Posts Tagged ‘Napa California wines’

We’re heading west to San Fran & Napa

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
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In Denver, as well as San Francisco, we had several opportunities to meet Canadians who had decided to work south of the 49th parallel. An interesting conversation was particularly had when we met Marcy Grossman – Canadian Consul General in Denver (centre left in black & white) who during her career, has been posted in various Canadian consulates throughout the US. During our meeting, we learned about how these consulates are an instrumental resource referring and assisting Canadian businesses to create business relationships with American companies. “We can help vet and find appropriate American businesses in the various regions to work with,” Marcy explains. “$1.9 billion of trade crosses the Canada-US border.  And over 8 millions jobs in the US rely on trade with Canada”. Marcy highlighted that in Colorado there are 100+ Canadian and internationally owned business including Suncor, EnCana, Great West Life, Molsons Coors, Agrium & Enerplus.

Each consulate has a list of priority industry sectors.  In Denver, Marcy explained that they are:

  • North America Energy Security (pipeline, tar sands, etc)
  • Border Security
  • Agriculture and Trade Policies
  • Trade issues affecting competition

You can see the Rolex flipping in Marcy’s head as we explained the nature of our businesses. Without a beat, Marcy offered to make introductions, send useful documents and provide connections to firms that she and her team has existing relationships. What an incredible resource.  Marcy was ready to help in every way.

We then peeled back the Canadian flag (figuratively) and turned the tables to ask Marcy about personal experiences about being a Canadian businesswoman working in the US. Afterall, for the past 2 weeks we have been exposed to all of the resources and initiatives that the American government has geared towards growing women entrepreneurs in their country. Finally we had the opportunity to talk with another Canadian businesswoman & were curious of her perspective from a Canadian point of view. Let’s just say, we could have spent hours more with Marcy. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

Always a place at the dinner table…

Each city we visited, the 6 of us had the opportunity to meet an even further extension of people and to experience non-business setting. We all remarked about the unexpected kindness and generosity of the people in each city who opened their own homes for us and welcomed us for dinner and great conversations. All done completely voluntarily through their affiliation with the US Institute of International Education program office their respective city.

Not only did we enjoy this personal connection, I was inspired and in return, I will look into doing the same for international visitors to Ottawa. Thank you to whose who set a spot for me at your table – Anar & Todd in San Jose (Anar is seated 2nd from left & Todd is in back row), Roy & Laurie (in Denver), Marty (in Kansas City) and Katrina (in Austin)….and their friends who joined us at the table too. While the food on the table was good, it was the people in the chairs that were most memorable.

Go west young ladies, go west!

While Denver was fascinating and held many more opportunities and ventures to experience, San Francisco awaits! After nearly a week in Denver, we re-packed our luggage one last time and headed west to enter into another time zone and to see the western most coast.

I have visited to San Francisco several times for both fun as well as for wine related work. It is such a dynamic city, I was looking forward to see what San Francisco Institute of International Education had arranged for us. Their itinerary covered a lot of freeways and certainly did not leave much free time to explore this fantastic city. We’ll be back!

During our entire trip we have been trying to land dinner in Chinatown. We promised ourselves (and Amina as it was her birthday) that when we arrive in San Fran, it was the first thing we’d do. True to that plan, I asked the concierge at Park 55 Hotel not for his recommendations, rather for the Chinese restaurant he goes to. “The Capital on Clay Street has the best food and has the best chicken wings – hands down!” I was surprised by this comment, yet claims of San Francisco’s best wings was proudly plastered on the front door and the cover of the menu. And so…when in Rome, do as the Romans do…we ordered a plate of these mysterious wines along with an array of interesting Chinese dishes. Every mouthful was loaded with fresh ingredients, fish and spices. Delish!

Lending a hand to grow a business

The meetings in San Fran & the Bay area were different from the other cities. We were invited into businesses focused on kick starting small businesses, primarily for immigrants.

