Show 152, December 26, 2015: Kyle Meyer, Co-Founder, The Wine Exchange, Santa Ana

Kyle Meyer of Wine ExchangeIt’s that celebratory time of year when our thoughts turn to Champagne. Our resident wine authority, Kyle Meyer of Wine Exchange in Santa Ana, is with us to pop the cork on “Grower Champagne.” It’s a delightful passion at Wine Exchange.

“This has been a passion of ours for probably a decade. We love all kinds of Champagne. But the majority of the Champagne produced comes from large, almost industrial producers who make ‘mass quantities’. The secret to the ‘big boys’ success? Marketing and consistency. The marketing part is simply awareness…the art of making people believe that one’s particular bubbly is the best and most prestigious. Usually that also involves heavy promotions, ‘boots on the ground’ out in the marketplace, ice buckets, and heavy discounts to high profile restaurants and clubs. All of these things fall on the ‘brand awareness’ side.”

“The beauty of grower Champagne is the fact that these individual artisan producers can be a lot more ‘individualistic’. They are not concerned with selling millions of cases to the public at large. The grapes for these individual cuvees come from a single village or cluster of villages that have their own unique character by virtue of their locations. This is the element of terroir, which is kind of like a ‘bonus’ or extra something that you won’t necessarily find in the large house cross regional blends.”

Kyle also has some thoughts on good selections for California Sparkling Wine. Think Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley and Schramsberg Vineyards, Calistoga.


Show 33, June 29, 2013: David Vergari, Winemaker at Thornton Winery in Temecula

Thornton Winery in TemeculaYou really know David is a regular guy when he shares with you the winemakers’ tip that after a long day of tasting and blending a winemakers’ remedy for refreshing the fatigued taste buds is to enjoy a cold beer.

Vergari is only the 3rd winemaker in the rich, 25 year history of the proudly Family-owner Thornton Winery, and he has been in residence there for three years. They are known for consistently excellent California sparkling wines but in recent years they have developed a reputation for producing significant still wines, too. He has a current release of a Nebbiolo and Vermentino (both Italian grape varietals) that he’s very pleased with.

2013 is also the 25th Anniversary of Thornton’s Champagne Jazz Series. The concerts are performed outdoors in their acoustically superior Mediterranean fountain terrace and continue through October. The intimate space overlooks the scenic Temecula Valley wine country.

Huge acts who you would normally only see in large concert halls perform in this special venue because it’s a quality space. Headliner Dave Koz performed last weekend and tonight is Spyro Gyra and Acoustic Alchemy,

Thornton Winery’s long-time executive chef Steve Pickell of Café Champagne prepares a seated picnic menu (enjoyed under a shaded canopy) for every concert. It’s really an unfussy fine-dining experience with three courses. Both Thornton and other carefully selected premium wines are suggested as appropriate pairings for each course.

The appetizer course is field-to-table as all the fresh fruits and vegetables are sourced from local family farmers. Besides the wine grapes the unincorporated Riverside County portion of Temecula is an abundant agricultural area.