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Pre travel checklist for overseas visit

Plan ahead for travel success

Whether you are a seasonal traveler or first time planner, a trip abroad is best when the pre planning stage is meticulous and calculated. Ever wonder why seasoned travelers seem to be at ease before they go abroad? Use this pre travel checklist before your next foreign country visit.

Whether you are traveling to Mersault, France (pictured), or Sydney, Australia, preparation can be the key to a successful trip abroad.

1) Use Safari Private Window or Chrome Incognito window when checking on flights, hotels and other websites you repeatedly use. Revisiting websites can result in higher costs.

2) While your can book flights up to 11 months in advance, a good rule of thumb is to buy a domestic flight anywhere from three months to 30 days in advance: 47-54 days typically is the prime booking window. Consider buying international flights 276-335 days in advance and buy a flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

However there is no magic potion here. Start watching flight costs and pull the trigger when it appears close to the optimal amount you care to pay. If you see a good deal, grab it.

3) Consider buying an “open jaw” flight when booking travel. Fly into one city and return from another. The airfare may actually be cheaper. Also check out budget airlines while overseas.

4) Do your homework. Check guidebooks and “know before you go” something to see or do each day. Many sites require reservations. And give yourself time to walk, take a train or bus, and food breaks in between sights you hope to visit. Rushing on vacation reduces a holiday to “worse than work” status.

5) Know the address and phone number of your embassy in the city and/or country you are visiting before you leave.

6) An adult passport is currently $110 and apply for your passport at least six weeks before you need it–add $25 for a first time passport. When applying for a passport, you will need an original copy of your birth certificate and two identical passport photos. If your passport will expire within three months of your trip ending, you are encouraged to get a new passport before you leave.

7) The U.S. Passports and International Travel site has a 10-point checklist before you travel overseas. Take the time to photocopy all documents, leaving a copy at home and another with a traveling companion, securing supplemental health/travel insurance, a letter from your physician for the medications you are bringing, check to see if you need a Visa for the country you are visiting at time of travel and if there are any travel warnings.

Manarola

Explore regions which might challenge you like a visit to Liguria and the Cinque Terre, including Manarola (pictured). With a little planning and preparation, your next trip can be a success.

8) Contact your bank(s) and alert them you will be out of the country using your bank card. You don’t want them thinking it was stolen.

9) While it may be good idea have some local currency if traveling to a small airport overseas, the world uses ATMs and are widely available to exchange money using your debit card. You may be charged a 1% fee by your bank, but the rate of exchange should be close. The “no-fee” Bureau de Change exchange rates at the airport and in currency exchange kiosks are poor compared to bank rates. So, if you must, change only exchange enough money for your first day in a foreign country. You can use your ATM and bank cards to pull cash from your checking accounts when you get to your destination. Additionally, check with your bank card and inquire as to fees they charge for each use. It is probably better to use your VISA for purchases and ATM card for foreign currency withdrawal.

10) Most of us now take our phone with us wherever we go. Make sure you contact your mobile provider to secure a plan for overseas use. Discuss international calling, text, and/or data plan, and confirm voice and data-roaming fees.

11) Download the travel apps you hope to use on your trip before you leave. They are wonderful to use in WiFi and are a wealth of information.

12) Make a list of what is in your suitcase and photocopy it, giving a copy to your traveling partner and leave one at home. You might even write out serial numbers on pricer items and take photos of them.

LeaningTower

While travel destinations and preferences may change, if you take an active part-time student role for each trip, you can self-guide your way to a relaxed vacation.

13) Leave a travel itinerary with someone at home and include the phone numbers and addresses of the hotels you plan on using.

14) Cancel or put on hold your mail, newspaper. Consider paying  bills ahead of time.

15) If you plan on renting a car, most countries require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). You can secure one at most AAA offices. You will need two passport photos, a fee of $20 and show the clerk your state driver’s license. Fill out the application online, print it and bring it along for quicker processing.

16) Rail Europe has a great site for buying tickets ahead of time. You will save time rather than waiting in line at the station. You might consider longer trips via train.

17) Finally, while experienced travelers may opt not to use a passport or money belt, it is a good idea to use one. Especially in tourist areas and big cities, pickpockets and thieves prey on the naive and unsuspecting tourists. I used a money belt and/or a neck pouch to keep documents safe and tucked away.

While my travels over the last 20 years have helped me with this list, Rick Steves also has a great travel checklist. So whether you use my guide or someone else’s, meticulous planning will help ensure a successful overseas trip.

