Wine Tasting

After much anticipation, we are proud to announce the inaugural release of Stomping Girl Wines.  Our two 2008 Pinot Noirs are so seductive that it is difficult not to keep it all for ourselves! Alas, we are releasing it…

Order Now and Save

Order yours before February 1st and save 10%.  Just put your order in the shopping cart and use the coupon code: PreRelease.

Celebrate with us at our February 6th 2-4 PM Release Party at the winery at 2323 4th St, Berkeley, pick up your wine there and also save on shipping.  Just place your order by February 1st and designate Pick up/Local as your shipping option.

Otherwise,  wine orders will be shipped out on February 1st, weather permitting.

Unique Opportunity

Stomping Girl produces very small lots of handcrafted, artisanal Pinot Noir and 2008 is our first commercial vintage.  Consider this an opportunity to buy some to enjoy now and some to tuck away in your cellar for future special occasions before it’s gone.  After all, there is only one first release of Stomping Girl Pinot Noir.

About a year ago, Uzi wrote about the “chore” of topping off.  Back then we only had 2 half barrels in our home cellar and 4 barrels at the winery to worry about.  This year we have 17 barrels at the winery to stir and top.  While we still don’t see it as a chore, it is a bit more work.  They are stacked two high in the back of the barrel room and special maneuvers are required to properly stir the lees and top off the barrel without overflowing.  But it is still a great opportunity to smell and taste the wine and to, for lack of a better word, touch base with the wine…even while it is resting snugly in the barrel.

So earlier this week at the winery, we sniffed, stirred, topped and tasted all 17 barrels of our 2009 Pinot Noir.  Pinot always seems to be evolving, from the moment of harvest all the way to the last drop in your glass.  But at this point in time, we found that our Carneros Pinot has an incredible nose, our Russian River Pinot already has a luscious mouthfeel and luscious flavors and our Sonoma Coast has nice fruit forward character.  Can’t wait to see what we discover next time…

barrel room

in the barrel room

fermentation bin  

We are increasing production this coming year, 2009, and purchasing some additional equipment–barrel racks, macro bins and barrels.  Uzi found some lightly used barrel racks and macro bins from a contact at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa and made arrangements for me to inspect the equipment in person before purchase.   

My trip to Joseph Phelps reminded me why Napa is such a sought after destination.  Uzi and I tend to visit Sonoma or other wine regions more frequently than Napa.  A drive on Hwy 29 is like a trip down the wine aisle at a large grocery store–Beringer, Mondavi, Sutter Home, Freemark Abbey.  There are countless B&Bs, Auberges, tour buses and gift shops. Despite all that, the scenery this time of year in Napa Valley is spectacular.  The grape vines are lush, full and green.  There are mountains, country lanes and weathered barns amid the vineyards.  And once you get off the beaten path you can find less frequented, more intimate wineries.  

joseph phelps   Napa vineyards

Unfortunately my business in Napa Valley this time did not include wine tasting or luxury accomodations.  I was there to inspect winery equipment–which passed the test–and camp with some friends.  Our big splurge was Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena where you can enjoy Calera Pinot Noir in a proper glass with your cheeseburger and fries. A fine way by me to enjoy Napa Valley.

I have to admit I am not always comfortable being responsible for choosing wine from restaurant wine lists.  There are so many things to consider:  region, varietal, producer, vintage, price and, of course, what people will be eating.  So most often, I eye the wine list for something familiar.  We are Pinot Noir drinkers so I’m comfortable choosing a California or Oregon Pinot or a Burgundy.   There are other French wines I am familiar with (thanks to many trips there and to Kermit Lynch down the street) that I often look for.  And of course with the cornucopia of wines available from California, there are always other California wines on wine lists that I know and like.

Republic of Georgia wine

obscure wine?

So when we went to dinner at A Cote, a Rockridge French/Mediterranean-inspired small plates restaurant known for their selection of wines by the glass, I didn’t think I would have trouble selecting a wine.   But as I scanned their extensive wine list I got nervous.  Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia…the Republic of Georgia!  Italy was well-represented but I have to admit as much as I enjoy them, I don’t know a lot about Italian wines.  The French wines on the list, except for a few, were relatively unknown to me.  And there was a tiny box at the bottom with 3 California wines listed.

