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Wine Country Personality — Paul Dolan
In His Own Time, A Legacy Moving Forward
Effective environmentalist and successful businessman, Wine Country luminary Paul Dolan spearheaded fundamental changes that affect the wines we drink every day. Grower and winemaker, he opened his mind to sustainable farming practices being developed in his community. His pragmatic approach took organic and bio-dynamically grown grapes beyond small production wines and into mainstream winemaking. Changing the rules as he went along and importantly, proving financial viability, he has profoundly influenced vineyard management and winemaking throughout the industry, whether organic or not. He has also fostered a growing recognition of the quality and value of Mendocino County wines.
Paul holds 30 years of experience growing grapes and making wine in Mendocino, most notably as the longtime winemaker and later, President of Fetzer Vineyards. During his time at Fetzer, he also brought sustainable agriculture to the big company that eventually purchased Fetzer, Brown-Forman, all before these homegrown practices became trendy. The example set at Fetzer proved that business fundamentals could be matched to quality and social responsibility. Thus Paul delivered a positive, practical reflection of local culture as he added value to the Mendocino wines he cultivated. Paul’s book True to Our Roots has been widely read, influencing the greening of industry beyond wine and even agriculture.
As Paul likes to say, the grape is a product of its surroundings. The importance goes beyond rich, pure fruit flavor in socially progressive Mendocino. In an area where advertisements for bio-diesel fuel can be heard on the radio, new ideas about farming are mainstream. Nowadays, wetland and riparian restorations, along with fish-friendly farming, are common vineyard activities. Cover crops replace nutrients in the soil while harboring beneficial insects and reducing erosion of valuable topsoil. Conservation of water and power, along with waste management practices, have been dramatically improved. Many of these techniques have been adopted widely throughout the industry thanks to Paul’s visionary influence.
The use and costs of using pesticides also have been considerably reduced, while creating more work for local people. Younger vineyardists in the county are seeing a broader benefit, a “new look” matching the intense rich flavors, which these healthy vineyard practices impart to their wines. This appearance, along with taste, becomes ever more important as a new generation of wine enthusiasts comes to the table.
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Editor's Pick — The Kenwood Inn and Spa
I needed a drink. At least my face did. So on a gray winter's day I indulged in a bit of Vinotherapie at the Caudalie Spa. Nestled within the walls of the Kenwood Inn and Spa this is a treat you should not miss when visiting Sonoma Valley. You will learn a lot about the benefits of vine and grape extracts - but mostly your skin will thank you for a well deserved drink. www.kenwoodinn.comBridal Team-Building
Starting with Gratitude Makes More Sense
Planning a wedding? We don’t need to tell you how much work lies ahead. Of course, the team of friends and loved ones coming together to help make your dream day happen will be key to the success of this special event. These folks, nearest and dearest to you, will be a major asset as they assist and make sacrifices on your behalf. And after your big day is over, you will be busy putting your new life together, with little time or energy to spare for the deep expression of gratitude that they will deserve.
So here’s an idea that will help energize your team for success as well as thank them. Instead of expressing your gratitude after the fact, begin with showing it! By conveying your appreciation up front with a team-building activity, you can accomplish several important things. You all will have enough time to truly enjoy this token of appreciation, and as you do, an essential sense of camaraderie and collaboration will be born. You also will have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas as a group, and to create focus on the success of this future endeavor.
There are lots of suitable activity choices, so use your imagination -- no matter what, make it a special treat. You are setting the tone for commitment to your event, launching team spirit that you want to see carried forward enthusiastically. You might also take advantage of this opportunity to research and explore venues.
So if you are planning on a Wine Country wedding location, and live close by, start there. Think about relating the group activity to the actual event. If you will be holding your wedding at an accommodation property, you might spend a night there to get the lay of the land. If all you know is that you wish to hold your event at a winery, try renting a limousine and spend a day together enjoying wine tasting and exploring a short list of properties you like. Check out our Wedding Planning pages here at WineCountry.com for ideas. Ultimately, you will receive lots of feedback and the important buy-in that will provide the foundation for the strong teamwork you need.
Or you can simply enjoy the time together. Consider a spa indulgence, relaxing and renewing energies as conversation casually focuses on your planning. Or just spend a day wine tasting and dining. If your friends share a special interest like art or music, plan a special activity around that.
If you have a larger team to build, or perhaps need a formalized approach to bond people with diverse backgrounds, we suggest the Mayacamas Ranch in the hills above Calistoga. Their customized team building experiences are focused around horseback riding, cooking, photo scavenger hunts and ranch Olympics, all designed to help your group learn to work together better. With awesome views, world-class food & wine, horseback riding, hiking, spa treatments, swimming and 25 lovely rooms, this sophisticated 80-acre Guest Ranch is also a great choice for your wedding too!Bringing your team together in this way will prepare everyone for the challenge. You will benefit by hearing ideas up front, when it is still practical to make adjustments. The members will get to know each other well, feel ownership and be inspired. And after your great day has passed, when your new life is moving forward, everyone will look back to the fond memory of how you started it all as a fun-loving yet focused team.