For more travel related articles, be sure to return in the next couple of days as I will begin posting from our recent trip to the Cinque Terre in Liguria and Tuscany. In the meantime, read my June 26, 2016, post, Hot outside? Love me some Passaggio Rosé.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (@Talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Hot outside? Love me some Passaggio Rosé

When I first met winemaker Cynthia Cosco a couple of years ago in San Francisco, I immediately felt she was someone I wanted to follow. Her affiliation with DogPatch Wine Works in San Francisco, an urban wine group, helped cement my affiliation.

Passaggio with Greg

While I live in the Central Valley, I can still get out to visit Sonoma County wineries a few times a year. Passaggio winemaker and owner Cynthia Cosco met me at her Sonoma Square tasting room a few months ago.

While I sometimes feel a loss for not accomplishing my dreams yet, I am inspired by those who have risked much for a dream in pursuit of their passion. Yesterday, as I sat in my pool, sipping the last of my 2014 Passaggio Wine Tempranillo Rose, my thoughts turned to Cynthia.

Cynthia’s story and Passaggio Wines are now a well-known commodity to Sonoma winophiles (Video). After a 15-year career in law enforcement, she sought to reconnect to her Italian family tradition of winemakers and pursued the passion in 2004 at BevMo of all places.

By 2007 she was making her own wine while working for CrushPad in Napa and later in Sonoma while becoming their lead winemaker in 2011. She introduced her brand in 2012 and now has a tasting room in the Sonoma Square.

Cynthia’s participation in community events, promotion of other winemakers via twitter chats and her encouraging demeanor is infectious. And while I continue to reinvent myself, a transition from full-time journalism teacher to social media and reputation management specialist to a passion for food and wine, I am inspired by people like Cynthia who dream and day-by-day step out, risk and pursue a a vision.

PassaggioRose1

While I finished my 2014 Passaggio Tempranillo Rose, their tasting room as both the 2015 version as well as one created from Merlot. Both are excellent pool and food wines.

So while I sip Passaggio 2014 Tempranillo, the wild strawberry, watermelon, raspberry and dry savory notes linger. It’s crisp flavors are great alone or with a poolside food bite. But that is old news. The 2015 version is for sale with slightly different flavors as vineyard, weather and winemaker all adjust character, combined with past experiences and focus.

Heck, I understand the 2015 Passaggio Merlot Rose is delicious. While I missed the #WineStudio Sonoma Rosé Revolution Twitter chat on June 7 while I was in Italy, I know I missed good conversation. I need to stop into her tasting room and try a bottle and reconnect with Cynthia.

And if you get to Sonoma Square before I do, please tell her and tasting room manager Frank, I said hi.

Passaggio Wines is open every day of the week. They can be found in the Sonoma Square. Their tasting room is at 25 East Napa St, Suite C, Sonoma, CA 95476. Phone: (707) 934-8941 and email: info@passaggiowines.com. They are open Monday-Thursday, noon- 6 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

PassaggioSonoma

If you missed my last post, check out the August 16, 2015, post, Beat the heat with cool Gazpacho, Medlock Ames Rosé. After 10 months of darkness, TalesoftheCork is ready to resume regular postings. Please check back and repost.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram(@Talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Beat the heat with cool Gazpacho, Medlock Ames Rosé

Chilled summer soup with three-cheese sourdough sandwich, grilled peaches and figs

MedlockAmes

The key to a great Gazpacho is fresh ingredients, a blender and a willingness to taste as you add vegetables. This is an easy summer soup that can be made in 20-30 minutes plus cooling time.

With temperatures well over 100F this week, we are creating simpler meals to feed us but promote cool plates and quieter ovens.

Our evening began away from the table for a quick sip of a Medlock Ames 2013 Alexander Valley Bell Mountain Estate #Rose, Sonoma County. I love taking a moment to relax for a few minutes with a sip of Rose before dinner by the pool.

Medlock Ames is an estate fine wine producer located in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California. Started in 1998 by friends Chris James and Ames Morison, their boutique winery and ranch produces high quality, artisan wines that are organically farmed and the methods include 100% solar-powered and advocate progressive, creative farming. They are tucked away at the edge of Alexander Valley atop Bell Mountain. You can find the Medlock Ames tasting room in a century-old landmark Alexander Valley Store & Bar via 3487 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Call them at 707.431.8845 or use email:info@medlockames.com. They are also on Twitter and Instagram.

