Monthly Archives: August 2013

Get your CA Wine Month on.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: California Wine Month!

In September, ripe grapes hanging heavy on the vine, golden fall sunshine and air filled with fruity aromas can mean only one thing: it’s time for harvest! To launch the harvest season, wine regions and wineries across the Golden State will celebrate the 9th annual September California Wine Month—organized by California’s Wine Institute.

From innovative wine immersion experiences to cool wine events, September is an ideal time to visit wine country, when the creative energy of California’s artisan winegrowers and winemakers meet the grapes and the process of producing the next great vintage begins. From Sept. 1-30, 2013, dozens of wineries in wine regions across California will host special consumer events and experiences celebrating the contributions of the state’s growers and vintners who are committed to earth- and people-friendly sustainable practices in vineyards and wineries.

CalWineMonth2013_PosterCan’t make it to wine country this fall? A great way to experience many of California’s wine regions in one stop is Wine Institute’s “California Wines Road Trip” multi-region tasting events in New York City and San Francisco. In New York City, Friday the 13th will be a lucky day for wine lovers who can sample wines at California Wine Merchants from 5–7:30 p.m. Later in the month, they can attend a ticketed New York City tasting event with more than 70 wines from 10 California regions at the Astor Center on Monday, Sept. 16 from 6–8 p.m. (click here for information and tickets); and enjoy in-store tastings that will take place throughout September across Manhattan and Brooklyn. In San Francisco, wine lovers can taste their way across the state’s regions on Saturday Sept. 21 from 2–5 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Ferry Building, following its popular farmer’s market (click here for information and tickets).

Press release from May 13, 2013 by the Wine Institute


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REPORT: Food Trends of the Moment

We at Parker Sanpei have a serious love affair with the Back Porch Bakery in San Luis Obispo, which began as a humble neighborhood haunt and is fast becoming the finest purveyor of “laminated and rustic dough”s around.

Recently, Dan, the owner and baker, has been making “cronuts,” which are a bizarre and outrageously delicious hybrid between donuts and croissants.  Originally designed by Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC, the cronut has made its way into the hearts and bellies of thousands of Americans…including ours!


Always a hotbed of progressive culinary trends, New York is also the home of the new “ramen burger.” Dreamed up by Keizo Shimamoto of the blog, the ramen burger debuted at Brooklyn’s Smorgasborg Festival to rave (if over-hyped) reviews.  And what is a ramen burger, exactly? In short, it’s a beef patty topped with scallions and arugula, sandwiched between two “buns” of fried ramen.

Interested in making one at home?  Try it, we dare you.

Of course, Korean cuisine has been trending for a few years, but we tasted a “korrito” (Korean burrito) that had us moaning last weekend in San Francisco.  Seoul on Wheels, aka “Mobile Korean Goodness,” wraps your choice of spicy pork, rib eye, chicken or tofu in a giant tortilla along with spicy rice, crema, kimchi, cheese, and cilantro.  Paired with a Kabinett Riesling?  Yes, please.

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Good year for California, bad year for France.

The Vintage in California: Line engraving, American, 1878.

The Vintage in California: Line engraving, American, 1878.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the weather has been pretty odd this year on the West Coast.  We didn’t have much of a winter, the heat waves started early, and now we’re in the midst of a prolonged mild spell.  As it pertains to wine, this means a terrific – and possibly quite early – grape harvest.

“It has been a challenging year,” said Michael Silacci, winemaker at Opus One in Napa Valley. “But it’s shaping up to be an excellent year.”

Weather hasn’t been this warm across the region since 1997, a year that produced a highly regarded vintage. If the heat continues as expected it could mean fruit-intensive wines from an early and abundant crop.

“We’re a full month ahead of 2009, ’10 and ’11,” said Jon Ruel, COO at Trefenthen Vineyards and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Warm Weather Means Early Calif. Wine Grape Harvest,” Tracie Cone, Jul 29, 2013, Associated Press

Vintage in the Medoc, Wood engraving, English, 1854.

Vintage in the Medoc, Wood engraving, English, 1854.

But for as strange as our weather has been this year, it could never be as crazy as the weather in poor France.  In a country whose wine industry is already limping along due to previously challenging vintages, vineyards in 2013 have experienced up to 90% crop loss from hail storms and other freak weather.

