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The Elevation of Cava: Cava de Paraje Calificado

September 11, 2018 - 7:25am
Areas of Cava Production

Late last year, the Cava de Paraje Calificado designation was signed in to reality when 12 qualified estates passed the rigorous debate and refinement process.

First announced in 2016, this new designation elevates Cava that have a greater personality, more complexity and more expressive terroir – than other Cavas.  The intention is to create a level playing field with Champagne, and to elevate Cava in the world of sparkling wines.

How do we know if it’s Cava de Paraje?

When we think of, Cava we must first remember that Cava regulations are not geographic like most.  The rules that govern Cava at it’s basic level govern what grapes are used and how they are fermented.  Cava must be made from Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trepat, Garnacha or Pinot Noir, with the vast majority made from Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parallada, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.  It must also and made in the classic method, with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. To get to Paraje, wines must be aged at least 36 months in the bottle. 

But additionally, they must be Brut (less than 12 grams of sugar per liter), and also be vintage dated.  They are also the Grand Cru of Cava, and strict selection standards are adhered to much like the great Bordeaux classification of 1855.

More importantly, the vineyard sites for Cava de Paraje are much stricter, and vines must be 10 years old, be from a previously qualified vineyard, and have a maximum yield of 8,000 kg per hectare.  The kicker?  They must also be hand harvested.  That’s a lot of work for some sparkling wine!

The real question is, do these new regulations make wines distinct enough to stand out against other DO Cavas, and more importantly ,other sparkling wines of the world?

By requiring a minimum bottle age of 36 months, with no maximum, you can get some interesting results (see below!).  It’s not going to be a case of a consumer recognizing quality based on Paraje.   Looking at other wines of Spain, this classification compares to Rioja, where you cannot strictly tell quality based on Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva – rather, it’s a distinction of style, and personalty.

Codorniu Courses in DO Cava

In an effort to promote the new Cava de Paraja, the Cava house Codorniu presented three new wines from their portfolio, along with the three current bottlings of Anna, a value oriented Cava.

2013 Jaume Codorniu – Gran Reserva Brut D.O. Cava

A blend of Xarel-lo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, intense floral notes waft out of the glass.  Blended from a selecting throughout the vineyard, the Pinot noir is harvested from the coldest spot, while the Xarel-lo was specifically chosen for aging potential . Aged an amazing 40 months on the lees, the marzipan and rich brioche show well with golden apple and ripe peach.  A beautiful example of an aged Cava.

2007 Finca la Pieta  – Gran Reserva Brut

Representing Codorniu’s first Cava Paraje Califcado release, this was a rare opportunity to taste the possibilities.  A stunningly classic and elegant Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay), this was a rare treat.  Aged 90 months – you read that right – on the lees, this was an experimental wine.  Fresh and crisp, the finish was endless, and the nose subtle.  Light Apple blossoms, golden delicious apple, with a sweet crème brulèè finish.  The chardonnay was picked from a microblock that sits on the hilltop of the vineyard.

2008 457 – Gran Reserva Brut

This show stopping blend was made in celebration of Codorniu’s 457th harvest, using a blend of three single blocks, blending terroirs, and varietals.  A flagship of the brand, it is 10% Xarel-lo, 45% Chardonnay, and 45% Pinot Noir.  Tasting all the world for a vintage Champagne, this was a gorgeous wine and I could have easily fallen in love with it were it not for the $175 price tag.  As harvests continue however, there will be a 458, 459 and beyond so let’s hope they make more than 1,000 bottles of the next one!

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Gin & Tonic: Coastal Spirits Farallon Gin

September 7, 2018 - 11:00am

Gin.  The magical elixir that not only cures anything that ails you, but mixed with the right tonic, will cure Malaria (well it used to anyway).

Recently, I had some friends visiting from Australia.  One of the requests they made was for “one of Thea’s famous cocktails”.  As a hostess who aims to please, I couldn’t let them down and started down the path of all things gin.

Luckily for me, my local BevMo carries Coastal Spirits Farallon gin, a local product that I happen to really enjoy. 

Paired wit the right tonic, and you have a simple and delicious refresher.

Start by infusing your gin with white cardamon and star anise.  To accomplish this, crush about 7-10 cardamon pods to release the seeds, and use about 1/2 of a star anise pod.  Add these to approximately 9 ounces of gin and let it sit for at least an hour to let the flavors infuse the gin.