While this is not their best effort, I am trying the Medlock Ames 2013 a year after release. However, the Medlock Ames 2013 Rose has yummy aromas of strawberries, watermelon and spice. It’s crisp, dry and has a slight tangy finish. I know their 2014 is even better so make sure to check in with their latest offering.

Our first entrée was summer soup: homemade chilled Gazpacho. We shopped the local farmers market for fresh heirloom and plum tomatoes, a red pepper, cucumber, two celery sticks, a red onion, basil, and a jalapeño. Later we added red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar, cracked salt and pepper (all to taste). One of the keys to a create cold tomato-based soup is fresh ingredients and to add and subtract based on your palate. Chop into larger pieces but let the blender do the work as you blend the ingredients to a smooth consistency.

GazpachoDinner

While dinners don’t need fancy plates, we purchased these bright melamine summer-colored dinners on clearance at Sur la Table. They seem to add a ‘pop’ to a TalesoftheCork meal.

Place blended mixture in a bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours before service.

In the meantime, we created a garlic cream to drizzle over top before eating. We added 1/3 cup (100cc) of whipping or heavy cream, mince and swirled in three chopped cloves of garlic. Place in a cooler for an hour, bring to room temperature and pass the cream through a sieve before dripping on the surface of the Gazpacho.

For a crunch while chilling with the Gazpacho, we also made herbed-garlic croutons–day old sourdough, baguette or Batard are best. Chop into good size pieces, coat in good olive oil and minced garlic, add a sprinkle of Italian herbs, salt and pepper and toast in a 350F oven for 15 minutes.

Wait until just before service before adding the garnished basil, cream garlic drizzle and herbed-garlic croutons. This adds interest and adds flare to the presentation as well as to the overall taste.

It sounds involved, but this really is super easy! 😎

For the second entree, some prep is also needed but simple in nature. Two hours before, Geena prepared a tomato confit. This entails boiling whole plum tomatoes for 20 seconds then removing their skins. Then she halved the tomatoes, removed the seeds and drizzled them in a pan with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt and peeper and roasted them at 250F for two hours.

GrilledCheesePeaches

The 3-cheese grilled sourdough sandwich includes Havarti, Gruyere, and an aged white cheddar. Grilled peaches are wonderful summer snacks, fresh fruit option with fresh figs and/or a dessert.

The tomato confit was then added to already melted three-cheese grilled sourdough open sandwiches. We used Havarti, Gruyere, and aged white cheddar. Add a little butter to the outside of the bread to give the closed sandwich its golden color and crisp characteristics.

Meanwhile I fired up the BBQ with some wood and briquettes to grill our fruit (dessert if I could be patient). After cutting the peaches in half, I brushed them will olive oil, Grand Marnier, and a dab of butter, grilling them on each side off the flame for three to five minutes a side depending on how hot your grill is. I finished with a sprinkle of raw sugar on each half, grilling to caramelize and get the classic grill marks.

We finished the plate with halved Mission and Tiger figs–raw–and added a glass of sparkling Pellegrino. A TalesoftheCork summer dinner to keep cool but still feel like you ate well.

If you missed my last post, check out the August 4, 2015, post, Grilled salmon, peaches and Cardwell Hill Pinot.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (@Talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Grilled salmon, peaches and Cardwell Hill Pinot

With just a little forethought, tonight’s dinner is easily accomplished. Geena and I are getting back to meal planning on Sundays and with a grocery, meat and fish list, great meals are really only 30 minutes of prep time.

Grilled salmon and peaches is quick. Just brush both with olive oil. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.

Grilled salmon and peaches is a 30-minute prep meal. Begin by brushing both with olive oil and let them come to room temperature. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.

Plan to stop and pick up salmon on the way home from work. You will also need two peaches, quinoa, mint, a couple of carrots, celery, cucumber, asparagus and plain yogurt.

Dinner tonight: Grilled spiced salmon with homemade raita dressing, quinoa, roasted asparagus with Romano cheese and grilled peaches.

The trick to great salmon is brushing it with olive oil, adding cracked pepper and a touch of salt. Lightly drip olive oil over the peaches, add Allspice and drizzle (the secret ingredient) Grand Marnier before grilling.

The salmon takes about 8 minutes while the peaches about 6 minutes. It is a good idea to sear both but then grill them off the heat and bake them, allowing the wood and briquets to fill the BBQ with its great smokey flavors.

Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

A great, healthy addition to this meal is quinoa. We added chopped celery and carrots to the quinoa at the very end to add a crunch and to ensure they stay crispy. The sauce or dressing on the grilled salmon is a homemade raita dressing. The cucumber dressing is a favorite in India and is built on a plain yogurt base. Add garlic, shredded cucumber, mint, cracked pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

It is a good idea to refrigerate this mixture for an hour before adding to the grilled salmon. The raita is a great topping as its crisp acidity adds interest to the rich flavor of the salmon. This works well with the spice and smokey char of the grilled fish.

This one dish meal is perfect with a Pinot Noir. We chose Cardwell Hill Cellars 2008 Reserve Estate Willamette Valley in Oregon. Contrary to what others have said online, this Pinot is a winner. I imagine it just needed more time in the bottle to “grow up.” This is a three-clone French-style Pinot Noir: Silky smooth, dark bing cherry earthiness and spice with vanilla and caramel notes. So pretty, light and clean. This can easily be enjoyed by itself or with grilled fish, roast chicken and pork chops. Loved it!

If you missed my last post, check out the August 4, 2015 post, Grilled shrimp appetizers and Cooper Rose.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Grilled shrimp appetizers and Cooper Rose

If you can stop off at the grocery store or fish market on the way home, pick up some jumbo shrimp. They are easy to grill. Just season with your favorite spices, melted butter and parsley and hot sauce, grilling just off the heat.

Tonight's meal began with seasoned jumbo shrimp dipped in butter and parsley. Geena and I each had a small pour of Cooper Vineyards 2012 Roundpen Rosé, Amador County.

Tonight’s meal began with seasoned jumbo shrimp dipped in butter and parsley. Geena and I each had a small pour of Cooper Vineyards 2012 Roundpen Rosé, Amador County.

With that being said, Geena and I had a chance to sit and relax on the patio and split four jumbo shrimp. I seasoned them with a favorite spice blend, added a couple of drops of hot sauce and served a small pour of Cooper Vineyards 2012 Roundpen Rose from Amador County, Sierra Foothills. While many Roses would be wonderful, the Cooper Rose is a refreshing blend made in the French style but look for their latest release.

If you missed my last post, check out the, J. Rickards Winery: Darn fine barn wine (VIDEO).

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa Melanson Vineyard Cabernet

TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews

2010 Castello di Amorosa Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

I had the pleasure of tasting a first production wine just bottled during my visit. The 2010 six-barrel production of Castello di Amorosa Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is an aromatic dream. It’s classic barnyard, earthiness and plum overtones are a true connection to the terroir of the next expected Napa AVA. This is shaping up to be a classic Left Bank Bordeaux. Already the lush velvety juice lingered long and the aroma seemed to fill the room after I swished the dark wine in the goblet. While the Melanson cab obviously still needs time to mature, this is going to be a collector’s AND drinker’s dream bottle of red in years to come. There is a six bottle minimum purchase at $125/bottle with a maximum of two cases.

http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/Web-2012/Pinning-Down-Pritchard-Hill/

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Beaulieu Vineyards Reserve Tapestry 2009 Napa Valley

TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews

Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry 2009 Napa Valley

For those of you whose pocketbook will not allow them to purchase the Aug. 17, 2013, Wine Spectator Daily Pick: Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 Rutherford 2009 for $65, I recommend a 91-point BV wine that still should satisfy even discriminating tastes for just over half the cost.

Since 1900, the Latour family has been farming the Napa Valley and helping create and add to its beauty. Since then the BV vineyards, vines and wines have been a part of the backbone of Napa Valley and Rutherford, California’s, history.

Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Its dark red fruit, flowers, licorice are some of the notes that emerge from this sleek, beautifully balanced red.

Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Its dark red fruit, flowers, licorice are some of the notes that emerge from this sleek, beautifully balanced red.

Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry Napa Valley 09 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor chose blocks of reserve-quality grapes which combine to create a wine that has soft tannins and is approachable/drinkable now.

The fruit is deep, dark and red–even jammy. First tastes are cassis and blackberry but give way to licorice, black cherry, plum and a hint of chocolate. There is a light minerality, spice, herb and earthiness to the blend while the floral notes slightly increase after opening.

Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate called the BV Reserve Tapestry 2009 “… A beautifully balanced red.” The Wine Spectator referred to the bottle as “Graceful, with complex spice, herb, dried currant and crushed rock flavors that are well-proportioned and gaining on the finish, where the flavors weave together with subtle nuances.”

