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Friday, November 26, 2010

11/30 - An Evening with Wine Legends Nils Venge of Saddleback Cellars & Jim Allen of Sequoia Grove

Wine legends Nils Venge & Jim Allen
Slow Living Radio visited with two legends of the wine world, Jim Allen of Sequoia Grove Winery and Nils Venge of Saddleback Cellars to talk about wine, life, and world travels!

Nils Venge - Nils graduated from UC Davis in 1967 with a BS in viticulture and a minor in enology. In 1970, after serving a tour of duty in Vietnam, Nils began his career in the wine industry as a vineyard supervisor for Charles Krug Winery and later, Sterling Vineyards.  By 1973 Nils made the transition into winemaking by becoming winemaker and general manager for Villa Mount Eden.  

In 1982, Nils joined forces with Dennis Groth to form Groth Vineyards and Winery. Nils served as winemaker and general manager. In 1985, Nils was bestowed the honor of being the first American winemaker to receive a perfect ‘100 Points’ from Robert Parker Jr. for Groth’s Reserve Cabernet. In that same year, Nils began making wine under his own label, Saddleback Cellars, from grapes grown on property he and his father-in-law owned together. Saddleback Cellars’ first vintage was released in 1982. 

Nils parted from Groth Vineyards in 1993 to become a consulting winemaker and to make wine under his own label, Saddleback Cellars.  Nils later added Venge Vineyards, a Venge family operation with his son Kirk.  Envy Wines is his newest collaborative venture.  In addition to now consulting for Fortress Vineyards, Nils' winery clients include such prominent wineries as Keenan, Del Dotto, Plumpjack and Moss Creek. 

Jim Allen's background includes a Bachelor's Degree in psychology from Temple University, a Master's Degree in political science from the University of Colorado and graduate studies in philosophy at Innsbruck, Austria. While serving in the army, Jim studied German and then worked as an interpreter with the United Nations in Germany, Austria and Greece. During these years, Jim educated his palate to European wines and developed his philosophy of traditional European attitudes toward wine and winemaking. He believes that wines should not be exaggerated expressions of their varietals and creates his wines to be approachable and elegant while still young and continue to develop character and complexity with age.

Founded by Jim Allen and his family in 1980, Sequoia Grove is named for the grove of giant redwood trees which encircles its century-old building in the Napa Valley. The 24 acres of vineyards surrounding the winery lie in one of Napa Valley's most superb microclimates, midway between Rutherford and Oakville on the famous Rutherford Bench, in close proximity to Beaulieu Vineyards on the north and Opus One on the south. Not only did the Allen Family single-handedly transform their property by completely remodeling the property's old redwood barn into a modern winery and planting acres of new vines capable of producing an outstanding Bordeaux blend, they were also the developers of 110 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the Carneros district which new comprise the Domaine Carneros estate of Champagne Taittinger.  ###

Monday, November 22, 2010

11/23 - Italian Winemaker Dario DeConti of Ca' Momi and Dr. Judith Caldwell, Chairwoman of the Arts for Yountville

Chef & Winemaker Dario DeConti

Slow Living Radio celebrated the Italian lifestyle in appreciation of food, wine, art and culture. Guest chef & winemaker Dario DeConti dished up the pleasures of the Italian table from Ca' Momi, while Dr. Judith Caldwell offered the broader brush stoke of a deep and meaningful love letter of art and culture from Italy to Napa Valley.

The Ca' Momi Story - Ca’ Momi Wines are named for our family home in Northern Italy. The name also pays tribute to Momi dea Bionda, the previous owner who was famous for his obsession with the house, his grapes and his wine. 

A Dario original at the Enoteca
at Napa's Oxbow Market

 When we came to America, we knew we wanted to make wine here, and to capture some of the spirit of our family traditions.  Of course, we are just a little bit obsessive about our wines, too! We want them to be fresh, fruity, and full of life.  They are wines to be enjoyed. 

Dario De Conti and Stefano Migotto, our winemakers, spend a lot of time finding just the right sources for our grapes and wines in California.  Napa Valley is great for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and our red and white table wines: Rosso and Bianco.  Carneros for Pinot Noir, and other vineyards around California for our Pinot Grigio, and our Moscato.  Also, we have introduced something new to California; Ca’ Secco, the first Prosecco style sparkler made in California.

And for dessert...
the amaretti!

We are the first winery in the U.S. to feature the Nova Twist closure. This plastic cap makes the bottle 100% recyclable (unlike traditional metal screwcaps), has no sharp edges, and has approximately 1/3 the carbon foot print of metal screw caps. That’s good for Mother Earth!

La Dolce Vita: In Italy, wine is a part of life, and we want you to make Ca’ Momi wines a part of your life, too.  We craft impressive Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices, so that you can enjoy a great glass of wine every night for dinner, just like we do!