We met with Opportunity Fund (located in Silicon Valley) to learn how they help small ‘Ma and Pa’ businesses in the Bay area from dry cleaners to taxi cab drivers with microlending. With their regional, they are providing loans mainly to Hispanics – 55% are women, and 42% are under 35 years old. “We are the first stop BEFORE they go to the bank for a loan”, explained Devin McAlpine.

From there, we met with Joanne Gan at Kiva to learn about the impact of ‘crowd funding’ – individuals like you and me offering a minimum of $25 to an emerging business in a different corner of the world. They are currently lending $400 million by means of 800,000 lenders (aka you & me) around the world supporting budding entrepreneurs with uber low interest rates. “We are a website that provides connections to people with money to people who are looking for ways to make money” explained Joanne. And wandering around their open space office, Kiva demonstrated a novel workspace format that those of us from the east would coin as ‘very west coast’. Lots of photos were taken to remind us that a cube farm does not nurture a successful business.

Leaving the cheque book behind, we then moved away from lending funds to lending space in a commercial kitchen with our visit to La Cocina. This is an incubator kitchen primarily for immigrants to create unique foods from their homeland in a certified FDA kitchen with the goal to grow into a new business venture. Complete with all of the industrial kitchen equipment you can imagine, professional development courses and business coaching as well as a dedicated team focused on creating opportunities (farmers markets, catering, festivals) their culinary creations to sell. We were all impressed us with the commitment to create both the push and pull to help build a community of new businesses, or as renown business author & blogger Seth Godin would call it – a tribe.

We were interested midst of other communities at work when we visited the beautiful campus of Standford University. ‘It is so invigorating to be amongst young people learning’, Fiona mentioned as she looked around the campus & outdoor patio. Known as one of the most expensive universities in the US, I could not help myself from imagining what some of these young 20 somethings aspire to do once they graduated.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Throughout my high tech career, rarely did a day go by when Silicon Valley goes unmentioned at the watercooler. In previous trips, I had driven past San Jose, but never stopped. This time, we arrived at our meeting earlier than planned, so we walked around the streets of San Jose and soaked up some California rays.

This Silicon Valley mecca that creates vibrant minds, innovative technologies and millionaires overnight was surprisingly dull and run down. Certainly there were corporate towers and campuses with familiar logos, but the main street lacked energy while the retail & restaurants were stagnate. Strange. The downtown core seemed to be somewhat ghost town, while surrounded by highrise corporate empires with logos of household names.

An afternoon in Napa with meetings of a different pace

Other flipside, in my wine career, Napa is the iconic mecca and I was thrilled that our last afternoon was dedicated to visiting the boutique wineries of Ceja Vineyards and St Supery Winery. Both businesses have a woman at helm. These two wineries are making an impression both locally as well as internationally with their wines. While for the past weeks, our meetings have been in boardrooms with death-by-Powerpoint slidedecks (ok, not that bad – it is just an expression!), I was excited to show the other ladies what a meeting in my wine world involved: sampling wines with the winery owner, talking about vintages, rambling through vineyards and visiting cellars.

Our tour was organized by Napa’s newest business (owned by 3 women no less!) – Verve Napa Valley Tours. First stop: Family run Ceja Vineyards where owner Amelia Ceja was holding down the fort at the tasting bar while juggling other buying clients. In contrast, our meeting at St Supery was in a private room overlooking 2200 oak barrels aging something amazing. Each meeting provided an educational & personalized tasting peppered with stories about the history of the business,  commercial growth along with mentions of the significant buildings on the estate …and whatever else came to mind over a glass of wine!

In keeping with our mantra to ‘go local’ at each city, I succumbed (yes, me of all people!) and the others too purchased some of our favorite Napa wines. These wines had connection to our tour and will be savoured & shared with those back home to remind us of our brief visit to experience first hand how California wine industry grows.

What? It’s done!?!?

