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January 2005

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> Wine Country Personality
Judd Wallenbrock
> Varietal Wine Tasting
Exploring Flavor Diversity and Your Preferences within a Range
> Wine Country Featured Destination
Monterey Wine Country - Part 2
> Wine Country Recipe
Napa Valley Grille - Kobe Carpaccio
> Wine Country Featured Event
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
> WineCountry.com Drawing!
Win a Perfect Sonoma Getaway for Two!

From all of us at FreeRun - Thank you for using our sites!
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Shady Oaks Country Inn

Shady Oaks Country InnStaying with us at Shady Oaks Country Inn, you have the best of both worlds; on a quiet country lane centrally located on two acres... you are just two miles to charming and historic downtown St. Helena (the TRUE heart of wine country!).We are knowledgeable and happy to act as your personal concierge for dinners, winery tours; anything you may want or need.

We are famous for our full gourmet champagne breakfasts and the Roman pillared patio. Each guestroom boasts its own private bath, antiques and fine linens. Three have fireplaces and two have their own private entrances. The owners are also winemaker's and will be delighted to let you taste their wines and sample right out of the barrel.

It is our sincere wish that your stay with us be romantic and memorable. If you prefer a place in-town or a vacation home please inquire about our other inn, the Ambrose Bierce House where the hospitality is the same; just a different ambience and amenities.


Mendocino Culinary Festivals
6th Annual Mendocino Crab & Wine Days

Mendocino Culinary Festivals - 6th Annual Mendocino Crab and Wine DaysAnnual Festivals spotlight the culinary bounty of Mendocino County, a place of natural beauty and timeless villages. With its dense forests, steep hillsides and craggy coastline, Mendocino was isolated until recently from the more open and populated San Francisco Bay Area, a hundred miles to the south. Pioneers put down roots amongst incredible natural wealth and splendor. You're invited to experience our rural small towns, agricultural heritage, arts & crafts and the earthy pleasures of the table. Discover for yourself why we say Mendocino is another time, another pace.

6th Annual Mendocino Crab & Wine Days - Friday, January 21 through Sunday, January 30, 2005. Mendocino County's annual celebration of Dungeness Crab - dozens of crab feeds, cruises, demonstrations, and crabcake contest. For more information and a complete schedule of events call (toll free) 1-866-goMendo (466-3636) or visit goMendo.com/events/crab/.


"A Laugh in of Fun, Food & Auction... and Wine!"

FORTISSIMO - MUSIC MATTERS II - A LAUGH IN OF FUN, FOOD & AUCTION....AND WINE!On January 15, 2005, the Napa Valley Symphony and honorary chairs, Garen and Shari Staglin, present Fortissimo: Music Matters II, the Symphony's annual fundraising event to support its musical and community service programs. This year's dinner and benefit will be held at Vintage 1870 in Yountville from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Masters of Ceremonies Tim Hanni, M.W. and president/founder of WineQuest and Mel Engle, president and CEO of Dey, L.P. will host the event. Renowned auctioneer David Reynolds will again bring his gavel to this spectacular gala. Guests will be entertained by the Oak Cross String Quartet, followed by Kate Hanni and The Toasted Heads.

Available in this year's auction are more than forty extravagant lots of cult and collector wines. Dinners with famous vintners, celebrities, and chefs highlight the list, including dinner at The French Laundry with Screaming Eagle wine, and dinner with Robert and Margrit Mondavi. Golf and vacation trips and other events will also be up for bid. Many more of these special lots can be viewed on the Napa Valley Symphony website at www.napavalleysymphony.org under Special Events.

To purchase tickets or place an absentee bid, please contact the Napa Valley Symphony at (707) 226-8742.

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Wine Country Personality — Paul Judd

Judd WallenbrockHumanitas Wine — Drinking Charitably and Contributing Vicariously

Carrying a wine industry resume covering nearly every skill in the book, Judd Wallenbrock could do almost anything — so he did!  Armed with an innovative business plan, he has combined the power of charity with compelling negociant wine value.  This industry hero is ready to help you change the world one bottle at a time with tasty, value-laden wines from the innovative Humanitas Wine Company.

Businesses that commit a share of profits to charity aren’t new; Ben & Jerry’s and Newman’s Own pop quickly to mind.  Charity as a wine preference is a logical follow-up, and Judd’s inventive approach has been structured to minimize investment and maximize benefit.  The actual result is one of the most ambitious yet seen; all profits—so far nearly 20% of all sales—have been donated to deliver a return far beyond the norm.

