Show 353, December 28, 2019: Bells Up Winery with Proprietor & Winemaker Dave Specter Part One

Dave Spector of Bells Up WineryMicro-boutique, un-domaine and always open by appointment, Bells Up Winery in Newberg, Oregon composes fewer than 500 cases of hand crafted, classically styled Oregon Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Rose of Pinot Noir and Syrah. It’s a 2nd career, passion project of Winemaker Dave Specter and his wife, Sara. The Chief Marketing Officer.

“After more than a decade of success as a corporate tax attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dave Specter was emotionally and physically spent. His wife Sara convinced him to leave the profession and they turned the hobby that brought him joy—winemaking—into his new career. The pair had fallen in love with Newberg and the Willamette Valley while on vacation in 2008, subsequently moving here in 2012 and establishing Bells Up in 2013. The first wines were released Memorial Day 2015, coinciding with the opening of the estate winery/tasting room.”

“Every Bells Up wine is named for a piece of classical music that perfectly epitomizes the wine and/or prominently features the French horn, the instrument owner and winemaker Dave Specter played for more than 20 years.”

Winemaker Dave joins us to pull the cork on Bells Up Winery.


Show 316, March 23, 2019: Winemaker Jeff Pisoni, Pisoni Vineyards, Lucia and Lucy Part One

Jeff PisoniThe Pisoni family’s goal: grow exceptional grapes to make exceptional wine. Wines made by the Pisoni family are bottled under the Pisoni Estate and Lucia labels. Gary and his two sons, Mark and Jeff, farm and produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from their three vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands: Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards. These vineyards and wines represent an extreme commitment to farming and classical winemaking.

“Lucia wines are created using classic, gentle and thoughtful winemaking techniques. Hand-picked and sorted grapes are fermented with native yeasts and aged in carefully selected French oak barrels. Our state-of-the-art winemaking facility uses gravity flow as part of a custom design conceived to merge the estate vineyards and winery. This affords us complete control of the farming and winemaking process, ensuring consistently superior quality.”

“First planted by Gary Pisoni in 1982, and now managed by his son Mark, Pisoni Vineyards consists of small vineyard blocks arranged on and around the ridges of the mountainous landscape. Ranging in size from one-half to 17 acres, the vineyard blocks perch at an altitude of 1,300 feet in granite-laced mountains of the costal Santa Lucia Range. Each wine is a blend of several blocks on the Estate and handcrafted to best represent the vineyard and spirit of the Pisoni Family. Jeff Pisoni, Gary’s other son, is the winemaker for the Pisoni Estate wines.

Winemaker Jeff Pisoni gently pulls the cork for us.


Show 277, June 16, 2018: NZ Wine Navigator Dinner at Napa Valley Grille, Westwood

Brian CousinsAt NZ Wine Navigator (virtual store,) you’ll discover the finest selection of artisanal New Zealand wines available in the US delivered right to your door. Personally selected by Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas (the first MS in New Zealand and the official global ambassador of New Zealand wines), these wines prove that New Zealand is much more than Sauvignon Blanc.

Westwood’s Napa Valley Grille is hosting a special NZ Wine Navigator Dinner there on Thursday evening, June 28th. Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas (direct from New Zealand) will be attending to present the wines and interact with the guests.

Expect, as one of the courses, an exceptional lamb dish matched with both a Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Napa Valley Grille’s General Manager, Brian Cousins, and Executive Chef Kenny Spost pull the cork for us on the specifics.


Show 219, April 15, 2017: Jon Karlo Macias, Café & Tasting Room Manager, Ca’ Del Grevino Estate, Santa Maria, CA

Jon Karlo MaciasCa’ Del Grevino is located in the Santa Maria Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County. The vineyard is located just 10 miles from the Pacific Coast and benefits greatly from cool, maritime influences. The vineyard is planted methodically and meticulously, with special attention paid to varietals best suited to the estate’s terroir. Taking into account the soils, the meso- and micro-climates, the coastal influences and the orientation of the sun upon the hillsides, you can find here Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache, Dolcetto, Riesling and Syrah.