Just like the day we started, we boarded our bus & conversations about our experience kept us entertained all the way back to San Fran. The only difference from before, was that was the end of our scheduled itinerary. Our last appointment. Our last day. Weird…our IVLP trip was done.

3 weeks and 5 cities with 6 phenomenal women had come to a close. It felt odd. The day that followed felt even more empty, as we departed at different times to back to our home city. Fiona left a day early as she was already booked for a vacation with her son in Mexico. Amina switched to an airport hotel to catch her 5am flight (which she did not make in the end). I set my alarm for 4:30am to surprise & see Nancy, Jennifer & Stephanie off, then went back to bed before getting ready for my flight at 10am.

Waiting for me in the lobby was Johnsy (middle row with black hat) – our US State Department representative – who was with us every step of the way – literally.  Johnsy made sure that we were always on schedule and stayed together. Thank you Johnsy for making sure that the trip went as smoothly as it did. I knew that you did so much more behind the scenes than you let on. Coincidentally, that once she was no longer watching over us, flights were delayed or missed & bags were lost. We all mentioned in email threads afterwards ‘where was Johnsy when we needed her?’

The best part of going away…is coming home

This saying is true of any holiday or time away from family for business travel. This trip was different though. While we arrived as strangers with a simple common thread of being Canadian, the experience that the US Embassy in Canada and the US State Department offered us by hand selecting the six of us to be part of their IVLP delegation focused on Women Entrepreneurs & Trade provided me personal growth, education that I probably haven’t realized its fullest impact yet, along with countless connections (not to mention a brick of business cards), and a greater appreciation for the importance of women being involved in growing the economy by starting their own businesses or breaking the glass ceiling – in any industry.

No post-trip report was required to be filed back to the US Embassy, rather I wrote this blog & tweeted as a way to give you a glimpse of my daily experiences as a proud women entrepreneur from Canada on the IVLP. Within days of my return, an email found its way into my inbox announcing that I was now an IVLP alumni and that there were still more connections and resources available in the months and years to come. The whirlwind trip may be done, yet the rest is only beginning.

In fact, last week, I had a quick voicemail from Amina saying that she was coming to Ottawa for a meeting the following day. I was excited to see her again! Picking her up at the station, we feverishly caught up all within 15 minutes while I drove her to her meeting. Little small talk was made and it was great to see her in her element….and later in the day, I found her ‘Afrique Expansion’ brochure left in the back seat of my car. She is definitely a businesswoman who never stops!

I imagine that this will be the way it is between the 6 of us now on. A friendly phone call to say hello, a tweet about an interesting tidbit or a group email to share the latest family or work news. I know that while we are spread across the country we will be inseparable.  We will always be there for each other. What a cool feeling to have of a group of women I had a hard time keeping track of their names less than a month ago.

Efforts to make plans to get together or arrange a quick rendez-vous when our travels brings us to our home cities of Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg or Prince George. Whatever may be the reason that our paths cross again, one thing is for certain, I have wonderful friends and business advisors who I can reach out to at anytime.

A million thanks!

Thank you to those at the US Embassy and US State Department who nominated and selected me to be part of the International Visitor Leadership Program featuring Women Entrepreneurs and Trade. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that you have created for me and look forward to those that are still to come.

With a glass of California wine in hand, I raise a glass to all of the people involved in making our trip memorable.  Cheers to you!
-Debbie

OK….so what is our combined shoe & luggage count now?

Total number of checked luggage: 12 pieces – increased now to include a case of wine from Napa – guess who that belongs to? 
Total number of shoes & boots between the 6 of us: 42 pairs total
Weight of each piece of luggage: well, we all ‘hovered’ at the airlines’ maximum 50lb mark per suitcase

Quotable quote & bloopers

Let’s just say that there are many inside jokes, stories and expressions that “will stay on the road”.