While the suggested food pairing includes semi-hard cheeses like Bravo white cheddar, meat dishes, duck and mushroom dishes, I enjoyed my 2009 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry with a mesquite charcoal-grilled ribeye steak with a pomegranate red wine reduction sauce. The side dish was mozzarella, baby Roma tomatoes and basil fresh from the local farmer’s market mixed with vinegar and white balsamic. The Cabernet blend mixed well with the lightly braised tomatoes and complimented the peppery and smoky flavors of the meat. We used a fresh baked batard to sop up the juices.

While not BV's top Cabernet or blend, the Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve paired well with my ribeye steak. I recommend this 90-91 point wine and a value buy drinking well now.

While not BV’s top Cabernet or blend, the Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve paired well with my ribeye steak. I recommend this 90-91 point wine and a value buy drinking well now.

The BV Tapestry is definitely a Bordeaux-style wine built with a California palate in mind. While previous years and their estate Cabernet’s may have more finesse and complexity, this red blend will be a crowd pleaser. The finish is long, fleshy and friendly. I believe this wine will continue to improve over the next three years. This may be the Cabernet you buy six or 12 bottles to open over time.

The BV Tapestry blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec (Alcohol by volume: 14.8%). Drink now through 2017.

Currently this wine can be bought online through various outlets, including Beaulieu Vineyard Wines and WineChateau.com ($39.97). If you are willing to buy a case of this or mix and match wine, the shipping is free through WineChateau! Another excellent source to find a competitive pricing for wine is at Wine-Searcher.com.

The average price for this wine currently is $42 (excluding tax) and available for as low as $33 on the East Coast and $36 on the West Coast. Sample received courtesy Wine Chateau for review purposes.

The Beaulieu Vineyard visitor center is located at 1960 St. Helena Hwy. Rutherford, CA 94573. Call 800.264.6918, ext. 5233, or 707.967.5233 for more information. The tasting room also has wines that are not available anywhere else. The winery is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bvwines and Twitter at @BVwines.

If you missed my last post, check out the, J. Rickards Winery: Darn fine barn wine (VIDEO).

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

J. Rickards Winery: Darn fine barn wine (VIDEO)

I spent three days in Sonoma County in July and, on a tip from David Scheidt, was privileged to meet Jim Rickards at his Alexander Valley tasting room in Cloverdale, CA. My premise for the trip was to taste first-rate California Rosés and J. Rickards Winery made the list.

The J. Rickards 2012 Bistro Table Rosé is perfect for the European palate, with fragrant rose petal, strawberry, watermelon in a crisp, dry finish.

The J. Rickards 2012 Bistro Table Rosé is perfect for the European palate, with fragrant rose petal, strawberry, watermelon in a crisp, dry finish.

With the summer in full swing, I wanted to begin with J. Rickards aperitif-style Rosé; it was dry and rosy-pink. Perfect for the European palate, the slightly fruity wine is a sure “patio pounder.” The 2012 Bistro Table Rosé opens with fragrant rose petal and strawberry on the nose with a burst of watermelon and crisp, dry finish. The complex taste lingers and is versatile with food or by itself at poolside. Try this blend of 60% Aleatico, 40% Syrah (100 cases, $20).

Just off of California Highway 101 north of Geyserville near Silver Oak Cellars in Sonoma County, the family-run operation of both wine grape farming and wine production is owned and operated by Jim and Eliza Rickards. They planted the vineyards starting in 1976, augmenting the original 1908 Old Vine Zinfandel block planted using horse technology.

When Jim left the military in 1969 with his military cut and large mustache, his dream was to work and own a winery.

“I wasn’t born into the wine business,” Jim said. I didn’t get it for nothing. I have worked my whole life for it.”

Hand-crafting small lot wines since 1991, Jim Rickards goal is to showcase the diverse soils and micro-climates of his vineyards. He has pioneered environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and been a proponent of sustainable farming techniques.

Hand-crafting small lot wines since 1991, Jim Rickards goal is to showcase the diverse soils and micro-climates of his vineyards. He has pioneered environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and been a proponent of sustainable farming techniques.

As their property had been in disuse and very little left from the original land owners, except the 105-year-old vines of Old Zinfandel planted by the Brignole family, the Rickards had years of development ahead of them.

In fact, the dream was so strong, they passionately recreated the early 20th century winery. He was told there was no water on the 60-acre ranch and that the best land use would be a rock quarry. Today, there are two wells and two large ponds providing water for all irrigation. Jim revived the original Zinfandel vineyard, adding new Zinfandel vines and later added Cabernet and Syrah, grafting much of their new stock. Born out of the encouragement of friends who have enjoyed the small lots of hand-crafted wine, the couple has been making wine since 1991.