Editors Pick — Gray salt is the new Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
If you change just one thing in your kitchen as I did, you should
start with your salt. I took my queue from the founder of NapaStyle,
celebrity chef and author Michael Chiarello’s who’s favorite salt is
gray salt, an unprocessed sea salt from the Brittany coast of France.
It has an incredible flavor– it is the only salt he cooks with, and
he guarantees it will increase the flavor of your cooking by at least
10%! Only salt that is naturally harvested - from seawater that
evaporates gradually - can be labeled gray salt. To
obtain gray salt, click here.
Destination Hopland — Unsurpassed Convenience, Quality and Value in Mendocino County
For many years, those in the know have visited the small but wine-prolific town of Hopland to discover creatively conceived, quality wines with a tasty difference. Hopland is also an ideal spot to sample the fruits of the organic farming craze which Fetzer Vineyards, also located here, made famous. With gardens, antiques and alternative energy to match its interesting accommodations, wines and food, Hopland makes an excellent day trip or starting point for an extended visit. It is a great location for exploring the uncrowded beauty and value of Mendocino County and its surroundings.
Located a quick 30 miles north on Highway 101 from the popular Sonoma County wine country destination of Healdsburg, Hopland offers a central Mendocino County location, ideal as a base for exploring this wine country. Anderson Valley lies to the west, and the Ukiah and Redwood Valleys to the north. Thanks to its convenient position right on the highway, wineries from all over the Mendocino appellation have opened tasting rooms here. You can enjoy a fairly complete introduction to Mendocino wines, all within walking range or a short drive at most. A quick visit to Hopland also can be a pleasant break during a longer trip to destinations further north or south traveling on Highway 101.
There are many long lines of family traditions in the winemaking around Hopland. As these traditional family growers update to modern marketing, Mendocino wines challenge the value proposition of not only California’s Central Coast region, but even Sonoma and Napa. The grapes in the Ukiah valley get plenty of summer heat, while enjoying cool evenings and long hang time. Anderson Valley, to the west, supplies Pinot Noir that is earthier and thicker than the Russian River area in nearby Sonoma County.
As you come into town from the south, the Brutocao Schoolhouse Plaza is sure to impress. A garden of more than 5,000 heritage roses or bocce ball courts will tempt you on your way into the complex. A large, historic gymnasium hosts a chocolatier and other shops, and offers a large banquet facility upstairs. The Plaza also includes the casual Crushed Grape Grille (including pizza for the less complex palates) and The Lion’s Den Bistro (open just Friday and Saturday nights) where exquisite full menus with wine pairing options offer a superior experience. Brutocao Cellars tasting room is the main feature though, with excellent wines from an extensive list, including dessert wines. We especially liked the unfiltered, succulent 2002 Brutocao Estate Zinfandel, which was even better at home than it was in the room.
As you continue into town, across the street is McNab Ridge Winery, part of the new Lawson’s Station development. Development is a big word for this small town, but the spacious modern suites, the elegant Shotgun Restaurant and friendly winery housed here are all very attractive. The winery is owned by the venerable John Parducci, who often graces this friendly and attractive tasting room with his presence, perhaps with his grandson Rich the fourth generation winemaker, or granddaughter Veronica. 87 years old, he exemplifies passion and quality - Mendocino style. There are many exceptional wines in this room, but be sure to try the 1999 Mendotage while it lasts. Its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec is sure to please with its awesome value as well as tremendous quality.
Another treat just up the road is the Graziano Family Tasting Room. Don’t let this tiny room deceive you, winemaker Gregory Graziano carries on another Mendocino family tradition, with 26 mostly Italianate wines under four labels which are sure to satisfy. The rare varietal Pinot Meunier is a treasure with its ultra light pinot flavors, and unusual Italianate varietals like Nebbiolo, Tanaro and Peppolino (a blend) are offered along with the staples of Pinot Grigio, Zinfandel and Sangiovese. This is one of the Redwood Valley wineries that has scored big by offering Hopland convenience.
Across the street, McDowell Valley Vineyards is known for Rhone wines. A perennial favorite is the Grenache Rosé, a landmark wine in the production of dry, food-friendly French-style wines that have become increasingly popular in recent years. This classic wine is made from vines more than 50 years old, producing only 2 tons of fruit per acre. Complex structure and exuberant strawberry flavor matches with lovely floral notes and crisp acidity. Other highlights include the celebrated 2002 Grenache Noir, but you’ll have to wait for the next vintage, as it is already sold out. However, the Syrah wine here has been a “must-taste” for decades.
