Summer at the Winery

The summer growing season is now in full swing, with daytime temperatures reaching the 80’s and 90’s; then dropping thirty degrees overnight. This is the pattern that produces world class grapes – one’s that sweeten to maturity while keeping a fresh acidity. Only in Sonoma County (OK, and a few other places as well). It looks like this year is shaping up to be another early and big crop. Most growers are reporting big grape clusters and many of them.

The production staff will take a break from Thursday on this week to celebrate July 4th. In the meantime they are bottling a number of wines for our custom crush clients. Our 2013 Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will go into the bottle later this month.

Our summer entertainment calendar is full. Last weekend we entertained two groups. With our neighboring wineries we hosted Grill 116, a food and wine pairing where we smoked brisket of beef (check out this month’s recipe in Mike’s Kitchen). On Sunday we enjoyed the music of the fine local band Blue Moon and finished off the brisket. This month it’s Lazy Man (The Steve Pile Band) on July 13th; and The David Luning Band on July 27th. Our concert series – A Little Street Music – has established itself as a mainstay in the West County summer entertainment scene.

This month’s big news on the employee front is the wedding of our Tasting Room manager, Kaitlyn Healy. On July 26 she will wed local all around good guy Patrick Callagy. Do not expect her at the Tasting Room that day!

With summer in full swing there is no reason not to enjoy visiting the fine wineries of the Russian River Valley. The river, the redwoods, the wine…the good life. See you here.

 

Cheers,

Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery

Taft Street’s Smoked Brisket

Summer means barbeque and there are not many things better than smoked brisket. We usually go with the traditional Taft Street Zinfandel, but on very hot days a well chilled Taft Street Russian River Valley Pinot Gris hits the spot. This was a big hit at our recent “Grill 116” – wine and food pairing event we hosted with our neighboring wineries.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 beef brisket (5-6 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 cups oak or hickory chips soaked in water

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine chili powder, salt, sugar, pepper and cumin. Rub the mix over brisket, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Set up grill for indirect grilling and heat to low. Place ¼ wood chips on top of heat source.
  3.  Place brisket, fat side up, in an aluminum pan away from heat.
  4. Cook until tender with an internal temperature of 185. Replenish chips every hour for the first 4 hours, and spray meat with the apple juice-olive oil mixture to keep moist.
  5. Remove brisket and let rest for 20 minutes. Slice against the grain, pour the pan juices on top, and serve.

Makes 10 – 12 servings

 

Happy 32nd Birthday!

It was 32 years ago, on April Fools’ Day in 1982, when Taft Street Winery opened its doors in the Russian River Valley town of Forestville. As they say, the rest is history. Family and friends, including younger generations, continue making wines from local vineyards; we continue sharing our products at the drop of a hat; and, above all, we continue having the time of our lives doing what we enjoy.

With bottling season well underway, our new packaging is receiving much praise. The Tasting Room exclusives – 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris; 2013 Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir; and 2011 Alexander Valley Old Vine Zinfandel – are top of the line in both taste and appearance. Our 2013 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc will be the first release of our distributed wines, which have their own distinct labels. These two lines will be complemented by our “Garagistes” offerings later this year; again, with their own distinct look.

We are super excited about our third season of “A Little Street Music,” which will take place on the 2nd and last Sundays of the month, from May 25th through September 28th. Old favorites like The Pulsators, Bottle Shock, and The Sorrentinos will be joined by The Blue Moon Band, Steve Pile Band, Wendy DeWitt Trio, McKenna Faith Band, and The Daniel Castro Band. This is truly a showcase of Sonoma County musical talent. The concerts take place from 3 – 6pm and admission is free.

Although the recent rains have not eliminated the overall drought picture, they have at long last turned our hillsides bright green. Springtime shows Sonoma County at its best, with delightful weather and smaller crowds. Stop by for a taste of our new releases, bring a lunch and eat in our bocce/picnic area, and get a free charge your electric/hybrid vehicle while you’re here!

See you soon. Cheers!

Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery

Chicken and Cucumber Wraps With Ginger Vinaigrette

With warm weather upon us, outdoor entertaining becomes the rule and informal dishes make it easier on everyone. Here is a go-to plate which does not take too much preparation but delivers big on flavor. Moreover, it pairs well with Taft Street Rose of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc – two of our summertime favorites.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound shredded chicken breast
  • 8 ounces peeled, seeded and finely sliced cucumber
  • ½ cup neutral oil like corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 inch minced fresh ginger
  • Pepper
  • 3 sheets whole wheat lavash
  • 36 x 3 inch toothpicks

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine top seven ingredients in large bowl. Divide into fourths and spread over lavash sheets.
  2. Roll each sheet into a roll with the long side in front of you horizontally.
  3. Cut each roll into 12 pinwheels, securing each pinwheels with as toothpick.
  4. Pop the corks on the Rose and Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy!

Spring Into…Summer

The big news in the vineyards the last few weeks has been the abundance of  fruit on the vines. It looked like the beginning of a monster vintage. However, it’s always dangerous to predict anything about a grape crop so early in the season, and this year may be no exception. The last week has been a string of midsummer like days, with temperatures soaring into the high 80’s, and it appears this will continue for the next week. Its effect on the crop size is yet to be determined, but the weather has focused everyone’s attention. Another year in the vineyard.

In the winery Evelyn and crew are busy bottling client wines, while tending to our own barrels and tanks. Keeping things topped up will be the order of the day, until final Chardonnay blends will be put together in the weeks ahead.

I have just returned from a successful trip to our New York marketplace, where we have opened a number of new restaurant and wine shop accounts. Paul has been to Louisiana and Texas and will concentrate his efforts in the Southern California market in the weeks ahead. Clayton continues to oversee our successful transition to Morris Distributing in San Francisco and the North Bay Area.

May is the official start of the tourist season and in the days and weeks ahead we expect more visitors than ever enjoying our wines and picnic area. Our annual Spring President’s Club party is scheduled for Saturday, May 11th. On Sunday, May 26th our second Street Music season begins with local favorites – The Pulsators. If you haven’t been to a concert plan on doing so – they are a wonderful way to while away a Sunday afternoon.

You don’t need any excuse to stop by the Tasting Room for a glass of wine and a smile. You are welcome here!

Cheers,

Mike Tierney

President, Taft Street Winery

Winter in Wineland

After a very wet December, winter in Sonoma County has turned cold and dry. It is time for pruning in the vineyards, and getting the early white wines bottled. Our 2012 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Sonoma Country Rose of Pinot Noir, and 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris will soon be in the marketplace.

The results from the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition are in, and we are proud to announce GOLD MEDALS for our 2009 Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir Garagistes and our 2011 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir. Our 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay and our 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir won SILVER MEDALS. Winemaker Evelyn White will pour the award winning wines at Fort Mason in San Francisco on Saturday, February 16th.

Speaking of accolades, we received a nice review from renowned wine bloggers, Two Guys from Napa.

Scoring great wine at known favorites was easy at the 2013 Winter Wineland.  If you aren’t already familiar with these wineries, please change that.  We have consistently enjoyed their wines over the years and of the ones they were pouring last weekend, these are the wines we preferred the most:

Taft Street Winery – 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 2011 “Garagistes” Russian River Valley Chardonnay  (2030 Barlow Lane, Sebastopol, 707-823-2049)

February will be a busy month for us. Sales Manager Paul Young and I will travel to Southern California next week for an introductory visit with the folks at Ribevi Wines International. Later, Paul will head back east to work in the Massachusetts market. Later visits to Louisiana, Texas and New York are in the works. With Winter WINEland now behind us, Kaitlyn and crew have a month to get ready for Barrel Tasting, March 1 – 3 and March 8 – 10. February would be a great time to visit us, as the Tasting Room will be relatively uncrowded and the season’s new wines will be available.

Cheers,
Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery

31 Years Old and Still Kickin’

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. It was 31 years ago today, April Fool’s Day 1982, when Taft Street Winery officially became bonded winery #5547. A lot has gone under the bridge in the ensuing years, and we are still having great fun doing what we love. Friends and neighbors will help celebrate the occasion this Saturday.

We are pleased to announce a new partnership with Morris Distributing, a local specialty beverage distributor from Petaluma. Morris will distribute our wines in San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. The represent a number of artisanal brewers, and should widen our distribution significantly in San Francisco and the North Bay. We will continue to sell our wines directly from the Tasting Room and online.