Continue to follow us on Twitter:

While we are not tweeting about our trip, we invite you continue to follow us on Twitter as we will be talking about #IVLP and the trip for a long time to come!
• @savvydebbie (me)
• @Halifax_Gateway (Nancy Phillips)
• @JenniferBrandle (Jennifer Brandle)
• @PillPak (Fiona Webster Mourant)
• @amigerba (Amina Gerba)
…while Stephanie had all of the latest tech gadgets in her purse, she never really got ‘onto’ Twitter…we’re still working on her!

 

What our fortunes say…

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If I died & went to Harlan Estate Winery …

Posted by Wayne

Monday, March 12th, 2012
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My original good intention for my second “killer” wine “To Die For” in this blog series was going to be a highly revered white, probably from Chateau Montelena. But “the best laid plans o’ mice and … sommeliers … “gang aft agley” after a visit to a private collector’s wine cellar and the quaffing of “first growth fruit”.  The wine that is the inspiration for this change of heart is one of a group of wines grown in California that are known as “Cult” wines.

“Cult” wines refers to any of the “typically but not exclusively Cabernets” for which collectors, investors and highly enthusiastic consumers will pay very high prices.  The producers of such wines in California include Araujo Estate, Bryant Family, Caymus, Colgin Cellars, Dalla Valle, Diamond Creek, Dominus Estate, Dunn Vineyards – Howell Mountain, Grace Family, Harlan Estate, Hundred Acre, Kistler, Saxum Vineyards, Marcassin, Ovid, Scarecrow, Screaming Eagle, Opus One, Shafer Hillside Select, Sine Qua Non and Sloan.These wines are generally very expensive and are in limited production (often fewer than 600 cases per year) and can command several times their “release price” upon release. This also generally means that the wine releases are allocated to certain customers who pay a substantial membership fee to the Winery for the privilege of purchasing these highly sought-after vintages.  – courtesy of Wikipedia.

As loudly as any wine produced from Burgundian acreage or any Bordeaux bastion might claim product superiority – because of its Premier Cru status (this literally means “First Growth” and refers to the status of wines produced on these fields as “the best of the best”) – the wine profiled in this entry proudly claims excellence in its own right as a product of its proprietor’s intent: “To produce a California “First Growth” from the hills of Oakville (California).” – H. William Harlan

My Second “To Die For” wine …

I would agree with Jancis Robinson when she says, “About the Harlan Estate, I had written impetuously, ‘Why doesn’t all wine taste like this?'”.

Harlan Estate 2002, Napa (Oakville)

From an elevation of 225′ to 1225′,  Harlan Estate Winery rises above the fabled Oakville Bench in the Western Hills of Oakville California. Sitting on both
 sedimentary and volcanic rock, the vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  It produces 2 wines: The Harlan Estate red blend and its Bordeax-style sibling, The Maiden.

Honed from the natural landscape of Oakville by its mentor and progenitor, H. William Harlan, it is staffed by a by a long-serving, talented team of winemakers and agriculturalists who have embraced the vision of producing a First Growth California wine from the location and terroir of the winery.

A Real Estate Developer and Resort Owner, Harlan purchased this 230-acre property, a forested area, with steep hillsides, multiple elevations and exposures, west of Martha’s Vineyard in Oakville and cleared 30 acres for viticulture (wine grape growing).

Winemaker, Robert Levy has been working with Harlan since 1983 when Harlan took part in founding the Merryvale Winery. Since 1989 the estate has retained Michel Rolland as consultant oenologist. Construction of the current winery was completed in 2002.

Harlan Estate Winemaking

Perfection in wine does not occur happenstance.

Robert Levy, another UC Davis graduate, has been with Harlan almost since its inception and arrived on-scene with experiences at other Napa well-knowns like 
Merryvale, Rombauer and Cuvaison. Robert immediately bought into the “First Growth” philosophy from the start; however, it is not only his direction that has developed the inspiration of Harlan Estate.

