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Michael Baldacci
March 4, 2015 | Michael Baldacci



March Madness, a term coined to describe the only emotion that a 64 team bracket can bring upon us as individuals. Each year the field is set, and everyone's record goes to 0-0, with just one loss eliminating you from competition. Every year there are the teams everyone defines as the ‘favorite’ but inevitably there is the Cinderella Story that captures the hearts and minds of EVERYONE. Whether it is the Stephen Curry lead Davidson team that as a 10 seed went all the way to the Elite 8, or my personal favorite the 1990 LMU (my alma-mater, GO LIONS!) team that persevered through the sudden and tragic passing of their star player Hank Gathers to make it all the way to the Elite 8!



This year Baldacci Family Vineyards will be putting our own spin on March Madness. We want to see which restaurants our fans like the most out here. The first rounds will slate each of the 4 towns against their own competition.

The Yountville bracket will consist of amazingly fresh, and social friendly foods of Lucy’s, the classic Italian dishes of famed Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, long standing favorite Mustard’s Grill and their famous pork chop, and the new kid on the block in Redd Wood known for their artisan pizzas and amazing pasta dishes.

Napa will put forth some tough competitors with Oenotri dishing out its traditional southern Italian cuisine, ZUZU and their amazing Spanish tapas, longstanding restaurant La Toque, known for their serving of foie gras, and finally Bounty Hunter known for their amazing smoked meats and killer wine list!

St. Helena our neighbors to the north will have Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, a long standing Napa hot spot, a personal favorite, Farmstead, with Chef Stephen Barber at the helm serving up amazing meats, poultry and fish, night after night, Cook with its simple yet elegant style food, and last but certainly not least, Market St. Helena, truly a locals and tourists favorite, serving up home-style meals including their amazing fried chicken.

We didn’t forget about Calistoga, they will be represented by Solbar, JoLe, Barolo, and my personal pick as the upset of the tournament, Busters Original BBQ!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see which restaurants are slated against each other that day… A like gets you a vote for one restaurant while a comment will get you a vote for another… May the best restaurant win!!

Mike Knox
February 25, 2015 | Mike Knox

A Hidden Sweet in Napa Valley


We all know that Napa Valley has so many incredible restaurants, but there is one in particular that stands out to me because of their dessert. The best hidden sweet in Napa Valley is found at Cindy Pawlcyn's Mustards Grill



The Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie is to die for. The flavors are sublime… pun intended… and when you see this mountain of meringue heading to the dining table everyone else in the restaurant notices as well. I am never able to finish one serving off myself so my wife Jenny is happy to help me in this endeavor. If you find yourself at Cindy’s up valley eatery, Cindy’s Backstreet in St. Helena, this amazing dessert is sometimes found there as well.

If you are a fan of lemon-lime pie and you are not intimidated by a literal mountain of light fluffy meringue this is a must have desert while you are here in the Napa Valley!

Big CONGRATULATIONS to Cindy Pawlcyn for winning Outsanding Restaurateur in the James Beard Restaurant & Chef Award Semifinals!


This would go great with our Sorelle Chardonnay!

Michael Baldacci
February 24, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

Premiere Napa Valley 2015 Wrap-Up


Premiere Napa Valley just wrapped up, and here is the brief breakdown of the week full of festivities, and the results of the auction.

Premiere Napa Valley, or “Premiere” as it is often referred to by vintners is an auction that is put on by our trade association the Napa Valley Vintners. The NVV’s mission statement is “to promote, protect, and enhance the Napa Valley appellation, our wines, vintners and community.” The auction raises funds for their annual budget, and it is a memorable week in the Napa Valley that every vintner looks forward to each year.

The auction is Saturday, but the week is full of fun events. As a winery we participated in a couple different ways. On Wednesday night, Kellie and I hosted three young sommeliers, or somms, for dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants Lucy’s. We appreciated the opportunity to pick their brains about trends they are seeing in the industry from the restaurant side. We are happy to report that we are in a good position, as people love to see Napa Valley on the lists, and specifically Stags Leap District.

