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Sommelier Sojourns

In the continual pursuit of offering the finest experience for her guests, Terri meets with wine makers both local and abroad in order to gain expertise first hand and bring her knowledge back to the patrons of The Inn.

Here are Terri's most recent adventures in wine tasting…

August, 2012

SAM 1836On a recent wine trip to California, my travel plans included visiting Livermore Valley which is located about one hour south of Napa Valley and 30 miles southeast of San Francisco. Livermore Valley is an AVA (Approved Viticultural Area), which is one of California’s oldest wine districts. This AVA is 15 miles long and 10 miles wide.

There are many wineries in Livermore Valley, but one of the most popular is Wente Vineyards. Wente also boasts a wonderful restaurant located at the entrance to their beautiful Greg Norman PGA golf course. If you play golf on this magnificent course, and your game includes some golf shots with some slice, you’ll find yourself searching for your ball in the vineyards as there are vines planted throughout the course.

sam 1948Wente is the oldest family run winery in California– founded 125 years ago–and is now run by 5th generation (and soon to be 6th generations) .The Wente family owns over 3,000 acres and uses only estate grown fruit, (meaning vine to bottle, owner grown, produced and bottled).

Riva Ranch is the name of the family’s vineyard in Arroyo Seco in Monterey where they have been growing Chardonnay since the 1960s. Wente Vineyards was the first California winery to produce a wine labeled as Chardonnay in 1936. Today, many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente clone.

wente-rivaranch-chard-05The Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay is a rich, golden color, with aromas of ripe apple, vanilla butter and pear. Luscious mouth flavors of vanilla, butterscotch and finishes long and smooth. We offer this wine by the glass and by the bottle, and it is also poured with the sweet potato ravioli on our fabulous Tasting Menu.

The Wente Reliz Creek Pinot Noir is named after the creek that runs through the estate vineyards “Reliz” Creek. All the fruit is handpicked as well as hand sorted. Beautiful aromas and flavors of cherry, strawberry, vanilla, toasted oak, earth and cigar box. Delicate wine with delicate tannins followed by a soft fruity finish.

 May, 2011

melbecOne of my favorite duties as a Sommelier is the opportunity to taste and discover new exceptional wines. (Yes, I do love my job, but I assure you that is only part of it!) And when I can’t get to the wineries due to the everyday demands of my job, I simply love it when the winery—and the winemaker—come to me!  Such was the occasion when Aaron Buoncristiani of the Napa Valley family winery bearing his name visited me at the Inn with an extraordinary line up of wines.

Aaron and his three brothers are running the show at Buoncristiani Family Winery. The Winery was established in 1999 by the young foursome who were born and raised in Napa. They are bonded by blood, but also by a shared passion and dedication to handcrafting ultra premium wines. They are succeeding and being noticed!  They are currently in the process of building a winery on the Soda Canyon Ranch Road in Napa Valley.

This was the first time I had tasted these very small production wines with Aaron. WOW. We tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Malbec, Syrah and a Proprietary red blend O.P.C (old pa’s cuvee).

All of these are quality wines, but the Malbec was exceptional. Usually used as a blending varietal, this is the first vintage Buoncristiani decided to bottle Malbec all on its own. This is not an inexpensive Malbec, but once you taste it, you will appreciate the quality. This wine captured my attention, and I had to keep re-visiting it to taste with consistent thoughts of how well this wine drinks.

The Malbec is dark purple in color with intense black and blue fruits, white pepper, spice, violets, vanilla, toasty oak, maybe some white chocolate, displaying deep flavor, yet extremely balanced with a long, long, satisfying finish.

The limited production of all the Buoncristiani wines will make it difficult to find them in retail stores. I believe they made only 125 cases of the 2008 Malbec, and I was fortunate enough to get a case to add to the Bernards Inn wine list!

Aaron assists Philippe Melka in the winemaking of the Roy Estate Wines which are also located on the Soda Canyon Ranch Road and happen to be a top red choice of mine from the Napa Valley. Interesting that Philippe Melka has always been a favorite winemaker for me, and Aaron obviously has a suited style that shines as well. I certainly look forward to the completion of the Buoncristiani family facility with the anticipation of visiting them on my next visit to the Napa Valley.

I invite you try this wonderful Malbec the next time you dine with us. It pairs exceptionally well with these dishes on our menu:

  • Dry Aged Rib Eye with Aligot potatoes (potato puree enhanced with gruyere and swiss chesse), asparagus, roasted pearl onions, black truffle sauce.
  • Beef Tenderloin Tips from our bar menu
  • The Bernards Inn Burger would be fabulous with the Malbec, add to the burger caramelized Vidalia onions, applewood smoked bacon and Vermont white cheddar cheese and you’ve connected with something delicious.