This is where a wait staff experienced in wine is important and the bartender on duty came to my rescue.  When we asked him about a light, crisp white to start off the evening, he pointed us to the Codega/Rabigato, Niepoort, Tiara from Duoro. I know that Duoro is known for Port, the opposite of light and crisp, and one summer I got completely burned out on cheap vinho verde, so I was a bit skeptical. The waiter kindly brought us a taste of it and it was nice.  I was actually in the mood for a cocktail anyway but Uzi ordered a glass of it.  We were both pleasantly surprised with the Portuguese wine.  It was fresh and crisp yet creamy; perfect to start the meal with and one of the least expensive wines on the menu.  Thank you, bartender, for encouraging us to get out of the rut and try something different. 

Bartenders and wait staff always seemed pleased when customers order something out of the ordinary (in this case, considering the wine list, that was not hard!) especially if it based on their recommendation.  When possible they will often offer a taste of it, if you are unsure.  Try it next time you’re out, you may “discover” a new find.  I may even go back and forgo a cocktail for the Saperavi, Vinoterra from the Kakheti Valley, Republic of Georgia.  

It has been a while since Uzi and I have indulged ourselves with top notch Burgundy. grand_cru I won’t go into the reasons but I want to let you know that amidst what has become a daily barrage of economic and financial bad news, it was a pleasure to receive a bit of good news in this month’s newsletter from Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, CA.  He is offering Red Burgundy at 40% off by the bottle and 50% off by the case.   

We are rarely disappointed with a Kermit Lynch purchase–from his roses, to his Cote de Rhones, to his Burgundy offerings–and are definitely going to take advantage of that 40% off and take home some of these red Burgundies.  I’m thinking of picking up a 2006 Bourgogne Rouge that’ll work for any day of the week.  I think I’ll take a 2006 Santaney “Les Gravieres”–Uzi and I enjoyed a bottle of this years ago at Rivoli and liked it so much we tracked down the importer and bought a case.  I can’t pass up a 2005 Gevrey-Cambertin Domaine Boillot “Les Evocelles” on sale.  We shared a bottle of this on our anniversary a few years back and I can’t wait to do it again this year.  And finally, a 2004 Chambolle-Musigny on the list looks good.  I don’t think I’ve had this wine, it is one of Uzi’s picks and he has great taste in Burgundies. Besides, the name is so beautiful and fun to say that it is nice to have a bottle around to remind you of this poetic sounding and poetic tasting wine. Try saying it… “Chambolle-Musigny…”  

Burgundy has served as inspiration for our own production of Pinot Noir from Carneros, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sonoma Coast.  So this is a perfect opportunity to taste a few bottles and keep us on track to producing a Burgundian-style Pinot Noir.  

Go enjoy some for yourself.  And let us know of any other wine deals you come across.


Beautiful Anderson Valley


Beautiful Anderson Valley

We recently spent a few days in the Anderson Valley (thank you Grammy for keeping the kids) sampling the region’s Pinot Noirs and talking to growers and wine makers.  If you haven’t been there, the area is incredibly beautiful–pastoral and bucolic, almost unreal.  The green hillsides, small vineyards, majestic redwood forests, flocks of sheep, organic cuisine and nice, interesting people make it a fabulous place to visit if you are looking for a quiet place to do wine tasting.  We have stopped there several times in the past on our way to and from Mendocino.  This time we went specifically to spend time in the valley.


top of Raye's Hill

top of Raye's Hill

Pinot producer Raye’s Hill has a guesthouse on the hill with amazing views of the valley where we spent 2 nights.  Dan and Raye Sokolow own the winery and a small vineyard and live on the property.   We enjoyed a bottle of their 2003 Pinot Blanc which was lovely and refreshing.  We also enjoyed the silence surrounding the house.  At night, the only sounds were those of raindrops and frogs.

