Archive for March, 2011

Humboldt’s Other Crop – Wine

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Born and raised in La Canada and Pasadena, John Cabot may have seemed an unlikely candidate to settle in the upper reaches of the redwood-filled part of California. But, John seemed destined to till the earth as a farmer, leaving behind his expected role in the family business.

Ironically, the Cabot family business also has its roots in the earth – the family has owned and operated Cabot & Sons Mortuary in Pasadena for over 100 years. With no regrets for the path he took, John does delight in the idea that his family’s lives seem to have been played out in the recent HBO series, “Six Feet Under.” In fact, he can cite more than a few coincidences, comparing the similarities of the fictitious cast with that of his own family. While John’s brother went into the business, as did some of his cousins, John, the self-described “black sheep” of the family, moved to Arcata, in Humboldt County. Here, he attended College of the Redwoods to study chemistry, microbiology and plant sciences. He became an avid gardener, turning every bit of lawn into vegetable production. Along the way, he also discovered he had a penchant for brewing beer – which would come to serve him well at a later date.

After graduating, he accepted roles with a few local organic vegetable producers, and eventually became the sole proprietor of Orleans Organics, growing 28 types of vegetables for sale at four famers markets per week in Humboldt, as well as numerous accounts at grocery stores and restaurants as far south as San Francisco. In 1998, a friend and local vintner helped him plant the first 3 acres of vines, in the Old Mill vineyard. John chose Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, based on some local success of these varieties. After tasting several Syrahs from different growing regions, John was convinced about the grape’s adaptability, and planted 1-2 acre blocks of Syrah about every year for the following 8 yrs. He ended up planting five, 2-6 acre vineyards, all on different soils. John and wife Kimberly now own two of those vineyards (Kimberly’s and Aria’s) and manage and contract fruit from the other three.

Join us as we talk with grower and winemaker John Cabot of Cabot Vineyards, about his love for Syrah, and the unique Humboldt County growing conditions. We may even hear something about Humboldt’s “other” crop, and why the Cabot vines might (coincidentally) send their roots “six feet under.”

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Show #284
(35:04 min 26MB)

Auction Napa Valley 2010

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Welcome to our video podcast: Auction Napa Valley 2010 – Video Show #100.

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If you’re into food and wine, the Auction Napa Valley is pretty much the center of the universe. Comprised of four days of incredible wine and food, this spectacular event invites attendees to enjoy the cool cellars and hospitality of renowned vintners. In addition, there are dozens of parties to choose from, each hosted by a vintner. More than 250 auction lots, yours for the bidding – from a single case of wine, to trips offering experiences not available anywhere else. You can also taste the barrel auction lots, participate in the e-auction, and attend the main event – a live auction held at the Meadowood resort.

Although there is plenty of wine, food and fun to be had, the primary goal of the event is to raise funds for local charitable activities. In fact, over the last 30 years, $90 million have been given to charities in the Napa Valley, to assist healthcare, education and low-income housing non-profit organizations. The genesis for the auction came from Robert Mondavi, who wanted to give back to the community, as well as celebrate the quality of wines from Napa Valley. Since its inception in 1981, this Auction has embodied the personality of Napa Valley and provided the model for modern charity wine auctions around the world.

Join us as we talk with vintners and attendees during the 2010 event. You’ll get just a small sampling of all the fun, food, and festivities that go along with attending the Auction Napa Valley.

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Temecula – A Case of Preconceived Notions?

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One doesn’t immediately think of Temecula when they think of California wine regions. Yet, along with the North Coast and the Central Coast, there is also a South Coast wine-growing region – a region which includes the Temecula Valley AVA. Located in a semi-rural section of Southern California’s Riverside County, the Temecula Valley is about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs.

This close proximity to major population centers and relatively easy access has made Temecula a prime wine touring region – both for Southern Californians, and for visitors to the area. However, despite its convenient location, Temecula’s wine reputation has been hampered as much by uneven quality as by vineyard devastation ten years ago from Pierce’s Disease, a bacterial infection of the grapevine which causes the foliage, the fruit, and finally the vine to die off. Arguably, it hasn’t helped matters that the region easily became a tour-bus Mecca for much of Southern California. This, in turn, lured many wineries to adapt their operations to this type of tourist, largely the antithesis of the usual North or Central Coast winery visitor.