Let’s not forget the wonderful pairing of harder style cheeses such as Idiazabal which is a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk from the Basque Country and Navarre Spain: or Tomme de Savoie which is from cow’s milk made in the valley of the Savoie in the French Alps. Parmesan, Pecorino, and Hard Cheddars would also be excellent accompaniments.

August 8th, 2010
Surprise visit from Shirley Roy, Roy Estate Vineyards, Soda Canyon Ranch, Napa Valley. Hopefully, soon I will be traveling to California and look forward to spending some quality time with Shirley.

June 2010
Attend a private seminar hosted by the Vice President of Sales from Far Niente Vineyards. Tasted side by side vertical of Far Niente Cabernets including 1998,1999,2000,2001,2002,2003,2004,2005, 2006, 2007. Far Niente now makes a fabulous Pinot Noir, En Route. The first vintage was released in 2007. The Pinot fruit is from Green Valley which is a 25 acres site in Russian River Valley planted only to Pinot Noir. With the combination of buying the old Costa Brown vineyard site of 25 acres, they now own 50 acres in Russian River. All the grapes are hand sorted and organic coming from gold ridge loam soil (looks almost like a beach.

June 10, 2010
Trade wine luncheon with Piero Incisa from Tenuta San Guido. The famous Sassicaia was created by Piero’s grandfather in the 1940’s as an experiment. Needless to say, Sassicaia is one of the world’s best wines.

May 20, 2010
Meeting with Nils Venge, from Saddleback Cellars and Venge. Nils owns 17 acres in Oakville where he sources the fruit for his Saddleback Cabernet. Saddleback is actually a valley they named the wine after.

May 4, 2010
Wine dinner featuring Lail Vineyards with special guest Robin Lail. This was a fabulous dinner which took place in the restaurant’s beautiful great room.

May 4, 2010
Luncheon with Eileen Crane, winemaker from Domaine Carneros, California. Eileen was hired in 1987 to help build the winery, and started as a part time tour guide. The first release of Domaine Carneros sparkling Brut was 1990. This is owned by Taittinger and there are 270 acres certified organic and biodynamic. The analogy here, they make a wine once a year compared to a chef who makes one dish over and over again.

March 27, 2010
Meeting with Anna Abbona, proprietor Marchesi de Barolo. They make a fabulous Gavi di Gavi white wine that shows a nearly transparent color with a nose of perfume, floral, golden delicious apples, chamomile , flowers, ripe bananas leading to a full bodied finish.

March 24, 2010

Luncheon with Debbie Lewis from Lewis Cellars. Debbie’s husband, Randy, was an Indy race car driver. In 1994 they established the Lewis Cellars Winery. The wines from Lewis Cellars are some of the highest sought after California red wines.

March 3, 2010

Meeting with Marci Mondavi who is now focused on a new project making a high end red wine called Continuum from Napa Valley Continuum is a red blend made from grapes grown on a parcel of land located on Pritchard Hill. Tim Mondavi, (Marci’s brother) likes grapes grown on hillsides, and they had the opportunity to purchase 178 acres of hillside property Continuum is made from hand pick, twice sorted, grapes and is unfined/unfiltered. The blend is comprised of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot and will age for 20+ years. The label is designed by Tim’s daughter, Chiara, entitled “Light of the Vine.” This signifies a silhouette of a cabernet franc vine planted by Tim Mondavi 25 years before his daughter Chiara captured it to canvas at sunset.

February 25, 2010
Silver Oak wine dinner with winemaker Daniel Baron. A few fun facts:

  • Daniel spent 12 years at Dominus Estate, and has been with Silver Oak for 17 years
  • First vintage of Silver Oak was 1972. Their vision is the celebrate the differences from year to year
  • 1994 was the first vintage Silver Oak Napa was not 100% Cabernet
  • Water tower on label of Silver Oak signifies no electric in rural CA until 1933
  • American oak is usually less tannic than French oak resulting in wine that is softer and approachable
  • Twomey is Silver Oak’s sister winery which allows them the opportunity to make other varietal wines than the Cabernet of Silver Oak.
  • Twomey first vintage of Pinot Noir was 2002. A few other varietals they make are Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot.

 February 24, 2010
Meet with winemaker Chuck Devlin from St. Chapelle Winery, Idaho. Chuck has been with St. Chapelle Winery since 2000. They have 40 acres planted to grapes used for ice wine. Due to weather not conducive to freezing temperatures, St. Chapelle did not make an ice wine in 2009. The grape did not freeze in the normal time, therefore were left on the vine longer, and unfortunately the birds ate the grapes.

January 18, 2010
Wine luncheon with Stephan Pauly Bergweiler from Germany.