Michel Rolland, World renowned Bordeaux Consultant, has made significant ongoing contributions to the Harlan Estate mantra. This collective, forward-moving approach to making fine wine has contributed to Harlan Estates being compared to Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut Brion (Michel Jamais).

What are these conditions capable of?

Harlan Estate might be the single most profound red wine made not just in California, but in the world.” – Robert Parker on Harlan Estate Bordeaux
 
Harlan Estate 2002 is one of those wines that can just be left with the expression, “Wow!”, that everyone utters after experiencing it. Its powerful complexity and concentration and perfect balance navigate in a texture that is pure silk and elegance. When you drink, you don’t wonder how it got to this level of satisfaction and pleasure, but you do wonder how other wines can ever achieve the same … even its sibling vintages. It’s a shame to analyze its components because the whole experience is greater than the sum of its parts – a status all winemakers strive to achieve.

(However, in an attempt to relay some of its quality), it is big, dark, concentrated and dense in pure, dark, ripe fruit. The oak has morphed into nuances of vanilla and dark chocolate that integrates very well with its typically earthy (almost black olive) quality of Oakville terroir.

Its texture is its greatest asset. After an hour or so in a decanter, its silkiness and complexity just improve.

Its finish? I don’t know if you’re ever finished with this wine once you’ve have it tattooed in your memory. As for the reality of the finish? Very long and reflective!

Restaurant Menu Matches for Harlan Estate 2002:

(Pairings courtesy of Bleu Provence, Naples Florida)

– Appetizer –
Seared Foie Gras with Raspberry Sauce

– Main –
Kobe Style Wagyu Beef Boneless Short Ribs in Red Wine with Mashed Potatoes and Baby Carrots 

– Dessert Course –
Duo of Black and White Chocolate Mousse

The complexity, intensity and diversity of Harlan Estate 2002 makes wine choice simple as it will transport you through all course choices with complexity and depth, each pairing delivering a pleasant change in palette and aroma profiles.

Rackability (aka cellaring notes)

The only sources for this wine 10 years after its release would be from private cellars, the winery itself, high-end restaurants or wine exchange companies … all will be difficult to access and be very expensive. 
The age it is at now would make it even more desirable than on release because of the positive effects that racking would have on its profile and availability.

Investment potential?

A quick look at auction prices shows a range of purchase price from $675 US a bottle to $1200 US a bottle. Harlan Estate 2002 will accrue in value even at these prices. Its quality and longevity are not yet at risk. It is a safe investment for another 8 to 10 years.

Harlan’s website www.harlanestate.com is worth a look.

If you ever get a chance to taste any Harlan Estate vintage, drop everything and find the nearest glass!

Cheers … and follow your dream wines!
Wayne Walker

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If I died & went to Napa…

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
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I think the more you learn about wine & the more you swim in the overwhelming waters of today’s wine culture, the more you search for the beacons of “best choice”, the wine areas & vintages that take the trepidation & guilt out of the simple act of choosing a bottle of great “vino”.
 
Many of the realities of choosing wine, like quality, price, style, integrity…get down to the game of “Who do you trust?”. Personally, I get tired of this game. That’s when I start dreaming of wines I’d like to experience…the “killer” wines that my palette knows are out there, but that I’ve never had, don’t know about, or can’t afford.
 
Fortunately for me, I am in a position to experience some of these wines that come from California and Oregon & this is the purpose of my If I died & went to Napa blog – to share these experiences with you.
 
Twice a month, I will share one “dream” wine by featuring a Napa winery, their wines & winemaker. Along the journey, we will uncover some of the pleasures and mysteries of Napa and its neighbours. 

 

Introducing my first “To Die For” wine…

CADE Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa 

 At an elevation of 1700 feet, CADE Winery, located on the East side of the elusive Howell Mountain in Napa, produces 4 wines under the direction of Winemaker, Anthony Biagi,  in its state of the art Organic facility: 3 Cabernet Sauvignons and 1 Sauvignon Blanc. Howell Mountain is one of, if not THE, altar for pilgrims in search of the Colossus of ‘Cabs’ to be found in Napa.