As Jim began to share his passion for his wines, it became evident he was gifting me a personal history of his love for hand-crafted wines. His story includes pioneering environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and a long-time proponent of sustainable farming techniques. He spoke of losing 20 acres of vines in the late 80s-early 90s and replacing them with new disease resistant root stock. Jim’s tale includes nearly losing the farm to now growing 150 tons of grapes per year on his 45 acres.

J. Rickards Winery planned use of flowers, grasses, bird boxes and rainwater collection all add to the Jim's phrase whenever a visitor arrives at the tasting room: "Welcome to my house."

J. Rickards Winery planned use of flowers, grasses, bird boxes and rainwater collection all add to Jim’s phrase whenever a visitor arrives: “Welcome to my house.”

Land stewardship is extremely important to Jim. The planting and mulching of wild flowers and grasses and the planned introduction of environmentally friendly insects all help to create pesticides free vineyards for 20 years. He builds bird boxes which have attracted songbirds like the Western Bluebird and Tree Swallow. His use of manures and composts help add minerals and beneficial bacteria to the vineyards. From collecting rain water to the building materials his home and tasting room are made of, Jim has created a winery which is sustainable and suitable for the land he farms.

While J. Rickards is Jim and Eliza’s dream, they raised two daughters and a son who do not carry their parents’ passion into their adulthood. This Sonoma County winery remains under the zeal and spirited direction of Jim who almost always addresses his visitors with “Welcome to my house.” Jim’s warm, inviting personality soon wins over those who visit the tasting room to try some of his 15 varieties of wine. He truly has lived out the phrase, “Friends are the family you get to choose yourself,” welcoming folks from all over into his circle.

The Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate, planted in 1908 from the Brignole Vineyard, is flush with Blackberry and plum. The Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate, is a prime example of the Alexander Valley with black cherry, raspberry and pepper.

The Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate, planted in 1908 from the Brignole Vineyard, is flush with Blackberry and plum. The Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate, is a prime example of the Alexander Valley with black cherry, raspberry and pepper.

While I tasted through much of his wines, I do want to recommend visitors taste side by side the Ancestor Selections Zinfandel, Estate and the Old Vine Zinfandel, Estate. I loved the elegance of the 2009 Ancestor Zin. The ripe black cherry, raspberry and spicy pepper were balanced and smooth (658 cases, $24).

Yet I am old school. I preferred the rich, old-world full-bodied “field blend” of the 2010 Zinfandel, Old Vine. The boysenberry, plum and gingerbread were gorgeous. The mocha and juiciness lingered. Jim blended 80% Zinfandel, 10% Petit Syrah, 5% Carignane, 4% Mataro and 1% of Alicante Bouschet (515 cases, $25). This is a must-buy for those not yet familiar with J. Rickards.

I appreciated Jim sharing how he hand-crafts his wines while pioneering environmentally sensitive vineyard practices and sustainable farming techniques. Yet despite all the accolades his wines have earned, Jim is passionate, not pretentious, allowing the wine to speak for itself.

J. Rickards dry Bistro Table Rosé with smoked salmon salad. Wow! Great combo!

J. Rickards dry Bistro Table Rosé with smoked salmon salad. This is a full-bodied wine that is great for almost any patio meal.

Before this gets too long, I also want to recommend J. Rickards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Five Sisters Blend. It is fruit forward but made in the Bordeax-style. He smiles and calls it an $80 Cab in a $34 dress (322 cases).

Finally, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Croft Vineyard is a Gold Medal winner at the 2013 North Coast Wine Challenge. I could smell and taste grapefruit, white peach, floral aromas, leading to fig and melon. This is great for summer lighter fare as well as richer foods like roasted chicken (1150 cases, $19).

With over 450 Sonoma County wineries, including J. Rickards, be sure to visit as there is sure to be wine to fit all tastes, pocketbook and pairing options.

For a short VIDEO introducing J. Rickards Winery and 2012 grapes, check out Wine Oh TV’s

Wine Oh TV’s Monique Soltani as she interviews Jim Rickards.

For more information on J. Rickards Winery, visit them online at http://www.jrwinery.com or call: 707.758.3441. They can also be reached via email: jim@jrwinery.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/J.Rickards.Winery. J. Rickards Winery is on 24505 Chianti Road, Cloverdale, CA, 95425.

