A Morgan Braxton Team Member Visits Jordan Winery in Healdsburg

My Morgan Braxton team member Christine Oneto recently visited the beautiful Jordan Winery and Vineyards in Healdsburg, California. It already sounded like a great day but best of all she got to take the tour with local Bay Area food and wine legend Leslie Sbrocco. Read her full recap about her tour of Jordan Winery.

Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa

Wine Tasting Outside in Napa

Wine tasting is one of my favorite things in life to do.  Being able to visit beautiful places with amazing scenery, listen to music of your choice, with great company, have the wind blowing in your hair with the top down, and getting to taste many different wines is my idea of heaven.  There are so many wonderful places to go since most states now have wineries.

I went wine Tasting in Napa a few days ago while riding on the back of a motorcycle.  I know it’s probably not the safest thing in the world but the driver wasn’t drinking so I really got to enjoy myself.  After going to Napa numerous times and almost always trying different wineries, I find it incredible that I still have not gone to all of them!  I have some favorites but there are so many mind blowing wineries in Napa it is hard to pick just a few.

When wine tasting in Napa, it is important to pick an area within Napa and stick with it.  Many people don’t realize how large Napa is from one end to the other.  It can take more than an hour to drive from Calistoga, the most northern point, to Los Carneros, the southernmost point.  If you decide to visit wineries all over the Napa at once, that leads to a lot of wasted time driving and a lot less tasting! There are a total of 13 sub AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) in Napa.  AVA’s are the specific areas that wine comes from and the smaller the AVA, the more expensive the wine is going to be.  For example, a wine that is from Napa sounds more exclusive than a wine from California.  We can take this a step further, a wine from Rutherford (a region within Napa) is more exclusive than a wine from Napa since all the grapes have to come from the region that is identified on the label.  Depending on where you are coming from or staying, that would be a good way to pick the region to focus your tastings in.  If you are coming from San Francisco then stick with the southern part of Napa but if you are staying somewhere in Napa try and focus in the region you are staying in.

Time flies when you are having fun. I am always amazed when I go wine tasting that there is less time than I think!  Tasting rooms open at ten and almost all of them close at four; which is so early!  Who starts wine tasting at ten am?  Unless you are very dedicated to getting up early to get to the wineries, you already start losing out on those valuable tasting hours.  Each winery you visit takes at least a half hour and it takes time to get from one winery to another.  Designate the most detail orientated person in your group, who loves maps and scheduling, to come up with an efficient way to plan out your day to see the most amount of wineries with the least amount of driving.  Do not let this person have complete control of your day; wine tasting is meant to be fun after all. In Napa, there are so many wonderful wineries in such a concentrated area, you can focus on one small area such as Yountville, Los Carneros, Rutherford, St Helena or another, and save the other areas for a different day.  I would leave at least an hour in between appointments because the people running the tastings don’t appreciate you being late.  I would also highly recommend making appointments ahead of time as you will receive much better service.

Alexis Tasting at Silver Oak Cellars
Tasting at Silver Oak Cellars

After you have planned out your day, don’t forget to pick a lunch spot.  Drinking from start to finish without any food is the key to ending up as one hot mess.  Unless that is your goal, then I would either pack some snacks or pick a lunch spot.  I would actually pack an easy lunch like sandwiches or some bread and cheese and eat them at one of the wineries that allow food.  This saves time and money.  I am all about maximizing the time spent wine tasting so these are my pointers.

Hitting up big wineries with the famous names is always cool like Silver Oak, Opus One, Mondavi, Chateau Montelena etc. and I would aim for one of them because it’s fun to go somewhere famous.  However, I would really try to find out some of the smaller ones that are laid back, smaller production, less crowded and a different kind of experience.  It is so rewarding to discover a winery that you and your friends haven’t heard of or aren’t too familiar with and fall in love with it.  It feels more sentimental.

Have a wonderful time tasting in Napa and let me know if you have any questions with anything!


My interview for Open3Wines

We are really excited to be working with Rod Lloyd from TheWinedeal.com   He runs a great website featuring wines from all over the world at great prices.  We are lucky to have some of our wines featured on his website right now at a very competitive price.  I also was interviewed by him at blog.thewinedeal.com so check us out when you have a chance.  It is all about our wines, our company and views on Hong Kong.

Try some of our wines and cheers!

