Paso Robles is quickly becoming known for its silky, voluptuous, award-winning Rhone-style wines. Today, our region proudly hosts the largest acreage of Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne in California.
Gary Eberle first planted Syrah in the mid-1970’s, then shared his cuttings with other winemakers. In 1989, Paso Robles affinity for Rhone varietals became prominent when Robert Haas of Tablas Creek formed an international joint venture with the Perrin family – (a revered producer of Chateauneuf-du-Pape) from the Rhone Valley’s Chateau de Beaucastel.
Haas imported exclusive, traditional Rhone varietal clones from Chateauneuf-du-Pape and then made those clones available to other growers around the state. Since that time, Paso Robles has seen an explosion of Rhone varieties. We jumped from 100 acres in 1994 to more than 2,200 in 2006.
Several Paso Robles wineries focus on Rhone varieties, including Carl Bowker of Caliza Winery – our featured winemaker for our July 24, 2010 Blending Workshop. This Saturday, Carl is going to share his superb Rhone wines with us, as well as his winemaking philosophy and approach to wine blending.
After hearing from Carl, you’ll then have a chance to create a Rhone of your own. Our First Crush Blending Workshops give you the opportunity to become the winemaker and create a wine that perfectly pleases your palette. We give you the instruction, tools and wines that you need to create a fabulous wine you’ll be proud to put your name on and enjoy for years to come.
With First Crush – you can blend to learn, blend for fun, or blend to create your own custom-labeled, professionally crafted, premium Paso Robles wine. Space is limited. Be sure to register early to reserve your spot by calling (877) 82-CRUSH (822-7874) or register online.
Carl Bowker, a relative newcomer to the world of winemaking, has followed a long yetsteady path towards his goal of producing special wines. Born and raised in Hawaii, Carlbegan his farming experience while tagging along with his father, an irrigation specialist tothe local farms. This early introduction left a lasting impression and true appreciation forsoils and the farming life. Little did he realize that this childhood curiosity would lead him tothe special soils of Paso Robles, California.
Upon graduating from the University of Hawaii, Carl left for California to join the corporateworld. His entrepreneurial spirit took flight soon after when started his own company andlater, other ventures. After several decades he decided that a desk job was not for him andhe began the pursuit of his passion for special wines.
Carl’s affection for wine turned into an obsession shortly after September 11, 2001 during avisit to Europe. It was there that he expanded his appreciation for world class wines and forwhat the land could produce. While there, Carl and his wife Pam got to spend time withmany of the regions’ finest wine producing families. He attentively listened to the details ofwine production and noticed the special connection the families had with their land. Fromthis experience, Carl vowed that he would make this the way of living life for himself and hisfamily.
Upon returning from Europe, the search to locate a vineyard property to grow superior winegrapes ensued. As with many pioneers before them, they chose Paso Robles, California dueto its soils, microclimates, and upside potential for growing world-class grape varietals fromthe Rhone Valley region of France.
With his desire to become a winemaker and viticulturist Carl attended Napa Valley College’sViticulture and Enology associate program and completed it in 2004.With all things moving toward the vision of producing special wines, Carl and Pam venturedto the Rhone Valley of France. It was there that the die was cast. It was to be old world winein the new world that he would make. Deep, opulent and complex Syrah of the NorthernRhone, Grenache-based blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Viognier-based white wineswere what would be produced at the family’s Caliza Winery in Paso Robles.In 2005 the quest ended and the vision began when Carl and Pam planted their 20 acrehillside vineyard. Located on Anderson Road in the famed Templeton Gap on the Westsideof Paso Robles, the warm days are met with the cooling evening influences of the coastalmarine breezes.The Bowkers, with their new vineyard, found themselves in the company of cutting edgewinemakers and their respective vineyards. A stone’s throw to the Northwest is the highlyrespected Stephan Asseo’s L’Aventure Winery, to the East is Booker Vineyards whose fruitis used in many fine wines such as Saxum, Villa Creek and Booker Vineyard’s own label.The name Caliza came from a desire to link the winery to its surroundings. After days ofsuggestions, a brief search yielded the Spanish word for limestone. Being that Caliza lies ona thin band of limestone running along the Santa Lucia mountain range, it was a naturalchoice.