Thursday and Friday night we poured alongside other vintners and showcased our wines for hundreds of trade members. For vintners this is a great way to build new contacts, continue existing ones and reconnect with old relationships. Trade includes, retailers, distributors and restauranteurs from all over the country, and even a small contingent from China.

Each vintner crafts a unique wine for the auction, they are wines that can only be purchased at the auction. Rolando once again crafted us an amazing wine, taking his favorite barrel of our “Brenda’s Vineyard” collection.

Michael Baldacci & Cyrus Hazzard from Total Wine

Saturday was the big day, with vintner arrivals at 8:30 AM, the tasting before the auction got kicked off promptly at 9:00 AM as anxious members of the trade filled the Culinary Institute of America to try as many of the 225 lots as possible. The wine showed beautifully, and was a perfect representation of our Stags Leap District Estate.

After tasting the wines all morning the auction finally commenced. We successfully wrapped up the event later that afternoon with the NVV raising just over 6 million dollars. Another record year for the vintners, and a success for everyone involved. We could not be more proud of the place we call home. Baldacci is honored to continuously participate in Premiere each year to support our beautiful community.  




Matt Mills
February 17, 2015 | Matt Mills

An Introduction to Sweet Wines


As Kellie discussed in last week's blog post, an often overlooked wine style is dessert or richly sweet wines. She used the example of Sauternes, the great sweet wine region of Bordeaux, and its significnace in history as well as at the dinner table. This week I want to delve a little futher into the most common sweet wines you'll come across at a restaurant, how they're produced, what to expect when you enjoy them...and why you should enjoy them!

Generally speaking, sweetness in wine is a factor of both growing condition and production tehcnique. Sugar is either residual, meaning fermentation did not completely convert it all to alcohol, or less commonly, a winemaker can add a small amount of sugar to the wine after fermentation (such as the dosage in sparkling wine production). Whatever the case may be, sweetness can add an important textural and flavor component to the wine.



There is a catagory of lightly sweet wines - both sparkling and still - that although not part of this discussion are still worth mentioning. On sparkling wine labels you can see wording such as demi-sec, doux or dolce to indicate a level of sweetness, whereas "brut" would indicate being closer to dry. On still white wines, most commonly Riesling, Viognier and Gewurztraminer (although not Baldacci's Gewurztraminer which happens to have nearly zero residual sugar) there can be a delicate, moderate sweetness.

With regard to richly sweet wines that often accompany a dessert pairing, two categories tend to dominate the discussion: late harvest and fortified wines. While this is a gross simplification, late harvest includes the famous noble rot botrytis and ice wine, whereas fortified includes Vin Doux Naturel, Sherry, Madeira and the most well-known, Port

It seems that most people, even the most ardent wine lovers, forego these styles because they don't like the idea of an overly sweet, viscous, syrupy wine. The shame is that just as much care, time and handling go into the production of these wines (sometimes even more so than traditional still wines). However, when they are made properly and paired accordingly, you'll experience some of the most rich, luscious and fragrant wines in the world.

Late harvest means exactly that: grapes that are left on the vine and harvested much later in the season. The region that the grapes are grown in will determine whether that wine will become noble rot, an ice wine or a sweet red wine. Noble rot is the effect of a fungus called botrytis slowly dehydrating individual grapes to increase sugar content, and only happens in ideal environments (misty mornings with sunshine throughout the day). Sauternes, Tokaji from Hungary and some classification of German Riesling fall into this category, and the wines generally share a "honey" - like or honeysuckle flavor profile. The honey profile is best balanced by a complementary amount of acid. These wines command a premium due to the hand harvesting that occurs at the individual grape level as well as the small amount that a vineyard can produce.

Ice wine is popular in regions where the temperature drops to freezing after the harvest season and the wine is generally clear of botrytis. The grapes have a higher concentration of sugar as the moisture within the grape is frozen. Canada, specifically Ontario, has become a market leader in this segment. Although any grape variety could be used, usually you need a hearty vine like Riesling that can withstand the colder, continental climate.