Cade was established in 2005 after its older sibling, Plumpjack Winery was born in 1992. The principals were three entrepreneurs:

  1. Gavin Newsom – former Mayor of San Francisco
  2. Philanthropist Gordon Getty
  3. and its present General Manager – John Conover

 

CADE Estate Winery - winemaker Anthony Biagi

Anthony Biagi (in photo), the Lead Winemaker, arrived on the scene making wines on Howell Mountain in 1995 as a Graduate of University of California (UC) Davis. Anthony’s philosophy of creating “… artisanal, dimensional wines … tasting like they could come from nowhere else”, combined with Cade’s mantra of creating wines that are “…dense, rich and ageworthy, but not rustic or tannic” spawned the pleasures of wines like Howell Mountain Estate 2008.
 
Napa’s terroir has become legendary since Stag’s Leap’s 1973 Cabernet won the Judgement of Paris in 1976 . Weather conditions notwithstanding, Napa has been blessed with three geological conditions that contribute to the rich conditions of its soils: it has been on the floor of the ocean, the mouth of a river and the base of a volcanic mountain. What this means is that the soils are capable of providing good drainage and soil oxygen, an appropriate range of acidity to facilitate the availability of nutrients like P, K, Mg and Ca. As well, moderate to good water retention, moderate fertility and a reasonable rooting depth complete its almost perfect profile. Elevate this 1700 feet skywards toward the Sun Gods and you have an excellent foundation for creating  World Class Wine.

What are these conditions capable of? 

“A brilliant texture, stunning purity and great length (that) make for a fabulous wine to drink over the next 20 to 25+ years.” Robert Parker on Cade Estate Howell Mountain  (Dec. 2010)
 
Dark, creamy, layered, intense and long are the essentials of Cade Howell Mountain Estate. Opaque dark purple, it exhibits a nose of blueberries, black raspberries, ripe plums, graphite and crushed rocks. These flavours are warmed and carried over to the palette, embellished by dark chocolate, vanilla and sweet smoke.

Restaurant Menu Matches for CADE Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 :

(Pairings courtesy of Ridgway Bar and GrillNaples Florida)

-Appetizer-
Crisply Seared Pork Belly (with Cider Reduction, Apple and Fennel Slaw)

– Mains-
Coq Au Vin (Baby Root Vegetables, Rich Red Wine and Demi-Glace Sauce)
OR
Braised Short Ribs (Pureed Celery Root, Cranberry Demi-Glace)
 
-Cheese Course-
Rogue River Blue Cheese and Greens (Julienne Apple Salad, Olive Oil and Fig Jam, Focaccio Crostini)
 
-Dessert Course-
Chocolate Opera Cake
  
The complexity, finesse and diversity of Cade HM Cabernet 2008 makes wine choice simple as it will transport you through all Course choices with elegance and satisfaction, each pairing delivering a different experience.

Rackability (aka cellaring notes) 

This wine is drinkable on purchase. Its intensity and balance are in no way affected by its youth.
 
As Robert Parker has indicated, aging is not a problem so to consider it part of a collector’s portfolio for future use is an easy decision to make, especially considering its desirabilty and limited production. The 2006 vintage which had a 98+ ranking like its heir the 2008, sold out quickly. 

Investment potential?

This all depends on Cade Winery’s ability to move into the integrity level of Harlon or Chateau Montelena in the next 5 to 10 years. It presently retails for about $150 US/bottle. Certainly, the wine will accrue in value, but how much depends on continued levels of production, excellence and recognition.
 
Cade’s website http://www.cadewinery.com  is worth a look. Here you will find how it is linked to its sibling Plumpjack and how both wineries are linked to Shakespeare. More on Plumpjack later!
                                                                    

Cheers… and follow your dream wines!
-Wayne Walker

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