In the meantime, make sure you have some big ice cubes ready.  Fill tall glasses with ice, and add 3 oz of gin to each.  Top each glass with Fever Tree Naturally Light tonic (don’t use the regular here, it will overpower the gin).  You can use your favorite tonic, but frankly, I think each gin needs a different tonic, so experiment a bit here.  Farallon goes well with lighter, more citrus based tonic.

The final step is to add some panache to your gin & tonic.  I achieve this with bitters.  To each cocktail, add three generous dashes of Grapefruit Ooliong C bitters from 5 by 5 Bitters.  These bitters are amazing!  The hint of bergamot from the Oolong and the bitter brightness of the grapefruit, they are a natural match for gin.  I also add a touch of lime bitters as well as a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Garnish with a lime wheel and you’re ready to go!

Fri- yay is here!

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Quote of the Day…and why I love Twitter

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

As I spend time on Twitter keeping up to date with my wine buds, Randy Hall of Wine Biz Radio fame started an new trend in microblogging. Call it boredom, call it random silliness, but Randy has started the TWOT. No, it’s not a disease, it’s the

Given Randy’s recent daddy-hood, I decided to pitch in today and offer up today’s TWOT:


Sem`pi*ter”nal, a. [L. sempiternus, fr. semper always: cf. F. sempiternel.]1. Of neverending duration; everlasting; endless; having beginning, but no end. –Sir M. Hale. 2. Without beginning or end; eternal.

To which Patrick of Iridesse Wines, aka Oenophilus offered up the following quotable quote:

Until we recognize our codependence on natural corks, TCA contamination will be sempiternal.

Cheers to the best TWOT of the day Patrick! Perhaps this will inspire you to join the Twittersphere. Good times, good times.

And perhaps given the impending film debut of Bottle Shock, we had better read George Taber’s other book, To Cork or Not to Cork.

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Bottle Shock!

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

Bottle Shock is about to be released!
Picture it.
Scions of the wine industry gather in Paris for the annual Judgment of Paris wine competition.
In a blind tasting, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from France and California were pitted against each other, where, shockingly California won and changed the wine world forever.

On August 6th, the film adapted from the book Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George Taber, opens to audiences here in the heart of California wine county. To help celebrate the 22nd anniversary of this epic victory for American wine, Crushpad is hosting a premier party to celebrate our victory over the French. Come celebrate with us by tasting a recreation of the Paris competition, and then join us at the Kabuki for a screening of the movie.

Details to follow soon. You can watch the official trailer below for your entertainment!

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A Passport to New Discoveries

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

Yesterday was the quarterly Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association Passport day. This is a time when the participating wineries open their doors and invite you to taste this exciting region, while enjoying many tiny wineries that are rarely if ever open to the public.

With the explosion of boutique wineries recently, it was no surprise that there were several new offering on this year’s list, and I aimed to stay north and try the new offerings instead of fighting beach traffic and heading over the hill to the tried and true Santa Cruz destinations. In particular, there were some new urban wineries located in the mid-Peninsula, which makes it a great short day trip.

My first winner for the day were Domenico Winery, located on Industrial Road in San Carlos. Domenico started as the Bacchus Winemaking club, a make you own shop similar to Crushpad. In a large warehouse space on an industrial lane, Domenico has a large open space which has tables set up. On summer Sundays, they host jazz & other musical guests in this space, where you can enjhoy wine and a picnic to the tunes of whoever is playing for the bargain price of $5 entry.

The absolute winner here was the 2006 Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir, $35. While many Pinots I have tasted from the 06 vintage were uninspired, Santa Cruz seems to have bypassed this disappointing year and is producing stellar examples of my favorite vino.

Another winner was down the road in Redwood City. Tucked away in a working class neighborhood of run down houses and auto shops, La Honda is a re-purposed warehouse, redone in a slightly gaudy fake Tuscan Villa style. That said, the owners were genuinely happy to see us, and were happy to let us wander in the small art gallery whiel we sipped our wine.

Again, the winner here was the Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, Black Capsule North, $26. This is a full bodied Pinot Noir, but is not overdone, and is a nice rich blend from several wineries in the northern Santa Cruz Mountain appellation.

Go forth and buy locally, and enjoy your Santa Cruz wine!



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Wine Map-o-Matic!

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

A few months ago, I was introduced to

at the Wine 2.0 event at Crushpad.

Mapovino is a wine-mapping website incorporating GoogleMaps to showcase geographically distinct wines and the stories behind these wines.