Dr. Judith Caldwell
Dr. Judith Caldwell’s richly diverse professional experiences in education have provided her with opportunities to incorporate the arts into both the early elementary grades as well as the University level . . . and now into the community. Judith was a pioneer in conceptualizing, planning and developing Art Enrichment Programs for the Connecticut Public School System and was a pivotal co-founder of the Napa Valley Charter School, a Waldorf-based, arts-infused educational setting.  Judith’s academic degrees and educational background include a Doctoral Degree in Staff Development from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, a Masters Degree from the University of Chicago Investigating the Process of Learning, a Masters Degree in Spirituality from Santa Monica University, Certification in Art Therapy from The New School of Social Research in New York City and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame in South Bend, IndianaDr. Caldwell is an Advisory Board member of Insight University’s Masters degree program in Leadership based in New Mexico. A community-minded and service-oriented woman, Judith’s 5-year political term on the Yountville Town Council demonstrated her commitment and creativity to the town of Yountville.

An art glass sculpture by artist
Gordon Heuther is one of many brilliant
pieces throughout Yountville procured
through Dr. Caldwell's efforts

Judith served on the Napa Valley Arts Council and Napa County Commission of Art and Culture. She is now the Chairwoman of the Arts in Yountville, California, where she lives with her husband, Jay, and their son, Michael.  Extensive travel throughout the United States, Europe (especially Italy) and Canada as well as her ministerial work with multiethnic people have afforded her opportunities to understand, respect and appreciate cultural diversity.  ###


Friday, November 12, 2010

11/16 - Miles & Marko Karakasevic, Winemakers & Master Distillers of Domain Charbay

Miles & Marko atop their
Charbay Alambic Distiller
Slow Living Radio visited with father & son master distillers Miles & Marko Karakasevic, 12th and 13th generation Yugoslavian winemakers and distillers who are Napa Valley legends!

Miles Karakasevic is a European winemaker and Master Distiller. Born in old Yugoslavia, he apprenticed in the tradition followed by the Karakasevic family since the 1750's. Following in their footsteps, learning the secrets of his forefathers, he eventually became certified as a Master Distiller, a title earned by equaling or bettering the work of another Master. Along the way, Miles studied Enology and Viticulture at the University of Belgrade and in Germany. Immigrating to the New World in 1962, Miles first stopped in Canada and Michigan before eventually settling in California in 1970. In 1972, he and Susan purchased the seventeen-acre property on Spring Mountain that now is home for the family as well as for Charbay. In the following years, Miles worked with some of the best wineries, including Italian Swiss Colony and Beringer Vineyards, where he was assistant winemaker. Longing to distill, he convinced a client to import an Alambic Pot Still from Cognac. Miles started two of the three distilleries in Mendocino County.

Miles tends the aging spirits

In 1983, he and Susan began making their own wines and brandy. Being comfortable with all aspects of fermenting and making many wines, even champagne, now he was excited to begin a brandy program. Miles has been distilling with his family ever since.

Marko Karakasevic at the "still"

Marko Karakasevic grew up around pumps, hoses and tanks. This was his father's world and the family always lived close to the winery where Miles, his father, made wine. Marko graduated from St. Helena High School and spent a year at Davis where he began his studies in sports physical therapy. However, harvests would find Marko working in various Napa Valley wineries.

After working in a Napa Valley tasting room, he discovered he liked all sides of the wine business—from production to sharing his winemaking experience with visitors. In the fall of ’95, Marko realized he wanted to apprentice under his father and be the 13th generation to carry on the Karakasevic family tradition. That's when his parents realized: "He's the man we've been looking for." From that point on, he has submitted to the same tough routine of generations of Karakasevic men and women before him: learning the winemaking, the distilling and the running of a family business where one must wear many hats. The Charbay Distillers' Port is a spirited salute to this father and son team. Marko conceived the idea of Charbay's whole-fruit flavored vodka program. He found the fruit and designed the packaging. Now, with two generations of enthusiastic winemakers/distillers behind the Charbay label, there are even more releases of "perfumes for the soul” to watch for.

Give Marko a few days off and he’ll head down to Baja. There’s a little town where they all know him and he stays with the fishing boat captains. BV, ‘Before Vodka’, his travels were longer. One was a summer trip through South America with time in Cusco and Machu Picchu during the Summer Solstice. Lately his trips have been New York City and Las Vegas! Marko, like everyone in this family, likes to travel & explore. Marko, no matter where he roams, always loves coming home to his St. Helena and his mountain top. He carries on the tradition as generation XIII.
Marko became a Master Distiller with the release of his Doubled & Twisted Light Whiskey. 