Of course, a visit to Hopland would not be complete without a visit to Fetzer Vineyards, just a quick drive away. Along with your tasting of the landmark organic wines of the industry, the food offered in the Garden Café and at events is awesome, all under the creative and talented supervision of Executive Chef Bridget Harrington. Bridget’s culinary palate is blessed with produce from the famous organic gardens, which are especially astounding to tour during the springtime bloom. Accommodations here at the Valley Oaks Inn are affordable (off-season rates last through April 30th) and impressive, especially for their stunning vineyard views. The schedule for a series of monthly Cooking Classes, and also for a series of Friday evening food and wine events starting in June, looks great. Check it out!
If you are interested in quality historic accommodations and dining, Hopland delivers on all counts. The revered Hopland Inn has been leading the list here for more than 100 years. The charming, impressive Restaurant 1890 and the Inn’s classical inviting bar are also sure to delight. If a cold beer happens to appeal, the home of the renowned Red Tail Ale is at the microbrewery across the street, which in 1983 was the first in the nation since prohibition. Looking for budget accommodations? You might try nearby Ukiah to the north.
The Hopland Passport Weekend is the most celebrated way to explore wine here. Twice a year, the wineries pull out all the stops for a weekend of special food pairings and pourings. Shuttle busses allow your carefree enjoyment, all for a single $30 ticket.Convenient, classy but casual, fun and surprising, Hopland has a lot to offer. Whether you make a quick stop or an extended visit here, basking in the warmth of inland Mendocino County, Hopland is sure to satisfy. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, Hopland deserves your attention!
Wine Country Recipe
Crocker Inn —
Chocolate Mousse Almond Torte
In food processor, mix almond, 2 eggs, and cocoa until smooth. Pour into greased & floured spring form pan (10 inch). Bake 15 minutes at 375* or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool on wire rack.
In double boiler, melt chocolate.
Separate 2 eggs. Beat yolks and one egg. Add coffee, brandy, & melted chocolate to eggs.
Beat egg whites. Add sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate. Whip cream. Fold into chocolate.
Spread chocolate onto almond base and freeze for at least 3 hours. Slice.
Thaw slices 5 - 10 minutes. Dust plate with cocoa, and garnish with white chocolate
Discover Winter in The Wine Country
Wine Country Featured Event
April 1-2, 2005 – 25th Annual Lodi Spring Wine Show
Celebrating the Silver Anniversary, the 25th Annual Lodi Spring Wine Show will be held April 1st & 2nd from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. each night in the Grape Pavilion at the Lodi Grape Festival grounds. This premiere 3 hour event features wine tasting with more than 40 wineries participating throughout Northern California, hors d'oeuvres, music, entertainment, and more! Check out the website for a list of participating wineries and more information.
Fee: $25 per person in advance, $30 per person at
Editor's Pick — Cultivated, Never Ordinary
Exotic Mushrooms, Innovative Wine Pairings and Recipes for All
The motto “No longer wild, but far from tame” has guided the enterprise at Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. over 25 years. The leader in exotic mushroom cultivation offers unique, tasty fungi throughout the country, with recipes to match! Carefully nurtured in special clean rooms brimming with walls of fungi, cooking technique dramatically influences the diverse flavor profiles of these distinctive mushrooms, so they are rich territory for food and wine pairing. Available at Whole Foods Markets in 28 states, they are probably offered somewhere close to you…if not, you might order a Gourmet Mushroom Basket™, a 2 or 4 lb. selection delivered overnight for ultimate freshness.
Enter to win a one night stay at MacArthur Place, Sonoma’s Historic Inn & Spa in one of their luxurious suites that offer the ultimate in relaxation and comfort during your stay. MacArthur Place is set among 7 acres of magnificent gardens filled with original sculpture and their spa offers over 40 different massage, facial and body treatments.Spend the day exploring Sonoma’s boutiques, galleries and wineries, but be sure to stop by Kendall Jackson where you’ll receive reserve wine tasting for two. Enjoy dinner at Healdsburg Charcuterie restaurant for terrific French Mediterranean cuisine. Finally, end the night at the Luther Burbank Center for a Cabaret show featuring Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
Click here to enter this drawing! (Please note: If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, you are automatically entered in this drawing.)The Winner of this Drawing will be announced on The Winner's Page after March 15, 2005.
(*some restrictions apply)
*** No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter. MacArthur Place gift certificate must be used Sunday through Thursday. Only one entry per person permitted. Winner will be selected March 15, 2005 by random drawing. Winner will be notified by email. Employees of Freerun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited by law.