By: Becky Zelinski
You can read books, attend classes and gather tidbits in the tasting room, but there’s nothing like a real “hands-on” experience to truly learn and appreciate the art and science of winemaking. Join Silver Horse (and First Crush) winemaker Stephen Kroener and First Crush viticulturist Lowell Zelinski on July 17, 2010 from 9 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. for “Veraison and Preservation,” the First Crush Berry to Bottle July Wine Workshop.
If you’d like to learn about grape growing, winemaking, or you’re just interested in an experience that will take you beyond the tasting room, you won’t want to miss this workshop. It’s fun, fascinating and enlightening.
You’ll get to stroll through the vineyards with Lowell and see first blush of the wine grape clusters. You’ll also hear about veraison – a major turning point in wine grape production. Then go into the winery with Steve, where you’ll learn why barrel aging is so important. You’ll even get to help top some wine.
Whether you’re interested in making wine or just drinking it – our winemaking workshops have something for everyone. The workshop also includes a wine tasting and cheese pairing. $55/per person; $44 for Crush Club members. Advance registration encouraged. Register today!
Traditionally, most red wines were blended - and even some whites. The French began this tradition, and most blends from around the world are still defined by the French wine producing regions from when they came. It was American winemakers who paved the way for single varietal prestige, but even they are beginning to blend again.
Today, the reasons for blending and the varietals blended are as varied as the wines themselves. Wines from Graves and Medoc in Bordeaux contain some combination of the five Bordeaux varietals. In the Rhone region, wines may contain up to 13 varieties. The reds from Rioja are all blended.
It has only been within the most recent generation of winemaking that varietal wines became popular. The trend began in the U.S. after prohibition. At that time, few American wine producing districts were popular so they used the French wines names such as Chablis and Burgundy to gain prestige.
But it was California who perfected this change. The Golden State had an excellent climate to produce wine grapes, but at that time were typically producing cheaper wines. As California’s wines became better and more popular, winemakers sought to distinguish their wines from French wines by using varietal grape names. Thus, the practice of producing single varietal wines rose to prestige in California, and the rest, as we say “is history.”
Today, the trend is reversing and we’re seeing more and more “blends” back on the shelves. But a lot of the blends aren’t the typical French-style blends. In Paso Robles, winemakers tend to produce what I like to call “unique blends.” It’s not uncommon to see a Cab/Syrah (Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah), or a blend of three or more distinct varietals.
So why do winemakers blend their wines?
The reasons vary and include everything from expressing a unique style to masking a bad wine. But the primary goals of a good blending program are to:
With First Crush, you get to be a winemaker and blend your own wine. Whether you’re interested in learning about wine, making your own wine or just blending for fun, our Blending Workshops take you beyond the tasting room and into the wide-wide, wonderful world of wine!
Who introduced the idea of labeling wines with varietal names?
Frank Schoonmaker (in collaboration with Alexis Lichine) urged California winemakers to label California wines using varietal grape names.
Frank Musselman Schoonmaker was a travel writer and wine writer, wine importer, and the author of the Complete Wine Book (1934). He later wrote the classic Frank Schoonmaker’s Encyclopedia of Wine. He frequently worked with Alexis Lichine (another wine writer), and the two were considered two of the most influential wine writers in the U.S. for many years.
Schoonmaker consulted for California wineries such as Wente and Almaden. Around 1940, he began promoting the practice of using varietal names on wine labels (such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon), but the practice didn’t become widely used until the late 1960’s. Schoonmaker touted that “the more specific the name, the better the wine.” Robert Mondavi was one of the first to use varietal names on most of his wine labels and also promoted the practice.
Interestingly, the 2007 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, on sale today contains: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Sirah, 1% Sangiovese, and comes from five appellations: 50% Monterey County, 41% San Luis Obispo County, 5% Madera, 3% San Benito County, 1% North Coast.The First Crush 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.