There are essentially two towns in the Anderson Valley along Hwy 128.  One is Philo, which if you blink you’ll miss it.  The other is Boonville which is also tiny but large in comparison–a couple of good restaurants and cafes, a couple of shops, a school and the county fair grounds.  Many residents seem to piece together various part-time jobs to make a living.  One person who greeted us at the organic yarn and spinning store also sat us for dinner that night at the Boonville Hotel.  Another gal I had noticed sitting in the ice cream “shop” earlier in the day, served us dinner that night. 

Our first wine tasting stop was Breggo where owner/winemaker Doug took time from bottling to talk about the wine and the vineyards.  We loved his Anderson Vally PN as well as a single vineyard PN (also from Anderson Valley) he produces. 

Next stop–Toulouse.  The wine maker, Vern, a former fire captain, talked extensively with us even though he was also in the middle of bottling.  We took home some of his acclaimed estate grown Pinot Noir (2006)–very Burgundian in style.

We stopped at Roederer because I have a soft spot for sparkling wine.  We caught them in the process of disgorging and watched them hand-label their magnums.  That was interesting but it seemed so huge and corporate in comparison to the smaller wineries in the area. 

Navarro is also relatively large but is always a pleasant place to visit.  We stopped there to get a bottle of their dry Gewurztraminer and watch the baby doll sheep roam their vineyards as a natural, sustainable form of weed control.

natural weed control
Navarro’s natural weed control
distinct pruning technique

distinct pruning technique

Next day we met with a Pinot grower and wine maker right outside Boonville.  She generously spent an hour walking thru her vineyards with us, discussing her specialized cane pruning methods and lamenting the lack of rain.  She seems to take great care in the pruning of her vines and of her vineyard workers. Her wine was delicious too. 

Despite the fact that it rained while we were there, everyone was concerned about the water shortages they are experiencing. The situation is so dire there that on our last day communities were gathering from all over the valley holding rain dances in Ukiah, Willits, Mendocino and elsewhere.  We missed by an hour the rain dance gathering in Boonville held during lunchbreak of the monthly permaculture meeting.  According to one source, “A lot of pot (was) going to be smoked there.”  The area is known for its quirky, eccentric residents.  Quirky or not, you decide.  What we confirmed is that there are some amazing Pinot Noir, Alsatian varietal and sparkling wine producers there in that beautiful, beautiful place.

Last night I watched a 60 minutes story about scientists that managed to put Resveratrol in a pill.  

My first thought was, this is great! Another story about the benefits of drinking red wine.  I recalled that a 60 minutes show 17 years ago titled The French Paradox, set off a steady upward trend in wine consumption, I thought, this must be a good story for wineries.

The French Paradox, the apparent French health, longevity and lower rate of heart diseases, despite a diet reach in butter and meat, was attributed to regular consumption of red wine.  One particular ingredient in red wine, Resveratrol, was identified as the magic ingredient.  The race was on to put it in the al- American convenient package, the pill.

Now the scientists would have you believe that you would need to drink thousands of bottles of wine a DAY, to match the benefits of one pill. Hmmm, I wonder how the French manage that?

Of course, any reminder that wine consumption, in moderation, is good for you, is a good thing. I’ll take that. Especially since the government makes you put the opposite claim on a label.

I do have a little problem with a pill, though. 😉

One can’t swirl and sniff a pill, you can not enjoy a pill’s aroma, flavors, body and mouth feel, nor can you admire it’s legs as it goes down and settles at the bottom of a glass after each sip. A pill, can’t make you appreciate the company of others as well as a good glass of wine can. Well at least not that pill, unless there are other ‘active ingredients’

So, take your wine in a Pill if you think it may make you live longer, however, wine in a glass will make you live happier!



Boy, was Christmas a bonanza when it comes to books! I have been reading non-stop thanks to my in-laws, Kathryn and the Berkeley Public Library.  (By the way, re: Kathryn’s and my friendly disagreement, I agreed to only purchase books I consider as reference books, or a classic must haves, and use the library for the rest.)