Why is this cool? Because it allows you my technonarti friends, to use Google Maps, a tool most of us know and love, to integrate with the wine regions of the world. While I don’t have a Crackberry or an iPhone (yet) I can see the application of this tool going mobile, while crusiing around Dry Creek looking at an interactive map.

With Mapovino, users can add comments, photos, link to maps in their blogs, and even add blog links on the map. It will also wine and geography information from Wikipedia to expand on your knowledge interactively.

Why do I bring this up you ask? Well they are doing their 2nd beta “tasting” in San Francisco next week, and I plan to go to learn more about hte tool and mingle with my fellow wine geeks.

July 7th 7-9pm
Please RSVP by registering here


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Happy Monday!

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

So you know it’s a good party when the aftermath takes 4 trips to the recycling bin to empty the kitchen of bottles.

Thanks all for celebrating my weekend (oh yeah and my 22nd birthday) with me!
There were some tasty wines indeed, and after a day of sleep to recover, I will have to do some reading to see what we drank and what I restocked on.




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Wine Blogging Wednesday #46, Rhone Whites

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

Be sure to stop by Vinquire and take a look at our Wine Blogging Wednesday efforst.

For those of you who don’t know, once a month we get togheter a group, and taste in a particular theme.

This month, that theme was Rhone varital white wines. We were a little madcap, and tasting 6, from both France and abroad.

You can see the results here:



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Rosé and Summer Water – A Trio of Rosé from Provence

September 6, 2018 - 5:14am

Rosé all day, rosé yes way.  This mantra seems to be louder and louder every day, but when some may say that Labor Day is the unofficial start of summer; here however, we haven’t quite started summer.  Socked in by a thick blanket of fog, these are days of thick socks and sweaters.  There are sweet spots however when the sun breaks through and we see the true light of the late summer that typically graces our backyards this time of year.

These are the the days that are made for rosé.

With the flood of rosé wine on the market, it can be a challenge to find a good value and a good wine among them.  

Two Provence estates in France, Château de Berne and Ultimate Provence, have teamed up to create a unique offering for the US market – with unique and whimsical packing, while maintaining the terroir and beauty of a true Provence rosé. Emotion ($16)

A refreshing blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah that is priced right at $16.  The pale pink color comes from less than 3 hours on the skins, and you can taste the sea as well as the warm summers in the raspberry strawberry, and pink grapefruit notes.  A friendly blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Cinsault and 25% of Syrah it’s a bright and refreshingly good deal!


Inspiration ($20)

From an estate dating back to the 12th century, this is blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah.  It’s a delicate pink, and has some weight to it given it’s high amount of Grenache along with the Cinsault.  I enjoyed the strong cherry and dark pomegranate notes, which balanced well with ripe strawberries on the finish.  


Urban Provence ($23) 

This was my favorite of the three, combining Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah.  The producer is relatively new and prides themselves on innovation and bucking the rules, which can be a challenge in France’s strict wine producing regions.  This is their only wine, and true to form it is 45% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 15% Syrah, but also 5% Rolle (Vermentino).  Té.e result is a bright, dry wine that has a clear presence of spice, with the expected erd fruit notes of a classic G-C-S rose.  The elegantly simple, yet clearly out of the ordinary bottle gives us a glimpse in to the mindset of the company.

When you’re seeking a budget friendly rosé that has some structure, reach for Grenache from Provence.  The careful use of a smidgen of Cinsault and Syrah adds depth and structure and creates a little piece of magic in your glass.

These wines were provied by the PR company for consideration of coverage.


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June Already!

July 23, 2018 - 12:13pm
So you’ll have to forgive me for not doing this sooner, but I decided to migrate my email list to a blog. Mind you, I am not an experience blogger, so please bear with me!
I’ll be adding things here as I think of them, or as they come up, so be sure to bookmark me and check back regularly. 

How is it June! Well, as shocked as I am, June is the month for wine. And birthdays. And vacations. So many things, so little time! 

With the global climate shift causing strange and unusual weather patterns, I decided that I better drink as much good wine as possible to stave off the bevy of new illnesses we will probably get. No no, I’m not a pessimist. Just looking for an excuse! Thanks to Gabriella from Catavino, who’s doctor told her to drink more and eat more meat, I am following suit. 

