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On December 14 of last year, a dedicated team of 16 individuals converged at a secret location to partake in the next in a series of office wine tastings put on under the umbrella of The Santa Barbara Independent . There were wine and food professionals in attendance as well as newbie sippers just looking to learn a thing or two. C’est Cheese nibbles were on hand to cut the booze, specifically Seascape, Piave, and Humboldt Fog cheeses, some cured meats, and a variety of fruits, nuts, and olives.

Chenin Blanc India

The task for the day, based on the bottles that had piled up in my office over the past few months, was “Random Whites & Red Blends,” and we took to it with vigor, running through 11 wines of varying price points and California wine regions, from $13 Sonoma County bottles to nearly $50 whoppers from Paso Robles.

Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine) India

office tastings, coming up sometime this spring. If you’re a winemaker interested in submitting a bottle or a wine drinker interested in lending your expertise, send an email to wine@independent.com .

Indian Cabernet Shiraz



Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sauvignon Blanc India

Pete Kiehart / The Chronicle Gina Donofrio (left), son Anthony, 5, and Gina Zarzana-Stiriti visit the tasting room at the Concannon winery, which was founded in 1883 by James Concannon.

Chenin Blanc India

Livermore Valley has come a long way since Englishman Robert Livermore planted the first commercial vineyards there in the 1840s. Today, the region boasts dozens of wineries, including several with historic pedigrees.

Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine) India



The University of California Press will publish Doug Shafer’s winery memoir “A Vineyard in Napa,” with a foreword by Danny Meyer, in the fall of 2012.

Rosé India

“In the 40-year span since our family moved here and established our winery, we’ve seen Napa Valley transform from a rural backwater to one of the top wine-producing regions in the world,” said Doug Shafer, president of Shafer Vineyards. “The book gives a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s been like for our winery and our neighbors to ride the ups and downs of the past four decades. We’re referring to this as a winery memoir because the focus is more on the establishment of the vineyards, winery, wines and the appellation.” Shafer’s father, John Shafer, purchased the family’s 209-acre vineyard in 1972 and the family moved from Chicago to Napa Valley early in 1973. Moving from a sprawling Midwestern city where he’d a been a top executive at the Scotts Foresman publishing company, John Shafer had to trade his three-piece suits for jeans and a pair of work boots to get a start in the grapegrowing business.

Sauvignon Blanc India

By the mid-1970s he began planting cabernet sauvignon on his hillside property and in 1978 harvested his first vintage of cabernet sauvignon. John Shafer released that initial wine in 1981 and Doug Shafer joined him at the shaky family-run enterprise as winemaker in 1983. Doug Shafer hired Elias Fernandez as his assistant winemaker in 1984.

Chenin Blanc India



Mount Eden produces some of the most admirable, consistent and ageworthy expressions of terroir to be found anywhere in California. Their wines -- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate vineyard at the top of Table Mountain, 2,000 feet above the Silicon Valley town of Saratoga -- have gone from strength to strength in the past two decades.

Cabernet Shiraz India

In the more humble words of Mount Eden winemaker and co-owner Jeffrey Patterson -- during a retrospective of his wines from the decade of the '90s over the course of a tasting menu dinner I attended at Saratoga's The Plumed Horse Restaurant toward the end of last year -- "Since 1990, we know what we're doing." This week I also sampled newer releases of Mount Eden Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs at a tasting for the wine trade in San Francisco called "In Pursuit of Balance," which focused on domestic Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs by producers aiming for lower alcohol levels and more balanced, food-friendly wines.

Rosé India

These tastings confirmed for me that, although the estate has faced many challenges related to the climate and growing conditions at its high altitude location, Jeffrey has nonetheless managed to produce some of California's best Chardonnays and some of Santa Cruz Mountains AVA's most distinctive and ageworthy Cabernets year after year. Pinot Noir, which is a difficult and finicky grape to grow, has not always done as well. For the most part since 1997, however, and even more convincingly in the last several years, they are also some of California's very best and most terroir-driven.

Sauvignon Blanc India



March 21, 2012 04:00 AM Copyright SFGate. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (dessert Wine)

DC All-Star Chef Maziar Farivar will pair wines from Starlite Vineyards with traditional Persian foods at a James Beard House dinner in honor of Norouz, the Iranian new year holiday.

Cabernet Shiraz India

Starlite Vineyards. Chef Maziar Farivar and his business partner Shahab Farivar of the Peacock Café in Washington, DC will serve up a feast of traditional Iranian dishes to celebrate Norouz on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 PM.

Rosé India



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