“Our vineyard produces some of the finest wines in California. The region’s cool climate, geology and topography provide the opportunity to create uncompromised, premium wines. Ca’ Del Grevino, meaning “House of Grewal Family Wines”, produces fine wines steeped in Italian tradition with a distinctive California style.”

Ca’ Del Grevino is the signature wine brand of our estate representing regality, tradition and opulence. Nestled in California’s prestigious Central Coast is the lovely Santa Maria Valley. The unique micro-climate of the valley produces cool mornings and long warm afternoons. Together with us the best quality fruit produced and attention to detail produces our award -winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, White Riesling and Syrah wines.”

Ca’ Del Grevino wines are available to their Wine Club members and at their distinctive area Tasting Rooms. Each Tasting Room has a bit of a different character. The Orcutt Tasting Room is also a Café. The Los Olivos Tasting Room skillfully pairs their wines with cheese, charcuterie or chocolate plates. The Tasting Room in Santa Barbara is in the vibrant “Funk Zone” at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective. An attraction there is Helena’s Bakery with a menu of custom-baked sweet and savory goods.


Jon Karlo Macias, Café & Tasting Room Manager, walks us through the lush vineyard estate.


Show 195, October 29, 2016: Winemaker Clarissa Nagy, c nagy Wines, Orcutt, CA

Clarissa NagyEarlier this year we met the passionate Clarissa Nagy who is the distinguished Winemaker at Riverbench in Santa Maria. Separate from Riverbench Clarissa has her own label, c nagy, with a rustic tasting room in historic Orcutt. Clarissa Nagy is our encore guest.

New for the 2016 release is a dry Gewurtztraminer and a Grenache.

“People often ask how I started in the wine industry. It was never my plan to make wine. Actually, my original intention was to work with food. Thankfully, food and wine are often paired together. Through that means, wine found me.”

“I met my husband while we were working together in the wine industry. We made a barrel of 2002 Viognier as a wedding favor. It seemed a fitting gift for our family and friends. My quest for another source of Viognier was encouraged by those who had tasted the “wedding wine.” It would be a longer quest than I expected.”

“I purchased one ton of Pinot Noir in 2004. I wanted to continue making Pinot Noir and work with an amazing vineyard. One thing led to another. In 2005, I began working with 3 different vineyards and my brand was born.”

“Pinot Noir and Syrah were my main focus for the next 6 years. I made a Viognier in 2010, but frost would prevent me from doing so in 2011. The loss of Viognier opened the door to work with Pinot Blanc as well, and my journey continued to unfold. The newest chapter of my story is the addition of the tasting room.”

“Winemaking has become my passion. Sharing that joy with others is a priority. I’d love to be able to bring everyone into the vineyard and cellar to experience winemaking firsthand. Since that isn’t realistic, I offer you a taste of my labor. Here is that experience captured in bottle. I hope to share this passion with you in person. Until then, enjoy!”



Show 161, February 27, 2016: Craig Larson, Winemaker, Callaway Vineyard & Winery

Andrew Gruel of Slapfish and Graig Larson of Callaway Vineyard and Winery at the Pechanga Wine FestivalTemecula’s historic Callaway Vineyards & Winery has come a long way since it returned to local ownership in 2005. Callaway is recognized as the first winery in the Temecula Valley. Case production on the planted 70-acre vineyard estate is now a more modest 13,000 cases a year. It’s all sold from the renovated winery tasting room (with magnificent vineyard views), online, and via their loyal wine club.

Callaway Vineyard & Winery currently grows seven different varietals. The winery property now has 20 acres of Estate vineyards planted with Viognier, Syrah, Dolcetto, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Grenache, Roussanne, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The Lin family owns an additional 200 acres of property at the corner of De Portola Road and Monte de Oro, of which approximately 50 acres are currently planted with Chardonnay, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Muscat Canelli and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Craig Larson has been the distinguished Winemaker there for the last eight years. We’ll meet him.