While most of the giving focuses on Habitat for Humanity, America’s Second Harvest and Reading Is Fundamental, the benefits are applied at the local level.  Judd tracks sales by location, giving back precisely where the corks are popping.  In addition, using codes entered on the website as customers purchase, Humanitas can partner directly with charity groups to enable a terrific tool for direct fundraising.

This winery Charitable Enology Officer mastered the vineyards of Monterey County during his time managing Mondavi’s coastal brand, so he knows where to find excellent fruit.  Judd constantly sings the praises of the quality and value that well-crafted wines from southern Monterey and San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley have to offer.

Judd has done very well producing these wines.  Approachable, definitely crowd-pleasers, they offer the epitome of Central Coast excellence.  His 2003 Chardonnay ($15) was made using stainless tanks, and offers rich dry flavors with a hint of creaminess.  The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) shows deep color, good weight, and starts with a burst of 100% varietal fruit extending beyond mid-palate to finish with sweet soft tannins.  The 2003 Merlot ($15) reflects its blending with 25% Cabernet, and offers even richer mouth feel and complexity to match its slightly sweet Cab flavors and fresh aromatic nose. 

Distribution of the Humanitas brand is expanding, and the wines can be found widely in quality restaurants including John Ash & Co. and Zuzu.  Of course, you apply the strongest benefit when buying direct from Humanitas.

Celebrating 25 years in the industry, Judd Wallenbrock is a smart, sincere guy who is determined to make a difference.  Philanthropy, character and kindness are the watchwords of this enterprise—and this man—whose benefit starts growing in the vineyard and extends far beyond your glass of Humanitas wine.

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Follow the SurferNew WineCountry.com Feature
Follow the Surfer—We Want to Hear from You!

You read this newsletter because you have an interest and connection to Wine Country.  Each month we offer you profiles of the most interesting Accommodation, Spa, Wine and Food choices that we can find.

Since we live in Wine Country, we always have our ears to the ground, but now we are turning them towards you.  Follow the Surfer points the connection back to you.  We want to hear about your favorites — send us a few sentences describing the who, what, where and especially why this choice is special to you.

We look forward to hearing from you soon at ENewsletter@winecountry.com. We will send a token of appreciation if we use your suggestion.  And look for your picks here starting next month!


Varietal Wine Tasting

Exploring Flavor Diversity and Your Preferences within a Range

Pinot on the RIverWe recently attended Pinot on the River, a weekend celebration of small-production, artisan Pinot Noirs from up and down the West Coast.  The event culminated with a special walk-around tasting of Pinots from fifty wineries, which amazed and amused even the most rarefied palates in the crowd.  Comparing wines with similar flavors for winemaking style, vintage and fruit from different vineyards, rather than comparing a Chardonnay to a Cabernet, is such a useful way to discover new favorites!  Here are some ideas for comparisons that you can enjoy, whether visiting Wine Country or at home.

Wine organizations that focus by varietal are the first resource of interest.  ZAP, the organization Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, focuses entirely on wines made from the Zin grape.  Their website offers a wealth of information about this tasty, food-versatile varietal, which has enjoyed a huge resurgence of popularity in recent years.

Their Zinfandel Festival is an internationally recognized series of tastings comprising the premiere, single-varietal events in the world.  While the Spring Tour this coming March and April will reach San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago and New Orleans, the Zinfandel Festival is their best-known event is held each January in San Francisco.  Four amazing days of Zinfandel flights and food pairings starts Wednesday, January 26th, culminating in the huge Saturday tasting event filling 2 enormous buildings on the water at Fort Mason.  With nearly 300 wineries and 10,000 attendees, this event is usually a sell-out, so order tickets soon, and don’t arrive late!

Affairs of the Vine also produces a series of review events with varietal comparison in mind.  For their Cabernet Sauvignon Shootout, a top industry panel tastes hundreds of wines submitted from around the world, carefully identifying which they think are best.  The wines considered include some of the great names from Napa, along with top producers from other well-recognized appellations and distinctive wines from lesser-known wineries.  A Pinot Noir Shootout is also produced.  Their "bang for your buck" selections underscore the ability to find valuable, sometimes obscure gems with this kind of tasting.  Their results might make great starting lists for your own tasting event at home. 

Locals Tasting Room in Geyserville is known for its inventive offering of 50 artisan wines presented by varietal.  This interesting tasting room offers you the chance to explore your preferences amongst the many examples of each varietal offered.  This is a “must-visit” when in Sonoma County for the quality and value of the wines, as well as this unique and valuable presentation.