The books I read over ‘winter break’: 

The Billionaire’s Vinegar, by Benjamin Wallace, thank you Eric Cohen ( for the recommendation.  I could not put it down, gone in 72 hours.   The book traces some of Bordeaux’s Chateau Lafite bottles that were supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson and were sold at record prices at auctions and privately.  It has everything–mystery, international intrigue, and obscenely rich people paying obscene amounts of money for very old wine.  There are elaborate wine auctions, multi-day wine tasting, gourmet dining extravaganzas with all the big names in the wine world–critics, writers, collectors and winemakers.  The amount of detail is mind boggling.

Red White and Drunk All Over, by Nathalie MacClean.  Loved it. The woman loves wine and it shows.  I mean, not just the whole lifestyle nonsense with the semi-euphoric fruit bowl descriptions you get from some wine writers.  She is funny too.  Check out her instructions on how to properly open up a bottle of  Champagne.  And her lovely recounting of her experiences in Burgundy, starting with a Domaine De La Romanee Conti private tasting; thru her experiences as a sommelier and finally to a ‘damn the torpedoes’ dinner with Jay McInerney.  Reading this book is like listening to a good friend telling entertaining stories.   Part way through the book I had a nagging suspicion that Ms MacClean has been snooping around my house. How else could I explain that I have just about every book she mentions?  I can almost understand the references to several of the wine books I own and Kermit Lynch etc. etc., but, when she mentioned the Long Tail by Chris Anderson,  I knew something was up! Fess up Nat!

The Emperor of Wine , by Elin Mccoy ,a fascinating tale of how an unknown lawyer from  Monkton, Maryland, Robert M. Parker Jr., became the most influential wine critic in the world.  Creating an almost religious following, he changed the way wine is made and eventually created what appears to be a backlash movement (see The Battle for Wine and Love)  against his preference for big, fruit forward, high alcohol wines. Very detailed and thorough writing by McCoy who used to be  Mr. Parker’s editor  at Food & Wine magazine and hence had unprecedented access to him. Regardless of which side of the Parker debate you fall, this book is a must read.

The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I Saved the World From Parkerization, by Alice Feiring; I had high hopes as I walked down to Kermit Lynch and bought the book (I missed the book signing in August, darn!)  While a good read, I came away slightly wanting.  Given the ambitious title, I was hoping for some convincing arguments to be made.  Instead, most points came down to a difference in taste preferences. Based on the title, I had hopes that Ms. Feiring would use the opportunity to make a good case against the homogenization of the wines currently underway, in her opinion, to impress the mighty palette of Mr. Parker.  I was hoping she would make a logical and convincing case against the creation of McWines and in support of diversity of wine styles.  She didn’t in my book.  For me, the book was also too diluted by anecdotal stories of her love life. Maybe that was the point of her approach, that wine is like love—you may encounter many disappointments before finding your one true love.  Not sure.  But it seems the search is still on for someone to save the world from “Parkerization.” 








From time to time, I like to observe other people’s method of wine tasting.

Most practice the age old ritual of see, smell, taste, spit, or, the more American way:  see, smell, taste and swallow.  I started writing this post and then saw that The Wine Tasting Guy has a good post on the Ritual. I think this method works for many wines that are consumed young. Depending on the situation and the wine at hand, though, I may change the order.  I don’t mean spit first. Then what order, you ask? A very old bottle or a delicate varietal may not give you very long to smell the aromas, so I do that right away. For the most part, the color is not going to change very quickly during the tasting, especially for old bottles, so no need to waste precious time and inspect the wine immediately.  But, the bouquet of an old Pinot Noir can be fleeting and change from one moment to the next. One of the biggest pleasures I derive from wine smelling is observing the changing aromas throughout the course of the bottle. Changing taste and body, or mouth feel, comes next and color last. Try tracking these changes once and you will see what I mean.

One last smelling exercise. Kathryn makes fun of me when I do it, but then I caught her doing it herself once (she tells me it was only to make me laugh).  Vacu Vine wine pump

A Vacuvin is (picture at right) a pump device used to create a vacuum in a partially field bottle of wine in order to eliminate oxygen contact.

When we end up with a partial bottle, I pump it until I feel the vacuum pressure build up, indicating all the air is out. At that point I quickly lift it to my nose and then push on the pump handle to release the trapped wine aroma straight into my nose. An Aroma Bomb! The small pleasures of life.

« Previous Page