December 10, 2009
Meeting with Veronique Drouhin from Domaine Drouhin, Willamette Oregon and Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy.  Veronique lives in France, visiting Oregon at least three time per year allowing her the opportunity to taste wine. While in France, she has wines sent to her for tasting for her approval.

October 7, 2009
Lunch with Dennis Cakebread from Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley. A few fun facts:

  • 1973 Cakebread was the 39th most active winery in Napa Valley
  • Cakebread started making Cabernet in 1974
  • Current winemaker: Julien Rapsis
  • Cakebread does an all night harvesting which helps maintain the fruit at a temperature of 52 degrees or cooler. This preserves the higher natural acidities.
  • Cakebread makes Pinot Noir from 65 acres of fruit planted in  Anderson Valley. They source from  six different clones of Pinot.
  • The philosophy of Cakebread is: “Depends on where you grow it”---“How you grow it.”

 Oct 2009

Luncheon with Searle Chappellet
Chappellet is a family run estate that creates wonderful wines with the Pritchard Hill Cabernet being their flagship wine. The weight of the bottle alone is amazing, and it signifies the weight of the wine. What a beauty. We do show on our wine list:

  • Chappellet Estate Vineyards, "Pritchard Hill", Napa Valley 1997
    WS90 $345.00
  • Located on Pritchard Hill, impressive cabernet, dense ruby purple color, bouquet of minerals, smoke & black Cherries. 
  • Bordeaux like density and concentration on back palate med-full bodied nicely extracted.
  • Chewy tobacco, spice box, black fruits 2003-2018
  • Chappellet Estate Vineyards, "Pritchard Hill", Napa Valley 2006

August 26, 2009
Lunch with Laurent Drouhin from Joseph Drouhin, Burgundy, France

April 22, 2009
Lunch with Eric Hamacher from Willamette Valley, Oregon. We have the Hamacher Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2006 on the wine list-$89.00 Eric informed me you need 15 acres of planted acreage in Oregon to make a winery.

April 20, 2009
Lunch with Karl Wente. We pour the Wente “Riva Ranch” Chardonnay Arroyo Seco, Monterey by the glass 6 oz -14.75 /9 oz- 22.25. The fruit is 100% Estate Grown, and the Arroyo Grande terroir shows apple, pear, and tropical notes. They do a battonage (stirring of the Lees), once a week which creates a creamier texture. 

Lunch with winemaker Michael Richmond from Bouchaine Vineyards, Carneros, Napa Valley.

Michael has over 30 years experience including founding Acacia Winery.

We are happy to represent Bouchaine Winery by pouring their Pinot Noir by the glass:

tasting notes of plums, black cherries, roses, followed with a hint of coffee and a touch of earthiness. This wine shows well paired with anything grilled or smoked such as duck, lamb, mushroom risotto.

6 oz- 14.25
9 oz- 21.25

Bouchaine is a 100 acre estate and is the oldest continually operated winery in the Carneros region of Napa Valley established in 1928.

Carneros is located at the Northern end of San Francisco Bay area and lies both Sonoma and Napa Counties. This is a cool climate area due to the cooling effects from the bay. The two primary grapes grown here are chardonnay and pinot noir, which one third will be used in the production of sparkling wine. Soils of clay loam are suited to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Philippe Melka has a magic touch when it comes to the art of winemaking. 

Philippe has me convinced that everything he touches turns to gold. He, of course, is way too modest to think this, but I can tell you from my experiences if I know a wine is made my Philippe, I'm going to appreciate it. I look forward to sitting with Philippe, listening to stories as well as enhancing my knowledge at the same time. He is truly one of the best!

Came across this picture with the beloved Charles Roy visiting the Bernards Inn for a trade luncheon.

Included in the picture:
Charles Roy, Philippe Melka (winemaker for Roy Estate Wines),
Craig Polignano (Chef de Cuisine, Bernards Inn)
Shirley Roy, Terri A. Baldwin (Sommelier/Wine Director)

June 23, 2009 Lunch with Cyril Chappellet from Chappellet Vineyards-- we sell the Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet at Chappellet Estate Vineyards, "Pritchard Hill", Napa Valley 2006 245.00

June 2009
One of my unique wine finds is the Efeste Red

June 2009
Louis Latour wine tasting

May15, 2009
Lunch with Charles and Shirley Roy with acclaimed winemaker Phillipe Melka. (My favorite winemaker) Charles and Shirley are lovely, and the wines are just stunning. Roy Estate Proprietary Red, Napa Valley 2005 (95RP) 195.00 Roy Estate, "Unfined & Unfiltered," Soda Canyon, Napa Valley 2005  (95RP) 255.00

May 12, 2009
Lunch with winemaker Michael Richmond from Bouchaine Vineyards, Carneros CA . We sell the Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir by the glass at 14.00 and by the bottle at 55.00

May 7, 2009
Luncheon with Mike Benziger from Benziger Winery. Benziger,

"Tribute," Sonoma 2004 125.00 (Certified Biodynamic. Blend of 51% Cabernet, 21% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot) We sell the Benziger Tribute. Mike is a wonderful, knowledgeable, personable, and very talented viticulturist.