Open House

Saturday June 21 Happy Anniversary to Crushpad!  


an Francisco Wine Enthusiasts Meet the Winemakers Wednesday June 25
I really enjoy these meet the winemakers sessions, because it gives us a chance to get to know some very small producers that you might not otherwise get to know.
This month, it might be our final episode because we have had a hard time attracting crowds. Please take a moment, find a friend, and come on down to see and try:

Sterling Albert Winery
Concord’s only winery and winemaker, will be pouring wines sourced from grapes grown on Mt. Diablo where many of the state’s more respected vineyards grew before Prohibition. You’ll also enjoy his Lake County Cab Franc from 35 year old vines that will produce no more, having recently been pulled out to make way for progress.

Pietra Santa Winery
Pietra Santa, located next door to Josh Jensen’s Calera winery, will be sampling estate wines from Cienega Valley including their Super Tuscan Blend Sassolino as well as their SangioveseDolcetto. and

Vin Nostro
The winemaker of Vin Nostro, Dario Zucconi, whose family owns Tomasso’s pizzaria, will join us to pour his double gold medal winners, the 2004 Alexander Valley Cab and ’05 Syrah from the Red Hills AVA (Lake County) and his ’05 Dry Creek Valley Zin.

Harvest Moon Winery
Among its wines, Harvest Moon Estate & Winery will be showcasing several Zins from the Russian River appellation.

A weeklong extravaganza of Pinot Noir!

Tuesday June 24
Ottimista Enoteca Pinot Pairings
$25 reservations required.
Six pinot producers will pour their finest to those interested in tasting and celebrating pinot noir, as paired with pinot-centric foods. Ottimista Enotecca-Cafe is known for its pairings; this is a tasting you do not want to miss.

  • Churchill Cellars
  • Handley Cellars
  • Olson Ogden Wines
  • Philo Ridge Vineyards
  • Hirsch Vineyard and Winery
  • Kanzler Vineyards
Thursday June 26
Table Hop Dinners

  • Isa
  • Jack Fallstaff

Saturday June 28
Focus Tasting Series

This year we are offering three Focus Tastings, each with a regional focus. Each of these tastings will feature 16 of the best producers efforts within the theme. We will drink the wines blind and reveal them after each flight. While you are tasting the wines, the winemakers
ll field questions, discuss their own wines and the uniqueness of the region they are representing, and share their colorful stories about making some of the most exciting pinots available. All of this will happen while you are sitting and tasting some of the finest pinots on the market.


  1. Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and Central Coast – 6/28/2008 1-3pm Cost: $ 80 SOLD OUT
  2. Best of Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley 6/28/2008 4-6pm Cost: $ 80
  3. Best of Russian River Valley and Santa Maria Valley 6/28/2008 7-9pm Cost: $ 80

Sunday June 29
Seminar Series
Our Sunday Seminar Series offer specific opportunities to appreciate wines of particular styles, or from particular regions or vineyards. Each Series consists of three unique, topical tastings: Appellation, Vineyard and Misto. The “Appellation Tasting” is a tasting of pinots from a specific appellation or region. The “Vineyard Tasting” is a tasting of pinots from a specific vineyard. The “Misto Tasting” is mix of pinot-related topics, ranging from an alcohol level study to a clonal study to a study of the effects of the various barrel types – you choose. A ticket to the Sunday Seminar Series includes the Grand Festival. Sunday Seminar Series ticket holders may enter the Grand Festival at 11AM with members of the Trade, and taste for one hour before heading to your particular seminar series. Seminars are two hours in length, so you may re-enter the Grand Festival at 2PM to enjoy three more hours of tasting pinot and meeting winemakers.

Grand Tasting

Sunday’s Grand Tasting will showcase 170 producers of pinot noir. This is California’s largest single gathering of pinot producers, as well as its most varied. Consumers will be able to sample up to 400 pinots from every important region in California, Oregon, New Zealand, and Burgundy, and to meet the winemakers who create them. We will also offer a number of pinots for auction, donating various charities.


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Back…from Outer Space

July 23, 2018 - 12:13pm

I know, it’s true.  I haven’t been around here for a while.
But really, there is a reason, a good reason.

Some of you may know that I’ve been actively pursuing my MBA for the last two years.

But not just any MBA, an MBA with a focus in the wine industry.  You heart right – I’m studying to become a Mistress of Wine!  Wait. No.  Strike that…

While I tried to balance writing here with my school obligations, and growing my consulting practice, I realized something had to go.  Sadly, I’ve been hiding under term papers and research projects and had little time for wine writing.

But the light is at the end of the tunnel and I will be back with a bang – with more industry posts, more stories, and more wines (and spirits) for your entertainment.

Thanks for sticking around and reading this post!

In the meantime, keep following me on the Insta and stay tuned for some epic wine posts later in August!


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