Show 161, February 27, 2016: Dr. Doug Garman, Sommelier and Wine Educator, Europa Village, Temecula

Dr Doug GarmanNestled on more than 45 acres of rolling hills and vintage terroir in the Temecula Wine Country, Europa Village is a unique destination for connoisseurs of fine wine and a relaxing atmosphere. The estate was originally part of the Callaway Vineyards, the first winery in Temecula.

“After savoring the elegant wines and picturesque terrain of wine regions in France, Spain, and Italy, our founders were determined to recreate their experiences in Southern California for others to enjoy. They envisioned a village of wineries offering exquisite wines created in the European styles they loved so much.”

“And so our story began. It took a decade of imagining, planning and research, but several years ago, Europa Village became a reality on more than 30 acres of lush vineyards in the rich “terroir” of Temecula Valley, where the soil, elevation, and weather work together to nurture wonderful grapes. Our first premium wines were produced from these grapes and offered to our guests in 2011 in our enchanting C’est La Vie wine tasting room.”

There are two new releases in The Tasting Room. They are the Private Reserve Syrah 2012 and Primitivo 2013. Both are estate wines.

Guests can also stay at the Inn at Europa Village, which overlooks the tasting room and beautiful rolling hills of vineyards. Featuring Old World warmth and charm, the Inn is a magical getaway with ten recently redecorated, tasteful rooms. A major feature of your stay at the Inn will be the delicious breakfast “experience” served and prepared each morning by Chef Dean Thomas, an accomplished executive chef whose delicious, creative dishes feature local, seasonal ingredients.

“But the story is just beginning. Soon ground will be broken to carry out the original vision for Europa Village Resort — three wineries featuring wines made in the styles of France, Italy and Spain. Europa Village is delightful to visit right now and it will be fascinating to watch our vision for the future evolve right before your eyes. So come sample our superb wines, stroll around our beautiful gardens, and immerse yourself in our enthralling Old World experience.”

The big personality of the Tasting Room at Europa Village is Dr. Doug Garman. He’s been there since the beginning and is our guest.


Show 147, November 21, 2015: Kyle Meyer, Co-Proprietor, Wine Exchange, Santa Ana

Kyle Meyer of Wine ExchangeWine selections for the Thanksgiving turkey can always be a source of great anxiety. To the rescue is our resident wine expert, Kyle Meyer, Co-Proprietor of Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. As you’ll hear he makes Thanksgiving wine pairings a simple pull of the cork! Also his suggestions are happily affordable.

“We have no agenda for what you choose, only that you buy it from us. Pursuant to that, we’d like to toss out a few guidelines and ideas for you to evaluate to make your selections for that Thanksgiving turkey, the idea being that you are comfortable with the reasons for making the selections. We’ll start by saying the politically correct thing which is whatever you choose will be fine, you should serve what you like. Nothing wrong with that in theory, except that we don’t honestly believe it ourselves.

We would shy away from big, powerful, tannic wines that would overwhelm the turkey meat and not be versatile enough to play with the variety of other things that can appear on the holiday table. Things like big Cabs, Zins, and Syrahs are great with red meats.  Such wines would bludgeon the delicate bird and be further complicated in the wake of stuffing, yams, and other such themed delicacies. They might play alright if you are doing more exotic preparations like smoking or deep frying your bird, but even that’s a little bit of a stretch.

Our ‘keys to the game’, as they would say in a sport pregame show, are as follows:

  1. Turkey is a more delicate meat. There is a wide range of things that will work well, from moderate weight reds, to demi-sec whites, to crisp, dry whites.  Heavy reds and oaky whites would definitely not be our first choice, and acidity is key to mixing it up with such a wide range of foods.
  2. Your choices have as much to do with the type of accompanying dishes as they do with the bird itself. A sweet or savory bent as to a majority of dishes should definitely be a factor in the decisions. For example if its yams, corn soufflé, cranberry, etc, a lighter, slightly fruity choice (Demi Sec Vouvray, German Kabinett) would make a better ‘match’. If the leanings are more earthy (mushrooms, brussel sprouts, spinach/gizzard stuffing), lighter reds like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Blaufrankish, and Rioja make a whole lot of sense.
  3. The crowd. Yeah, there, we said it. Probably not politically correct, but it’s true.  Who’s coming to your house? A bunch of your friends that are serious wine drinkers?  A bunch of marginal relatives that will drink up anything you put out there and maybe drop ice cubes in it? While it sounds snobby, these are common issues that some of you face.  A lot of people end up spending the holidays with folks they wouldn’t necessarily choose to. So the key is to put something on the table that you can enjoy, but also plays to the level of the folks you are with.
  4. The weather. Choices for a ‘feast’ might well be different if the outside temperature is 35 degrees and rainy or 75 and sunny.