A violent hailstorm on July 23 wiped out a big portion of the Côte-d’Or in Burgundy, according to the newspaper Le Monde. “The section between Beaune and Pommard is the most touched, with 90% loss, and the hills between Pommard and Volnay with 70%,” the paper quotes Jean-Louis Moissenet, president of the Winemakers Syndicate of Pommard, as saying…

Then last week, hailstorms battered southern Alsace vineyards, with up to 60% losses, according to the British wine magazine Decanter. Some hailstones reportedly were the size of ping-pong balls, wreaking havoc on vines…

In Bordeaux, a series of storms starting in late July has chateaus in the Médoc scrambling to repair damage to roofs, trees and vineyards. The hail was capricious, damaging some estates, sparing others…

Total losses are estimated to be more than $133 million in an early tally, Wine Spectator reported. Devastating, when you consider that so many wineries, especially the smaller ones, are already in difficult straits. Wine producers there are pushing for disaster relief.

Mother Nature just won’t give French vineyards a break,” S. Irene Virbila, August 12, 2013, L.A. Times

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A Pearl Anniversary for the Pearl of Central Coast Wine Country

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery turns 30!

Laetitia's Sparkling Winemaker, Dave Hickey

Laetitia’s Sparkling Winemaker, Dave Hickey

Thirty years after its first vintage of  Old World-style sparkling wine, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery is popping open a bottle of bubbly and celebrating with friends.

Sparkling Winemaker Dave Hickey has been on the team almost since the beginning, albeit in roles as varied as cleanup crewman and cellar hand. And his son, Eric Hickey, who started out observing winery operations as a kid on the fringe, is now President and Head Winemaker of the venerated brand.

“When I started here, the winery was empty,” said Dave Hickey. “The tasting room was built but had never been used.”

The inception of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery is woven into the history of Central Coast winemaking, though sparkling wine was something of an anomaly for the area at the time. In the early 1980s, French viticulturists came to California to seek out a New World outpost for growing vines and producing wines similar to those of their homeland in Champagne’s Epernay region. Their search ended just south of Arroyo Grande, nestled among the foothills that stretch parallel to Highway 101. The property soon boasted several acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, as well as a production facility equipped with two traditional French Coquard presses – still, the only two in North America.

As Maison Deutz Winery (the original name for what is now Laetitia) a culture of respect for Old World methods was established with the Coquard presses and méthode champenoise, a traditional, labor-intensive and time-consuming approach to making sparkling wine. And even after the property changed hands and the name became Laetitia Vineyard & Winery several years later, that culture remains.

“When it comes to sparkling wines, the only difference between Old World wine and Laetitia sparkling wine is the use of New World grapes,” said Dave Hickey. “I was trained by French winemakers who were, themselves, trained in Champagne. They wanted it done exactly the same way here as it was there. And to this day, one of the highest compliments anyone can pay me is to say that my wine reminds them of Champagne.”

Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard

Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard

Today, Laetitia’s estate vineyards have expanded to include over 600 acres and more than a dozen varieties, in addition to the 1,100-acre Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard in eastern Santa Barbara County which sources all fruit for the brand’s sought-after NADIA label.

Both properties are sustainably farmed under the purview of Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano. “With a large addition of new Pinot acres just before I started here eight years ago, there was a lot of unknown,” said Bozzano. “Today, these vineyards show several different expressions of Pinot Noir. Being here to watch these terroirs develop has given me a great personal connection with the property.”

But no matter how the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery domain grows, its backbone will always be pure, complex and utterly festive sparkling wine. To celebrate the brand’s 30th year, Laetitia will offer a limited edition etched magnum series for purchase. Additionally, the winery will host an intimate and formal Dual Winemaker Dinner on Saturday, September 14 at 5 PM. Winemakers Dave Hickey and Eric Hickey will pour their coveted library wines from over the course of their time with the winery, accompanied by dishes from the culinary genius of Chef José Dahan of Et Voilá Restaurant. Tickets are $145 per person, $125 for Laetitia Wine Club members. For more information on the 30th anniversary etched magnum or to make a reservation for the dinner, please call 805.474.7641.

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