Affairs of the VineIn general, using search engines and combining words like “wine, flight, varietal” along with your city name, it is interesting to see what you might find wherever you are located.  Here are a few interesting examples we found: 

  • D’Vine Wine Bar, in the fun Warehouse District of Cleveland, offers 16 diverse flights of four two-ounce pours ranging from $11 to $18, a great value, with delicious over-sized tapas available to match.
  • JavaMonkey, a Coffee House and Wine Bar in Decatur, Georgia, offers a flight of six specially chosen, related wines every other Thursday.  You can hop on their mailing list to receive the program ahead of the event -- the wines are very well selected here too!
  • At Soho Atlanta restaurant, “Flight Night” is offered every Wednesday. Voted "Best Wine Bar" by Atlanta Magazine, SohoAtlanta offers over 100 wines by the glass.  This hosted event adds to that excitement and interest, as the "Taste Guide for the Evening” pilots the group through a theme tasting of 3-4 wines in generous 3.5 oz portions, with complimentary cheese and fruit plates offered to stimulate the taste buds.

If nothing you find is suitable, why not organize your own tasting!  A fun theme for a party or gathering, choose a varietal and ask each guest to bring a bottle.  As they arrive, whisk each bottle directly into an anonymous paper bag, and set up 5-10 wines for a blind tasting.  You don’t have to act like experts, have fun, but supply a grid sheet and number the wines so everyone can rank each wine on a 1-10 scale.  Everyone will learn a lot, regardless of his or her level of knowledge, and as a group you will probably discover some new wines to enjoy.  May we have the envelope please?

So we can’t resist sharing a few picks from Pinot on the River.  Though many of the wines were from the Russian River Valley, one of the most interesting was from Oregon, from Shea Wine Cellars.  While the characteristic that makes Russian River Pinots distinctive is the bright, forward fruit, Oregon wines were darker and earthier. They were not only enjoyable, but offered a revealing reference to the abundance of the brilliant, sweet Russian River fruit.

Another treat were wines from the tiniest artisans, rarely available outside a special tasting like this.  One of the most striking wines came from Woodenhead Vintners, whose 2002 Buena Tierra Pinot Noir from the Russian River was immensely beguiling.  With flavors extending far beyond the promise of its pleasant ultra-light texture, its flowery nose tantalized with hints of magnolias and dried flower petals.  Made with fruit from a vineyard near famed artisan Rochioli, this wine was a real find!

No matter how you enjoy it, plan a varietal tasting soon.  You will have fun and discover new wines to match your preference!

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Discover Winter in the Wine CountryHighlight

Discover Winter in the Wine Country
Up to 50% off on lodging, free wine tasting, dining deals, spa specials, shopping discounts & more from Nov 1st thru March 31, 2005. Discounts only available with a Wine Country VIP Pack. $25 Gift packs include 2 logo wine glasses, commemorative pin and more. Must show pin to receive discounts. Valid Nov 1, 2004 thru March 31, 2005. For listing of participants or to order, call 800-618-6456, 866-306-5588 or visit www.sthelena.com/discover

Wine Country Featured Destination

Destination Monterey, Part 2 — More Hang Time in Monterey Wine Country

Last month, we began our look at Monterey County Wine Country.  This time, we continue our tour through two other distinct areas.  First we explore the town of Monterey itself, and then we head into the nearby Carmel Valley for a look around.

As you approach the turnoff for the Monterey Peninsula on Highway 1, consider an easy stop at Ventana Vineyards, located close by at the intersection of Highways 68 & 218.  One of the pioneering stars of the area, Ventana’s wines are estate grown, offering high quality and excellent value.  There is a wide variety of whites, reds and dessert choices to enjoy.  Check out the spectacular Super Tuscan Sangiovese blend Due Amici, a recent Best of Class winner at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The premium Meador Estate Wines also enhance the choices here.

Taste of MontereyOnce you arrive in Monterey, tasting rooms mingle with the aquatic creatures populating the famous Monterey Aquarium, the historic Monterey State Historic Park and stunning water views from Cannery Row.  The Row is clearly becoming a major wine tasting destination, with lots of superb opportunities for sampling - - no more driving and no designated driver required!  Besides the fabulous, all-encompassing Taste of Monterey Wine Cellar & Tasting Room, whose Old Town Salinas location was mentioned last month, several more intriguing wineries present their wares here as well.

