothills

When I think of El Dorado I think of the legendary bandito Joaquin Murrieta, called the Robin Hood of El Dorado in books. He is the real bandito of California who the fictional Hollywood character Zorro was modeled after. The story goes that Joaquin turned to robbing gold miners after he was beaten and his wife was murdered by a group of them. Joaquin is even said to have laid in wait along Arroyo del Valle in Pleasanton, which I see out my windows, waiting to waylay miners coming back to San Francisco from the gold fields.

In 1853 Harry Love, Captain of the newly formed California Rangers, and his posse, caught up with Joaquin and his gang, the Five Joaquins, who were suspected of killing at least 20 people, and shot them down. They only lasted a few years and it was all over. It wasn’t long before the gold ran out either and prospectors had to find something else to do. Some of them turned to planting grapes and making wine in gold country. There was a fair amount of Zinfandel planted and produced during the gold rush to satisfy the thirst of panhandlers for strong, sweet wine. After the gold rush with most of the miners gone it was tough going, and prohibition about ended it all, but in the last few decades wine making has made a big comeback in the foothills.

It’s said that Sierra Foothills Wineries attract a different kind of winemaker than other regions. Farming grapes in the foothills is difficult, and given that the region isn’t so well know the wines do not command high prices. The dedicated vintners in this area make wines that express the difficult climate and terrain of the region. What this means is that you can get bargains on wines with character. Which is why I was interested when I heard about the tasting in San Francisco of El Dorado wines at Postrio.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Irish Wines are Smiling

Today I was introduced to Irish wines. I didn't think there were any wines in Ireland but it turns plenty of Irish are making wines in California. The first of it's kind Irish wine and food tasting event called "When Irish Wines are Smiling" (see Facebook page here) was held at the historic Rutherford Grange Hall, a former gathering place for farmers, just a couple of doors south of the Rutherford Grill.

The event featured the wines of Irish owned, named and ancestry wineries from Northern California paired with Irish influenced food and Irish cheeses, as well as traditional Irish music and dancing. I was given a card for the event when I was tasting at Roche in Sonoma last weekend. They were there and it turns out they have an Irish background. I also heard about the event through Tom Merle who runs a Meetup group for wine fans and was going with a few people. Tom knows the event organizer and filled me in a bit on the event.

I figured the wines and food and Irish tradition were a nice combination and given St. Patrick's day was near and I'm always up for something different and it seemed like a fun event. Luckily I had a friend to was ready to drive so we headed out on a beautiful sunny day. I was just hoping that everything would be tasty and none would be green.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Concannon Founder’s Day 2010

I had a fun time today observing St. Patrick’s Day in Irish style at Concannon Vineyards for their Founder’s Day Celebration. The event was in honor of founder James Concannon’s birthday, on St. Patrick’s Day, in March 17, 1847.

I met a few friends there who are Livermore wine fans and we mingled in the new tasting room that Concanon built last year in a classic style out of brick. The tasting is room much bigger than it was and features special event rooms. Wine was poured, not beer, so I enjoyed a run through their offerings, which included Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Cabernet and a few others. They have quite a wide selection of wines and there were some bargains going for about $7 a bottle, but their small lots, which are quite tasty get in to the $50 range.

After a bit we meandered outside to enjoy music on the lawn with The Cooltones, a Big Band Jazz. They played songs that took me back to when I was quite young and listened to my Dads music, like “Days of Wine and Roses.” The grounds are nicely manicured in a park-like setting and fresh flowers that make it a pleasant place to relax on a sunny day. This day was still quite cold though with a chill breeze blowing so I wrapped up in a blanket like an old guy. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my 1992 Petite Sirah magnum for the bottle signing with 3rd and 4th generation vintners Jim and John Concannon, but I did get a chance to say hi to Jim, who is a regular in the tasting room and at Livermore Valley events held by the Livermore Wine Growers Association.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tweetup at Wente Vineyards in Livermore

This evening I checked out the tweetup at Wente Vineyards. A tweetup is an event where people who Twitter come together to meet in person. It's a novel concept, sometimes called meeting in meatspace. There is probably one going on near you. Click for the map to find out. Normally we connect with our friends online after we have met them. At a tweetup you meet the people you might only know virtually, in cyberspace. It’s finally putting a face to a name. Just as Twitter has evolved from "micro-blogging" to a news source, market research tool, customer service outlet, and communication channel, the tweetup has also evolved. A tweetup is a great opportunity to connect with the people in your network and share more than 140 characters at a time. Talk is often about Twitter, and social media and often there will be a featured speaker who talks on a social media topic or maybe there will be entertainment like tonight. Businesses often sponsor tweetups as a way to connect with customers. The event was put on by the Tri-Valley Tweetup.