April is a busy month. In additional to our party on April 6th, we will have a winemaker’s dinner at Big Bottom Market in Guerneville on Saturday, April 13th. The very next day, Sunday, April 14th, we will participate in the Sonoma County Vintners’ Association “Sonoma in the City Tour” in San Francisco. Winemaker Evelyn White will pair Taft Street wines with the food of San Francisco chefs at the San Francisco Film Centre from 11:30 – 3:00. Then on Tuesday, April 16th we will pour at the Grand Tasting at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio from 1:00 – 4:00.

Sales Manager Paul Young is on the road again this month with trips to Colorado and Louisiana planned. I’ll be in the New York market towards the end of the month. Clayton is busy smoothing out the transition with Morris Distributing, while Kaitlyn is preparing for the tourist season.

Everything is growing in Sonoma County at the moment, with the vines opening up and the hillsides incredibly lush. A perfect time to spend an afternoon visiting the Taft Street Tasting Room, enjoy a glass or two of wine and perhaps play a little bocce. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheers,
Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery

 

Herb Cheese Popovers

We cooked these for Thanksgiving and they were a big hit. They match well with many winter dishes – roasts, soups, and the like. Plus, they really work with our current house favorite – Taft Street 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup grated cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped hers (rosemary, parsley, sage …)
Cooking Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 450. Lightly coat a standard muffin pan with butter or oil spray. When oven is heated, heat the pan for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in bowl whisk together milk, eggs, butter, flour and salt until well blended. Add cheese and herbs and mix well.
  3. Remove pan from oven and pour batter into each cup about 2/3 full. You should use all the batter. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to 400 and bake 15 minutes more.
  4. Cool for a couple of minutes and serve warm. Enjoy!

Vintage 2012 – One for the Books

What a difference a year – or two – makes!

After two years of “challenging” harvest – wet springs, followed by fruit shattering heat waves, followed by early rains – this year’s harvest is headed for the record books as about as ideal as possible.

Production across the board is way above the last two years, and above the most optimistic predictions of even a few months ago. Even more important is the quality of the fruit. Growers and winemakers alike are raving about the purity and intensity of flavors. We processed more than 1100 tons of fruit this year, up from 700+ in 2011. In fact, we turned away a number of offers of grapes, as wineries throughout the county (and the state) found themselves with full tanks and barrels.

Our staff, led by winemaker Evelyn White and ably assisted by general manager Mike Martini, put in the 12 – 16 hour days week after week to get the job done correctly. Cleanup has begun and our hats are off to our talented and dedicated production staff!

So what do we do during the chaos of harvest? We party! First we poured our DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL/BEST OF CLASS 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. The next weekend we hosted our annual fall President’s Club party; and we ended the month with a harvest party!

How do we start this month? The Russian River Wine Road’s Wine and Food Affair, where we will pair our 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris with a spicy sriracha chicken. Also check out this month’s Mike Kitchen featuring Garlic Tarts.

There’s more going on. Our new sales manager Paul Young was off on his first outing – to New Orleans, and followed that with a quick visit to Southern California. In the winery we are making our plans and budget for 2013, and the energy and enthusiasm are palpable!

With the harvest over and things returning to normal, it’s a great time to stop by for a glass of wine. Kaitlyn and crew will help you enjoy the bounty of our special place.

Cheers,

Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery

Garlic Tart

Fall is upon us, and heartier dishes with red wine fit the bill. Here’s a festive vegetarian dish that works with a number of red wines – I particularly like the 2009 Dry Creek Syrah.

2009 Dry Creek Syrah.

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 ounce puff pastry
  • 3 head garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a fluted tart pan roll out puff pastry to line bottom and sides. Put waxed paper on bottom with weights, put in fridge for 30  minutes, then blind bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove weights and bake 10 more minutes.
  2. Put garlic in pan cover with water and blanch for 4 minutes. Drain. Fry garlic in oil for 2 minutes, add balsamic and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sugar, thyme and salt and cook until liquid has evaporated (10 minutes).
  3. Break cheese into pieces and scatter in tart shell. Spoon garlic and syrup over cheese. Whisk egg, cream, salt and pepper and pour over tart.
  4. Reduce oven to 325 and cook for 40 minutes when the tart has set. Cool.

Serve with green salad and Taft Street 2009 Dry Creek Valley Syrah. Enjoy!