US Wine History

The United States is responsible for producing and consuming a huge portion of the world’s wines and this was not always the case; how we got here is interesting.  The United States in the worlds fourth largest producer of wine, the US population drinks more wine than anywhere in world as a country (not per person) and the wine industry is growing every single year.  Due to the fact that only 30% of the country considers themselves wine drinkers, the US ranks 38th in the world per capita consumption.  California produces 90% of the grapes in the US and is responsible for getting the US a serious player in the wine world due to the famous “Judgement of Paris” in 1976.

There is quite a messy history of how wine came to be what it is today which we can thank the explorers for bringing vines over to us many years ago.  Actually the viking Leiv Eriksson (yes remember way back to history class in elementary school, I haven’t thought of him since either) was responsible for the first vines being planted in North America in Newfoundland back in the 9th century.  Nothing came of it but that is when it started.  Then later, during the colonial period a 1619 Virginia law made it so that the male colonists of Jamestown had to plant ten vines in the hopes of making wine but that didn’t pan out either.  Having vineyards is very complex and some of the problems that killed the vines then still wipeout vines today.  Then it was the Phylloxera pest and other vine diseases which still affect areas today.  During that time it was easier for people to drink beer, ciders and spirits which is exactly what they did.  Tomas Jefferson who is responsible for so many different ideas also loved wine.  He was very interested in wine making drinking European wines, wanting to make wine in the US but never achieved it.  It was a passion of his but he did play an important role and will be remembered forever even if he never got produce his own wine.  His buddy George Washington also loved wine and tried planting vines in order to make wine but he didn’t succeed either.  Oh well, I am sure no one can call either of them under achievers.

During this time period of the latter 1700’s which was pre internet and communication was slow if there was anything at all, wine stuff was in the works all the way on the other coast as well.  The West and East coasts have very different histories so while the east coast was being colonized and vines were being planted but not working out, the west coast was having missionaries set up and vine were also being planted and having some better luck.  Franciscans produced the first wine in California in 1783 and that is the start of CA wine history.  In 1839 George Yount (the name may ring a bell, think Yountville, yes he named the place after himself like many others) landed in Napa and planted the first vines.  It took a long time for Napa to get where it is today.  Many of the people responsible for the Napa wine industry are very prominent names today.

Approaching now in the mid 1800’s we all know what happens, yes the California Gold Rush!  Wooohoooo, fun times which upped the population, gave us an economy and cities started developing.  Wine production increased simultaneously with the Gold Rush which is when the big names start emerging.  In 1849 a Hungarian man “Haraszthy” brought vines over from Europe and founded the Buena Vista winery in Sonoma.  A man by the name of Charles Krug worked for Haraszthy who parted ways to start his own winery.  Napa and Sonoma were on a an amazing streak with Beringer and Schramsburg emerging it seemed unstoppable.  Then in 1873, Phylloxera happened in Europe which is devastating to the vines often wiping out everything!  It is one of famers worst nightmares.  This drove more money and interest into the California wine market.  Phylloxera still affected the vines in CA but not quite as badly as in Europe which is how hybrids came to be which is combining of rootstocks (A plant onto which another variety is grafted) so from then on a lot of the wines we have today are grafted on American rootstock.

Anyway, everything was going really well for the wine industry until Prohibition happened.  That is what put a halt on production and progress for a long time.  Some wines were drank as sacramental wines but all in all this completely crushed the wine market.  Prohibition was from 1920-1933 which was enough time for people to lose interest and momentum for the US wine world.  Cheap wines became the prominent thing and this is what seems somewhat responsible for the bad reputation wine in the US has fought to overcome for so many years.  Everyone who was making wine had to stop, people couldn’t invest, drink, learn and explore all the interesting aspects of wine and momentum was lost.  After prohibition ended, cheap wines were being produced and it wasn’t until some time later when to drive to make California competitive again.  In 1938 Tchelistcheff, a Russian wine maker trained in France started teaching people like Mondavi, Martini and Grgich on the Frnech wine making techniques that brought the learning curve back up to speed.  In the late 1960’s, these legends along with some others started making some world famous wines that forever changed the level of California wines.

After the Judgement of Paris, everything only went up from there.  Sonoma and Napa weren’t the only great wine regions in the US.  There are so many great wine regions throughout the US now it would be unfair to only name a few, but, Monterey, the coastal regions, and so many others are producing fantastic wines.  Every state in US now makes their own wine and so many countries world wide make their own wine now.  I am not saying every country or state makes wine equivalent to that of the First Growths, but it would be a shame to not drink outside the box and taste what the world has to offer.  The US has come a long way in the last 40 years and you would being doing yourself a disservice to not try some of the great wine regions of the world. Cheers.