Cheers, Marko!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

11/9 - Live from the 2010 Santé Restaurant Awards in Napa Valley

Tuesday, November 9th was a special edition of Slow Living Radio as we broadcast live from the 13th annual Santé Restaurant Awards at the Villagio Inn & Spa in Napa Valley.  Talk about traversing the globe!  We made the most of the event and our time as we visited with three internationally distinguished professionals -Sebastiano Ramello representing "Italy's breadbasket region" Piemonte, Italy, expert mixologist Charlotte Voisey from the UK, a brand ambassador for William Grant & Sons, and Santé award-winner Chef Phillip Ponticelli from Citricos at Disney's Grand Floridian in Orlando. 

The Piedmont Wine Region, particularly the Langhe sub-region, is the land of castles, vineyards and romantic hills shrouded in mist. The Alps hover over this lovely wine region. The region's name in fact makes reference to this. Piemonte means "at the foot of the mountain." In autumn, thick fog hovers over the brightly colored hills (the red and orange vines actually "glow" with the reflection of the snow-capped Alps) and you can just make out the castle tops and village spires poking out from the mist. Piedmont is located right in the north-west corner of Italy, with Switzerland to the north, France just west and the beautiful Mediterranean coast and fishing villages of Liguria only an hour and a half to the south. Piemonte is often called the "Burgundy of Italy," as it is most famous for its boutique wines and outstanding gastronomy (Piedmont is home to the famous white truffle). In fact, the region attracts gourmet travelers from all over the world who go there to enjoy regional delicacies such as risotto from locally grown rice, white truffles, and a cornucopia of luscious cheeses paired with some of the best wines of Italy. 

Sebastiano Ramello of Piemonte, Italy with
Slow Living Radio Host Sally James
 This type of traveller has been called the "Gastronaut," and Piedmont is firmly on the Gastro-map. The three best areas in Piedmont (for scenery and quality of wines) are the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato sub-regions. The principal city in Piedmont is Turin, a beautiful cosmopolitan city known for its superb chocolate makers. Winemaking in Piedmont is genuinely artisan and boutique. Most wineries are family-owned. Each label has hidden behind it the face, the work, and above all the secrets and traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. Vineyards tend to be very small and neatly kept. Entire villages are dedicated to wine production and wine is part of daily life. The harvest festivals in Piedmont are almost as wild as Carnival (Carnaval), and nearly everyone participates in the local festivities. The wine villages of Alba and Asti are two of the most well known, and are definitely good choices as bases for exploring wineries and do some sightseeing. Alba holds the annual Truffle festival which attracts chefs from all over the world and Asti holds the medieval "Palio" festival, a lively event that presents the wine award Douja D’Or. The super star wines from the region are the DOCG Barolo, Red Roero and Barbaresco Cru wines named after the villages themselves where these Cru vineyards lie. They are tremendously rich red wines made with the native Nebbiolo grape. Piedmont is also home to many other native grape varietals such as Dolcetto and Barbera (two of the best red grapes, after the Nebbiolo) and Cortese (a white varietal used to make the deliciously fresh Gavi di Gavi wines) and another native white called Arneis, known for being highly perfumed and delicate. Piedmont is an absolute must for food and wine lovers visiting Italy. While Tuscany is full of monumental art cities such as Siena, Pisa and Florence, Piemonte's attraction is its small charming villages (like Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Verduno, Barolo, Monforte, Diano D'Alba, and Gabiano). The food is simply out of this world, the landscape is stunning, the wines are sublime and the people extremely friendly – all of the components for an unforgettable gourmet tour! (from Journalist Sebastiano Ramello)

Charlotte Voisey of  William Grant & Sons talks the finer points
of mixology with Slow Living Radio co-host Scott Lewis
Charlotte Voisey - The lovely international award-winning mixologist visited with us to discuss the finer traditions of blending spirits with Hendrick's Gin from William Grant & Sons of Scotland at the top of the list!  Charlotte Voisey has directed bars in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and London. Charlotte first took an inerest in mixology under the guidance of the Gorgeous Group in London in 2002 when they opened Apartment 195 together, which was soon to be awarded Bar of the Year. Charlotte went on to win the title of Best Bartender at the UK Bar Awards in 2004, and a Silver Medal at the Female Bartender Championships in Italy.  Today, Charlotte Voisey travels the globe showcasing top brands as an ambassor for William Grant & Sons.

Chef Phillip Ponticelli visits with Slow Living Radio
before accepting a Santé Award for Citricos at
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort 
Now in its thirteenth year, the Santé Awards program was created to recognize excellence in restaurant food, wine, and spirits service and hospitality. The program includes four distinct categories: Culinary Hospitality, Wine Hospitality, Spirits Hospitality, and Service Professional.