May 2009 
Lunch with David Ramey from Ramey Vineyards Ramey Cellars, "Hyde Vineyard," Russian River Valley 2005    125.00 Ramey Cellars, Russian River Valley 2005 69.00--by the glass @ 17.25

May 1, 2009
Lunch with Marc Beyer from Beyer Wines in Alsace France

April 22, 2009
Tasting with Eric Hamacher from Hamacher Vineyards Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Willamette OR. We sell the Hamacher Pinot Noir at 85.00 bottle

April 20, 2009
Lunch with Karl Wente from Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley CA-- We pour their Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay by the glass.

March 2009
Listed in Courier News Article.

March 24, 2009
Opus Dinner with Winemaker Michael Silacci here at the BI

March 2009
Tasting at Madison Hotel with Napa Valley Vintners Association Wines

February 2009
Wine Tasting with Jean- Nicholas Meo Camuzet

July 2008
Attended OPC Oregon Pinot Noir Camp, only 200 selected to attend from the county. Huge wait list to be invited to this event.

Just a sidenote
Terri was nominated again for the 3rd time to be inducted into the State Hall of Fame for Superior Performance for bowling. Induction done only every 4 years. Very hard to meet the criteria. Another passion of Terri's.

April 16, 2008
Had the pleasure of having lunch with Philip Wente from the prestigious Wente Vineyards and Estates. Now pour the Wente "Riva Ranch" Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco Monterey 2006 by the glass at 9.75 or 38.00 bottle. Value for the dollar, this wine delivers it all.

April 17, 2008
Met winemaker David Tate from Barnett Vineyards

April 29, 2008
Had lunch with Gina Gallo at Napa Valley Grill in Paramus

May 6, 2008
Met Charlie and Shirley Roy from the Roy Estate, Napa Valley CA. Charlie and Shirley purchased the Johnny Miller Estate in Napa, they lived in New Vernon and sold their house to move to CA. They are on a 17 acre estate, and make a phenomenal Roy Estate Cabernet, Soda Canyon, Napa Valley 2004 which we have on the list at 245.00.  Also they make a red blend Roy Proprietary Blend, Napa Valley 2004 which is on the list for 195.00. Phillipe Melka is the consulting winemaker here, and he is fantastic. I love everything he makes.

May 7, 2008
Luncheon with Silvio Denz, Proprietor Chateau Faugeres, St. Emilion, France. Added to list Chateau Peby Faugeres Grand Cru 2001 for 185.00. This wine is named after the previous owner Peby who passed away. This is 100% merlot, and is extremely silky on the palate. Also, Chateau Cap de Faugeres will be coming on by the glass which lies in the Cotes de Castillon appellation as well as in the St. Emilion.

June 17, 2008
Lunch with Etienne Montille renowned family estate in Burgundy, discovered a delicious Pernard Vergerlesses 1er Cru "Sous Fretille" 2005 white that is soft and creamy on the palate showing notes of lime and mineral, beautiful textured with excellent weight.

June 20, 2008
Leave for Pinot Noir Camp, Willamette OR for 5 days. Extremely prestigious event which is by invitation only to attend. Only 250 are invited from across the US and Canada. This included all day seminars, workshops, and tastings, followed by incredible dinners in the evening with free flowing Oregon Pinot Noir. Industry only are invited and the experience of meeting the vineyard owners, winemakers, etc allows you to place a face to a name and tell the story behind the wine. As a result of this trip, Bergstom Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2006 has been added to the list for 85.00. Also, Firesteed 2005 Pinot Noir, Willamette Pinot Noir will be coming on by the glass for 11.25 or 45.00 a bottle. Also, incredible juice for the price pairing well on our tasting menu are: Day Boat Sea Scallops with garden argula, pine nuts, radish, lovage, balsamic reduction and basil emulsion with Four Graces Pinot Blanc, Willamette OR 2006 showing stone fruit, soft melon, honeydew, orange blossoms.

July 9, 2008
Lunch with George Staikos from Ramey Cellars, Napa CA.

Bring on by the glass Ramey Chardonnay, Russian River Valley 2006. Shows like a white burgundy with nice mineral content, soft pear, and apple. Great with the Halibut and pork belly. 

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