At a wedding, wine isn’t just something you serve to happy guests. Libation rituals play an important part in many ceremonies, and in different faiths. Whether the couple decides to drink up is a matter of choice. Here, are a few of the more prominent libation rituals. Although these libation rites are from various faiths, they all have one thing in common, according to Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, officiant and author of Wedding Goddess. “The wine rituals are about togetherness and becoming a family,” she says. “The cup or glass is marriage, while the liquid represents the couple joining together.” The Jewish faith often incorporates the Blessing of the Wine as part of the Seven Blessings ritual. Traditionally recited in Hebrew, the blessings are of happiness and thanking God, and the couple takes a sip of wine afterward. Next, a wineglass is placed on the floor—it can be protected by a napkin or bag—and the groom stomps on it with his right foot. Some versions of this ritual involve members of the wedding party reciting the blessings. African-American weddings are often accompanied by the Libation Ceremony, in which wine is used to honor the ancestral spirits. In this ritual, which can also be done with water (or even coconut milk), the priest or minister sticks his finger in the cup and then points it in the four directions—north, west, east, south—to acknowledge where the spirits are. It’s common to then drop some of the wine on the altar table or on the ground. By acknowledging the spirits, it’s believed that you are inviting relatives to your ceremony. Christian weddings often include Holy Communion, which occurs immediately after the ceremony. Everyone is invited to participate in the wine and bread ritual, which is a remembrance of Christ and all that he has given. The Catholic faith commonly practices this rite. The Loving Cup wine ritual emerged from Roman times, and has since been interspersed into weddings of different faiths. A simple rite, the couple drinks wine from a chalice (or traditional wineglass), to symbolize the joining of their lives and their families. The clergyman says a few words (you can ask to have them changed—and, in some ceremonies, guests drink from the cup as well). Non-denominational and inter-faith weddings frequently incorporate this ritual, simply referring to it as a wine ceremony. For a variety of reasons, couples often change certain elements of these rites. “Anything can be altered,” says Brockway. Should either one of you not drink alcohol, it’s common to serve white grape juice instead of wine. Although red wine is the traditional libation for all ceremonies, couples often ask for white wine, to protect the wedding dress. Should you wish to change any element of the wine rituals, speak to your clergyman as soon as possible to make sure he’s comfortable with your choices. Then drink to life!
By: David Toussaint
First Crush does weddings!
Serve a bottle of custom-made, custom-labeled wine at your wedding or special occasion. With First Crush, you can: - Create bottles of wine with your own label - Custom blend and custom label wine at a blending and bottling party - Harvest your own wine grapes, make and blend your own wine, and put your own label on it. - Let us design a custom wine event for bridal showers, bachelor, and bachelorette parties.
Learn more here
US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have a 1,000-bottle cellar in their Hyde Park, Chicago home. But more importantly ... we have a wine lover in the White House again! Here is some interesting trivia about our Presidents and their love for wine:
How much did Thomas Jefferson, America’s first wine expert, spend on wine during his two four-year terms as president? After a 1787-1788 tour of the wine regions of France, Germany, and northern Italy, Jefferson became passionate about wine and believed that wine was an integral part of healthful living (when consumed in moderation). As president, Thomas Jefferson amassed a 20,000-bottle collection, which he kept in a cellar that he had built under what is now the West Wing. It no longer exists. And one historian estimates that Jefferson personally spent $10,000 (in today's economy roughly $175,000) on wine during his two four-years terms as president. From 1801 to 1809, his annual presidential salary was $2,500.
How much did Malcom Forbes, the publishing magnate, pay for a single bottle of the 1787 Chateau Lafitte bearing the initials Th J, thought to have been bottled for Thomas Jefferson? Among wine collectors, one of the most sought after bottles of wine is a 1787 Chateau Lafitte with the initials Th J. Four bottles are currently known to exist. In December 1985, Forbes paid $156,450 for one of these gems. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine.
Who was the first president to serve only American wines during official White House events? Lyndon Johnson was the president who decided that only American wines would be served during official functions, a rule that is still followed today. Here is a link to President Obama’s first state dinner program, including wine pairings: http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/2009/november/state-dinner-press-preview.pdf
Which president had wine at the White House poured from napkin-draped bottles in order to hide the fact that he preferred French to American made wines? Richard Nixon. Lyndon Johnson was the first President to have only American made wines served at the White House. Nixon didn’t want to publicly overthrow the practice but he loved French wines.
How many bottles are in the White House wine cellar? Although there is no official cellar, the White House currently stocks around 500-600 bottles.
Why, with a cork, of course! Or not?
Natural corks have been the wine “closure of choice” for centuries. Today many wineries are turning to cork alternatives. The reasons are varied and there’s no clear-cut answer as to what the best closure is, but in the end, it’s most likely consumer preference that will ultimately tell the tale.