All of that out of the way, let’s get a little more specific. We’ve laid out some basic ground rules, so let’s make a few varietal and genre suggestions. If we’re looking for a hint of sweetness and some bright acidity, to us one of the easy calls especially for a mixed group, our personal choices would be German Riesling, either Kabinett or Spatlese, a Vouvray demi sec, and a Pinot Gris from Alsace.

Yeah, we know there are folks that will serve Chardonnay no matter what. Our problem with Chardonnay from California is the lack of sufficient acidity to play with the varied dishes. French versions play better with the food, but can have trouble with certain dishes.  Same with Sauvignon Blanc in general, because, while it might work superbly with certain dishes, it could be terrible with others. In other words, you’ll have a lot of stuff on your plate (literally), so our thinking is to choose wines that can work with the widest variety of flavors.  In the dry category we like Pinot Blanc, white Rhones, northern Italian whites (Pinot Grigio, Soave, Friulano, etc.), white Bordeaux, and Spanish whites from the northwest (Albarino, Godello). Dry pinks are beautiful foils as well, though there will be those that think rose is like white shoes, only for the summer.

As to reds, the key is good acidity and no heavy tannins. Gamay (Beaujolais, Cru Beaujolais, not nouveau necessarily), Burgundy (Kiwi or American Pinot Noir, as well), Rioja, Chinon, and Austrian reds. If you want to kick it up a notch weight-wise, Grenache-centric wines from the Rhone or Spain have more punch but still fit the lower tannin profile

And the last rule of thumb is, if all else fails choose…sparkling! Yes you read that right. The market is swelling with amazing producers of everything from grower Champagne to humble Pétillant Naturel (or as the kids call ‘em ‘Pet-Nats’). We know it seems a bit avant–garde to adorn your holiday table with bubbles, but the key is to remember that sparkling wines and Champagne in particular pair tremendously well with just about anything you can throw at it (that includes the big clashing flavors on the Thanksgiving table). When making your choice of sparkling, consider going pink. The pink color in sparkling rosé comes from red grapes and more often than not it’s Pinot Noir. This will lend a slightly more vinous texture and weight to the wine and will help stand up to the mix of dishes much better than say your Chardonnay based Blanc de Blancs.

So there it is, our cheat sheet for Thanksgiving wine pairing.“

Thanks, Wine Exchange!


Show 125, June 6, 2015: Winemaker Michael Larner of Larner Vineyard & Winery Continues…

Michael LarnerLarner Vineyard & Winery is a small, family-run estate located at the heart of the best Rhone grape-growing region in Santa Barbara: the new Ballard Canyon AVA inside the Santa Ynez Valley. Founded by Stevan and Christine Larner as solely a vineyard in 1999, the property today is both a vineyard and winery, established in 2009. It’s now run by the second generation of Larners.

The 134-acre ranch is planted to 34 acres of vine, focused on the Rhone varieties; Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and Viognier. As a small tribute to Italy, the Larners also have a little block of Malvasia Bianca.

Syrah has become the signature of the Ballard Canyon AVA. A special custom bottle, unique to the AVA, is used for only estate-grown Syrah. The distinctive bottle design is in the final stages of being trademarked.

Most of the premium grapes grown on the ranch are sold to other boutique wineries including Sine Qua Non.

In early 2012, Michael and Christina opened the Los Olivos General Store in the bucolic town of Los Olivos within the historic old gas station on the corner of the flagpole. The store now houses the Larner tasting room, the perfect intimate location to try the family’s exclusive and limited estate offerings.