Clos LaChance Winery was recently named as one of ten "U.S. Wineries to Watch" by Food & Wine magazine.  They produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Nebbiolo, Merlot and Zinfandel with fruit from several different appellations around California.  Bargetto Winery has been a Santa Cruz favorite for decades, and now has a second tasting room located on The Row.  Of unusual interest are their fruit wines, which show true quality.  Their Chaucer’s Cellars brand has produced gold medal winning dessert-style wines for decades.  Delectable Meads (Medieval-style honey wines) exhibit richness similar to fine liqueur, but this dessert-style beverage is not fortified and contains only 10.5% alcohol.  Remote Silver Mountain Vineyards just opened a tasting room here on The Row in December.  Influenced by the bay climate, their hillside vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains just to the north produce an organically grown Estate Chardonnay that is at once complex and tasty.  Finally, at Baywood Cellars they offer wines in the styles of Chablis, Burgundy, Rhone and Bordeaux, mostly from Monterey County fruit.  They also work with some excellent Lodi area fruit for the Harvest Symphony, a hand harvested, French Sauterne style dessert wine.  If you are a late arrival, it is nice to know that Baywood is open a bit later and the staff is ready to greet you.

Chateau Julien VineyardWhen you are in the mood for a change of setting, the quaint Carmel Valley Village is only minutes away.  Heading south on Highway 1 from Monterey, then east on Carmel Valley Road, the first winery to welcome you is the Chateau Julien Wine Estate.  For over 20 years, the Brower family has produced wines in a traditional Bordeaux style, using superb fruit infused with subtle flavors from oak barrels.  The winery also boasts breathtaking vistas of a lush green valley where sunsets are unforgettable and rainbows bounce off the hills.

Just a few miles further inland you quickly reach the Village proper.  Sunny when coastal neighbors Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are fogged in, the pastoral valley location is nestled in the towering Santa Lucia Mountains.  Here winemakers of the Carmel Valley Appellation operate delightful tasting rooms, making an afternoon of wine tasting a breeze and most are within an easy walk of each other!

With vineyards situated at a remote location north of the Village, Joullian Winery opened a tasting room here in town a few years back to introduce visitors to their outstanding wines.  Their vineyards were planted using a multi-clonal approach to produce diverse flavors, and the Carmel Valley Estate Zinfandel is the father of Zin in the valley - -check it out!  Nearby, Talbott Vineyards offers wines made from three vineyards located carefully around the county, producing some of the best barrel-fermented Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs around.  Beautifully handmade neckwear and silk accessories from the Robert Talbott Company are showcased along with the wines. You might also enjoy the Paradise Wine Bar, a beguiling chef-owned wine bar in the Village presenting selections from local wineries that do not have tasting rooms.  Last but certainly not least, Bernardus Winery is a standout for its authentically crafted Bordeaux varietal wines.  Carefully choosing an assortment of quality French barrels, their wines reflect a “spice rack approach”, with diverse oak flavors complementing a wonderful rich mouth feel.  Not far away from the tasting room is the upscale Bernardus Lodge.

Tickle Pink InnAs for other area accommodations, The Stonepine Estate is another ultra-premium choice in Carmel Valley.  Spectacular accommodations are set amid 330 pristine acres named for the ancient Italian Stone Pines standing sentry over the private estate, built in 1929 by the Crocker banking family of San Francisco.  Or just a five-minute walk from town, lush grounds and sunny, fog-free days at the Carmel Valley Lodge make it a fine choice, and it is dog-friendly too!

Back along the coast, for seaside views and gracious hospitality, The Tickle Pink Inn just four miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea is a pleasant choice.  Or try the folks at Inns by the Sea, who allow you to select between ten spectacular seaside properties throughout the area.  Back in Monterey, The Monterey Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Monterey, recently celebrated its 100-year birthday.  It has been restored to its original Victorian splendor, featuring hand-carved furnishings, antique patinas, polished wood floors and leaded glass chandeliers.  The nearby Old Monterey Inn offers another unique upscale experience.

For more information, continue to explore our Monterey pages here at WineCountry.com.  The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association also gives useful information, along with a map you might wish to print.


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Twelfth Annual Napa Valley Mustard FestivalHighlight

Twelfth Annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival
Celebrate the food, wine, art, and the rich, unique agricultural and historical bounty of the Napa Valley from January 29 through April 9, 2005! The Mustard Season offers a full palette of food, wine, art, entertainment, and cultural activities staged throughout the world-famous grape growing region when fields, vineyards, and hillsides are vibrant with wild mustard in bloom. For information: 707.944.1133 - www.mustardfestival.org.