Many blame the switch from natural corks to alternatives on the dreaded “TCA” aka “cork taint.” Some think that alternative closures are more “environmentally friendly” or technologically sound. But whether it’s the romance of the vine or simply the pomp and circumstance of opening a bottle of wine, for me there’s still something special about popping the cork. (To find out when and why corks became the top choice for wine bottles, check out our trivia question below.)
Regardless of your take on toppers, many winemakers today are using a variety of enclosures to keep our favorite elixir safe and sound until we are ready to enjoy it. But do you know what considerations drive a winery to choose a zork over a cork? Believe it or not, this is not a simple decision and certainly not one to be taken lightly.
According to the 2010 Closure Report issued by Wine Business Monthly in June, despite the increase in closure types, most wineries still prefer going al natural. They also note that the use of technical corks is on the rise and screw caps are holding their own, but that the use of synthetic closures is declining. There is also data (not part of the WBM report) that now indicates screw caps, synthetics and plastic alternatives are not as eco-friendly as once touted and also have their own set of side-effects.
If you’d like to learn more about the ins and outs of corks and closures, you won’t want to miss our June winemaking workshop: Blooms and Bottles. Each month, our winemaking workshops feature a grape growing (viticulture) and winemaking (enology) session. The topics coincide with what’s actually taking place in the vineyard and winery, and are designed to give you a fun, relaxed but yet informative approach to learning about wine and how it’s made.
Here’s what we have in store for you in June:
As always, we’ll top off the afternoon with a wine tasting and some tasty treats.
What better way to spend a Saturday? This would also make a great gift for Dad. The cost of the class is $55/pp or $44/pp for Crush Club members. Don’t forget, Crush Club members receive 20% discounts on wine, workshops and gifts, as well as great discounts from our partners.
There’s still space available so give us a call and reserve your spot today!
Thousands of years ago, Egyptians were the first to use cork as a stopper. But it was a French monk named Dom Pérignon in the 1600s that shot corks to the top of the bottling line as a wine closure.
Traditionally, sparkling wine containers had been plugged by wooden stoppers wrapped in olive oil-soaked hemp. Much to Dom (and many others) dismay, these stoppers often popped out. He successfully swapped the conical plugs for cork stoppers and the rest, as they say, is history.
As the wine industry grew, demand for cork trickled into Catalonia, Spain (where much of the Spanish bubbly known as Cava is produced). The world's first cork stopper factory opened around 1750 in Anguine (Spain) marking the beginning of the industrial application of cork.
Cork stoppers arrived in Portugal around 1700, and were used about 70 years later in cylindrical bottles in Oporto. This allowed wine to mature slowly in a glass receptacle for the first time. The spread of mass-produced glass bottles with a uniform neck and opening helped to advance the acceptance of cork stoppers – not just for wine but a wide range of liquids.
Cork production boomed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By 1930, corks were keeping many people in Portugal busy. The cork production workforce increased fivefold, to a total of 10,000 workers making Portugal the world's leading cork producer, a position it holds to this day.
Well, your wine probably does! Learn why some argue the barrels wines are aged in are just as important as the grapes.
Most wine drinkers know how to raise their glass and propose a toast. But long before the wine ever reaches a potential “toaster’s” glass, there’s an entirely different method of toasting going on.
In the cooperage and winemaking world, “toasting” refers to the method of heating the wood (typically Oak) used to make wine barrels. The wood then becomes pliable, allowing the planks to be bent into that gentle curve any of us who have been inside a barrel room will recognize.
Aside from the practical purpose of making the wood to more flexible, toasting also plays a significant role in what flavor profiles and how those flavors are imparted into the wine being aged in those particular barrels. There are three primary toasting methods used by coopers: “traditional” toasting, in which the wood is heated with fire; “Chauffe a Coeur”, where scorching hot steam is used; and finally, convection toasting.
Convection toasting is the newest of these three methods, and one that has been perfected by Mistral Barrels, the world-wide barrel producers who will be making a presentation at First Crush’s “Buds & Barrels” Winemaking Workshop Saturday, April 17. What is so remarkable about the convection toasting method is that since the barrels are heated with hot air, the oak can be subjected to temperatures of up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, without showing any signs of blistering or charring.
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