If you missed my last post, check out the South African Mulderbosch Rosé delivers superb summer value.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

South African Mulderbosch Rosé delivers superb summer value

A strawberry pink color with lively hues, Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2012  combines aromas of ripe blood-orange, red berries black currant and is medium bodied.

A medium bodied wine with strawberry pink hues, Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2012 combines aromas of ripe blood-orange, red berries and black currant.

While my wife was shopping for cheeses for tonight’s dinner, I sidled over to the wine section of Nick’s Wine Corner in Sam’s Italian Deli in Central Fresno. While she spent minutes searching for a Ricotta Salata and hand packed Ricotta cheese, I had precious moments to determine which Rosé would end up with me in the pool later in the afternoon.

Surprise, surprise. While I did not know its accolades, I purchased a Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2012 because wine director D’Arcy Barrett insisted it would fit my taste profile. Case in point. Get to know what you like and share it with someone at your local wine store. She will be a wealth of knowledge to help you through an ever expanding maze or wall of wine.

Mulderbosch Vineyards hail from South Africa and winemaker Adam Mason is beginning to create quite a stir with both the 2011 and 2012 pinks. Mason previously worked at cult #wine leader Screaming Eagle and has teamed up with Andy Erikson, formerly of Screaming Eagle fame as well, to create a wonderful, medium body dry Rosé that works well with lighter fair but will hold up even with wood-fired pizza, grilled salmon or tuna or steak salad.

Mulderbosch Rosé aromas start with fresh red berries and a strawberry hue. Yet the berry fruit flavor turns toward blood-orange then lingers, finally giving way to pomegranate, black currant and a hint of nutmeg. The wine’s acidity is balanced and seems juicy but not sweet, dry and soft in the mouth and a satisfying minerality found in higher quality Rosés.

Whether you enjoy a Rosé as an aperitif or with a meal, the Mulderbosch Rosé are made with character and a must-have for summer drinking.

Whether you enjoy a Rosé as an aperitif or with a meal, the Mulderbosch Rosé is made with character and a must-have for summer drinking.

According to the Mulderbosch website, the Cabernet grapes are grown and selected to be processed as Rosé. This is not an afterthought wine. The grapes are thick-skinned and picked early to secure high levels of acidity and bright flavors in the wine. The Rosé is then bottled earlier than what might be expected to capture the fresh flavors.

Founded in 1989, Mulderbosch quickly became known for their racy Sauvignon Blanc. Since then they craft an award-winning range of wines that consistently earn top ratings and Wine Spectator “Smart Buy” and “Outstanding Value” accolades. The winemaking team is committed to creating wines that have outstanding value but “to conserve its unique natural heritage, landscape and natural biodiversity by implementing environmentally responsible management practices on the land and in the cellar.” (Michael Oliver, food and wine writer, published author and broadcaster).

For all of the #TeamRosé drinkers out there, the Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2012 should be on your radar each summer. This pink is a wonderful, low alcohol (12.5%) value wine and best buy that will linger in my cooler until next season (buy a case!) A wine to drink at pool’s edge, with seafood steaks or pizza, this South African Rosé is versatile that will keep you eyeing the last third of the bottle for yourself. Let me know what you think!

Besides buying the Rosé at Nick’s Wine Corner, click Wine-Searcher-Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé to find out where you can purchase this best buy South African wine. Retail $8-10.

For more information on Mulderbosch, visit them online at http://www.mulderbosch.co.za. They can also be reached via email: email tastingroom@mulderbosch.co.za

If you missed my last post on a central California coast Rosé, be sure to check out Branding Le P’tit Paysan as a fresh, friendly Rosé.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Branding Le P’tit Paysan as a fresh, friendly Rosé

TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews

Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre San Benito County Rosé Pierre’s Pirouette 2012

While a personal family crisis has shuttered much of my creativity this summer, it did not prevent me from seeking out and purchasing great Rosé bottles to drink poolside or enjoy with summer, backyard cuisine.

Today’s weekend wine choice for a hot August day was suggested by Fresno’s Stan Kato of The Grape Tray. In fact, Tim Fish of Wine Spectator mentioned the bottle in his July 22, 2013, 17 Pinks from California, article.

Ian Brand moved and is raising his young family in Monterey County to work its challenging vineyards, including the Spur Ranch Vineyard in San Benito County.

Ian Brand moved and is raising his young family in Monterey County to work the challenging vineyards, including the Spur Ranch Vineyard in San Benito County.