Wine Country Recipe

Napa Valley Grille - Kobe Carpaccio

Napa Valley Grille - Kobe CarpaccioLooking for a healthy way to start the New Year, but still want to enjoy a culinary delight?  Try this wonderful “fit the trend” low-carb recipe from Executive Chef Thad Lyman of the Napa Valley Grille located in Yountville.


  • 1/4 LB  Kobe Beef Top Round - cleaned of excess fat
  • Cracked Black Pepper (To taste)
  • Kosher Salt (To taste)
  • 2 Tbsp  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup  Organic Baby Rocket (Baby Arugula) —
  • washed & dried
  • 1/4 cup  Blanched
  • Frissee - washed & dried
  • 2 oz  Fresh Dungeness Crab Meat - leg meat
  • 1/2 oz  Grana Padano Parmesan - shaved
  • 1 tbsp  Preserved
  • Meyer Lemons - thinly sliced
  • 2 ea  Focaccia Croutons - optional

Prepare ahead

  • Rub Kobe with pepper & salt.  In a VERY hot sauté pan using 1/2 of the olive oil sear the beef on all sides.
  • Wrap in plastic & freeze for an hour or two to firm the meat so you can slice it more easily.

For service

  • Slice the meat as thin as you can, place on a chilled plate covering the entire center.
  • Toss the baby rocket & frissee with the remaining olive oil, crab meat, Meyer lemons & cheese.
  • Place croutons on the meat off center of the plate; arrange salad on top of them.
  • Finish plate with a final seasoning of salt, a drizzle of olive oil & a lemon squeeze if desired.


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Twelfth Annual Napa Valley Mustard FestivalHighlight

Auberge Mendocino- Seaside Inn and Cottages on the Mendocino Coast
Stay at Auberge Mendocino this winter season during Mendocino's Crab and Wine Days, January 21-January 30th. This bed and breakfast, overlooking the breathtaking Mendocino Coast, is famous for its boundless hospitality, lavish gourmet breakfasts and snacks, romantic seaside setting and warm French country décor. To reserve your room or cottage, call 800.347.9252.


Wine Country Featured Event

South Beach Wine & Food February 25-27, 2005 — South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Thinking of warm tropical weather, sandy white beaches and fun in the sun?  If you are already in the area or thinking of vacationing in Florida, then mark your calendars and plan to attend the 4th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival!  This culinary extravaganza will feature international celebrity chefs and food personalities including Emeril Lagasse, Charlie Trotter and Rachel Ray, as well as world-renowned winemakers.  Best of the Best Reserve California Wine Tasting, Wine Spectator Wine Seminars and the signature Culinary Demonstrations, Cocktail Clinic and Grand Tasting event are just a few of the spectacular highlights that are sure to tempt your tasting palate.  Non-stop food, wine and spirits sampling – all on the sultry Miami Beach – who could ask for a more perfect weekend!  Call 1.877.762.3933 to order tickets or visit www.sobewineandfoodfest.com for a schedule of all events, as well as price and ticketing information.

For a complete calendar of events by region, visit: Gold Country, Mendocino, Monterey,
Napa Valley
, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma County, Temecula, Virginia

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WineCountry.com Info

WineCountry.com Drawing:

Win a “Perfect Sonoma Getaway for Two”!*

Enter to win a one night stay at MacArthur Place, Sonoma’s Historic Inn & Spa in one of their luxurious suites that offer the ultimate in relaxation and comfort during your stay.  MacArthur Place is set among 7 acres of magnificent gardens filled with original sculpture and their spa offers over 40 different massage, facial and body treatments. 

Spend the day exploring Sonoma’s boutiques, galleries and wineries, but be sure to stop by Kendall Jackson where you’ll receive reserve wine tasting for two.  Enjoy dinner at Healdsburg Charcuterie restaurant for terrific French Mediterranean cuisine.  Finally, end the night at the Luther Burbank Center for a Cabaret show featuring Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.

Click here to enter this drawing! (Please note: If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, you are automatically entered in this drawing.)

The Winner of this Drawing will be announced on The Winner's Page after March 15, 2005.

(*some restrictions apply)

*** No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter. MacArthur Place gift certificate must be used Sunday through Thursday. Only one entry per person permitted. Winner will be selected March 15, 2005 by random drawing. Winner will be notified by email. Employees of Freerun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited by law.

WineCountry.com Info...

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