Grape growing isn’t new to the region, as Mission grapes had been planted in the Temecula area in 1820. In more modern times, Vincenzo and Audry Cilurzo established the first commercial vineyard in the Temecula Valley in 1968. Brookside Winery planted its vineyard in 1971, and produced the first wines from Temecula grapes. Callaway Vineyard and Winery began farming grapes in 1969, and opened the first Temecula Winery in 1974.

Most of the 34 wineries in Temecula are family-owned. Many are relatively new, having planted their grapes and/or opened their respective doors since the early 2000s. The timing is no accident, as most of the vineyards needed to be replanted after the damage by Pierce’s Disease. Yet, catastrophe often brings opportunity, and in this case many of the vineyards were replanted with more suitable varieties on better rootstalks, and grown using new viticultural techniques. Growers in the AVA practice sustainable farming in what has now become an agricultural preserve.

As new winemakers and new ideas continue to filter into the region, Temecula makes no apologies for the wines they grow, or how they market them. And, since the quality of their wines continues to rise, and the visitors continue to arrive – via bus or otherwise – the region seems poised to bolster its reputation.

Join us as we visit with nine vintners from Temecula Valley, to hear more about their approach to wine-growing and wine-making. There may be a lot more to Temecula wines than you think – presumptions aside, of course.

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Show #283
(1:26:01 min 61MB)

The Art of Blending

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Welcome to our video podcast – The Art of Blending – Video Show #54.

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Blending, or the combining of multiple ingredients, has always been part of the art of cooking. So too has it always been a part of wine making and the creation of exotic mixed drinks. So, it should be no surprise that blending the flavors and aromas of Cognac with the culinary arts results in a sum greater than its parts. In fact, this beautiful marriage of components is likely to elicit a gastronomical delight. But, as with cooking, it is all about the quality of the ingredients.

There is a familiar saying, “All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac”, and the Cognac region of France is rightly famous for its brandy, a spirit made by double-distilling wine to create an eau-de-vie, a colorless liquid of about 70% alcohol. After years of aging in large oak barrels, the spirit takes on additional complexities and various shades of amber-gold color depending upon age. During this aging process much of the alcohol is lost through evaporation (called the “angel’s share”), and after final blending the spirit is reduced to about 40% alcohol. Cognac is usually consumed on its own as an aperitif (before dinner), as a digestif (after dinner drink), or used in cooking. In addition, it has also become very popular as an ingredient in many cocktails.

GrapeRadio is pleased to present, “The Art of Blending”, a tribute to the artistic efforts of master blenders, chefs, and mixologists who use palettes of flavors to create passion in the world of wine, food and cocktails.

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Distillation – The Birth of Cognac

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Welcome to our video podcast: Cognac Distillation – Video Show #99.

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After fermentation, the white wine is distilled into ‘eau-de-vie.’ To become Cognac, this involves a double distillation, for which only the heart, or middle portion of the second distillation is retained. The heads, too high in alcohol, and the tails, lacking harmony, are carefully removed and distilled over again to perfection.

For its first distillation, the unfiltered wine is brought to boil in the copper pot. Since alcohol evaporates faster than water, alcoholic vapors can be collected in the onion dome shaped cowl and in the swan neck, which slows the rectification process of the flavors, before passing into the long serpentine condenser coil. Vapors condense to the contact of the cooler and turn into a liquid known as ‘brouilli,’ with an alcoholic content of 27 to 30% vol. This is distilled a second time in a process called the ‘bonne chauffe’. The distiller’s key task is then to choose the moment when to isolate the ‘heart’ of this second distillation, extracting the ‘head’ and the ‘tail’ in the process.

This distillation process is a delicate and slow one. It lasts for approximately twenty four hours and requires the constant care of the distiller. It usually begins in November and is conducted day and night for several months. The rule binds it to stop at the latest at the end of March. Distillation is a key factor that gives Cognac its distinctive character. Its secrets are handed over from generation to generation.

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