I’ll often shop at The Grape Tray because Stan takes the time to learn the taste preferences of both his Internet and local regulars and will alert me to bottles that may be of interest. So this week, instead of just picking up an old standby French Rosé to enjoy while I soaked in the pool, I purchased a bottle of Le P’Tit Paysan. Stan said why purchase another French when a California pink would “knock my socks off.”

Normally, the epicenter of a good Rosé is found in the South of France; however, increasingly quality pink wines are found coming from growers and vintners of central California. Personally, I love the smell and taste of watermelon and strawberry and historically wines with a higher percentage of Grenache, Syrah or Mourvedre produce some of the best dry Rosés.

According to Jeanne Howard of MC Weekly, Ian Brand is the winemaker and driving force behind seven boutique wineries in Monterey County and consults with four other labels. Yet it is his Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre San Benito County Rosé Pierre’s Pirouette 2012 that got me pouring today.

California’s 2012 vintage continues to create a buzz and Brand’s dry French-style Rosé is one of the best I have tasted this season in a state that has produced a plethora of outstanding examples. And winemakers are creating some outstanding pinks with Cinsault, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir.

In fact, I find myself scouring wine shelves looking for that perfect balance between fresh fruit aromas and a dry, crisp, light, refreshing taste. I also want to keep most of my Rosé purchases around $20 or less.

The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre had hints of rhubarb, blood orange but the dry Rosé shone its salmon hue and minerality much like its French counterparts.

The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre had hints of rhubarb, blood orange but the dry Rosé shone its salmon hue and minerality much like its French counterparts.

Tim Fish agreed with Stan when he wrote of Brand’s San Benito County gem: “Who needs French Rosé when California can make them this good?” I agree with Fish when he wrote Brand’s Le P’tit Paysan Pierre’s Pirouette is a “winning blend of Mourvèdre and Grenache that tastes like a pink from the Southern Rhône.”

Wine Enthusiast named Brand a rising star among winemakers in the April 2013 issue. To me his Rosé is a star which tops a great year of pink wine in 2012.

In my glass, the 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé showed a beautiful salmon hue that complimented the subdued strawberry and apricot aromas. I grew up in the Northwest and enjoyed a hint of rhubarb before the dry taste of watermelon took over. Finally, the finish lingered with blood orange. I appreciated how Brand kept the flavors in check, including a noticeable but lovely minerality. The wine is balanced, full and ends with a soft spice. I drank a full pour (maybe two) while sitting in the steps of the pool. Later, I finished the bottle with a plate of charcuterie. While his Rosés may improve with another year in the bottle, Brand’s Le P’Tit Paysan wine can be enjoyed immediately.

Brand believes his Rosé’s success comes because his vines have difficulty growing in the Spur Ranch Vineyard over the limestone seabed, white rocks and fossil shells. The struggle creates thicker skins and stronger flavors. The scraggly vineyard is not only tough grow in but to work with as well.

Ian Brand moved to Monterey County and works in San Benito County on purpose, seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils.

Ian Brand moved to Monterey County and works in San Benito County. He is seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils.

“I moved to Montery County and work in San Benito County on purpose,” Brand said. “I love working there, seeking out untapped potential in the rocky, limestone, old seabeds and shale soils. I believe the climate and soil is perfect for the vine’s growth on the south-facing Chalone Peak to ultimately produce my style of Rosé.”

The San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné says 2013 may finally have brought a perfect storm of rosé and it is the hottest thing in wine now. He calls rose a “serious enough wine to be crafted with care, made from grapes dedicated to that purpose.” I am excited to say that Brand’s 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé made Bonné’s list of wines that won’t disappoint. Check out
Think pink – a bumper crop of rosé this year for more information.

For those who act quickly, you still might be able to purchase a few bottles of this Rosé gem. Only 85 cases were produced and are selling for around $19.

The 2012 Le P’Tit Paysan Mourvèdre Rosé can be purchased in select small wine shops. Two local spots are The Grape Tray and Nick’s Wine Corner. Both can take orders over the phone and/or through their websites.

Be sure to check out Brand’s posts on the Le P’tit Paysan Facebook for more information.

If this wine does not seem to fit your fancy, Wine Folly’s Madeline Puckette will help you get in the know why and what kind of Rosé is right for you.

For more information on Le P’Tit Paysan visit the website or call Ian Brand at the winery: 831.212.3660 or through email: info@LPPwines.com. He is also on Twitter: @ptit_paysan.

For those who missed my latest posts, check out Calistoga: Brannan’s Grill for lunch or Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa 2012 Rosato.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

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