With fortified wines, Port always leads the discussion. Fortified wines start their life as normal still wine with primary fermentation, but then receive a kick from a grape-derived spirit like brandy to halt fermentation, preserve sugar and boost the alcohol content. Although port-style wines are made around the world, Port's home is really in Portugal with roots dating back over 300 years. There are many styles of Port from ruby (young, fruity, fresh) to tawny (aged, oxidative, blended) to acclaimed Colheita (single vintage, aged). Each classificiation distinction would indicate any barrel aging, blending, or oxidative aging.

Cheers...and be sure to drink your dessert next time!


Time Posted: Feb 17, 2015 at 8:00 AM
Kellie Duckhorn
February 10, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Sweets with Sweet Wine


What in the world do these three images have in common? Chateau Yquem! The revered late harvest wine from the Sauternes region of France was coveted by Thomas Jefferson and Tsar Nicholas II...Jefferson felt that this sweet wine was perfectly suited to the American palate and he purchased 250 bottles for both himself and George Washington. In 2001, Sotheby's auctioned off five bottles of the 1865 vintage found in Tsar Nicholas' cellar for the amazing price of £6,200 per bottle! 

Sweet wine, or late harvest wine is the unpredictable result of the perfect conditions created by botrytis noble rot. Noble rot is a moisture loving mold that effectively and slowly dehydrates the wine grape. The most common varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. The finished wine is a deep golden color with a thick viscosity and a fantastic complexity of both aromas and flavors. It is a wine to be consumed in small doses and as such is typically available in a 375ml bottle.

I have to admit, I am really more of a savory person...I like salt, cheese and herb or spice infused sauces. One of my greatest challenges, while dining out, is how to end a fantastic meal. While my table mate has just ordered a Molten Chocolate Lava Cake from Market Restaurant or my sons have decided to replenish ski calories burned with the Hula Pie from Jake's on the Lake, I am left pondering my finale. Sweet desserts do tempt me, but I am always more satisfied with a cheese plate, such as the one offered at Angèle. Therein lies the balancing act: can I have sweet but not too much sweet? The answer is yes!


Apple Tart Tatin Mixed Cheese Platter Lemon Poached Pears


My favorite place to start is with the afore mentioned Late Harvest or Dessert Wine menu. Some of my favorites include Dolce, Navarro Vineyards or Duckhorn Vineyards. Each of these wines are best enjoyed with a fruit driven dessert...something like an Apple Tart Tatin or Lemon Poached Pears. The key to the balancing act is to match the a general rule, make sure that the wine is sweeter than the dessert. Otherwise, the wine will taste overly acidic or tart and leave your palate confused...and possibly a bit disappointed as you were expecting that mouth watering satisfaction of sweet bliss!

Here at Baldacci Family Vineyards, we don't make a late harvest wine but we do offer two fantastic versions of Cabernet Sauvignon that also can be well paired to end a meal. For those who favor savory, I'd take the cheese route with a mild, creamy blue placed on top of a toasted walnut half. This will pair well with our IV Sons blend. For the sweetly inclined, go down the cocoa general, the higher percentage of cacao indicates less sugar, more intensity and a richer chocolate flavor. The bitterness in the dark chocolate will allow the fruit in the wine to leap forward and tease your palate with the perception of sweetness. Our Black Label 100% Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a +60% cacao content nib will show off the dark, ripe fruit element and satisfy your sweet tooth with a lot fewer calories than the pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream!



Time Posted: Feb 10, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Elizabeth Burchard
February 6, 2015 | Elizabeth Burchard

The Sweetest Sweet… Peanut Butter Caramel Punch Cookies

As the unofficially appointed baking specialist on the Baldacci team, I’m happy to try out new baking recipes for our events and our staff. This recipe has a special place with me every Valentine’s Day because it started as a request of one of my three sister for a V-Day dinner. She was looking for something festive, sweet, memorable… and probably (more realistically) something that would impress her date. 

Blossom cookies are always a go-to for me but for my sis I wanted to change it up and see if I couldn’t improve her chance at love.  In my blossom cookies I normally use the completely appropriate for any Valentine treat chocolate Hershey Kisses, but for a twist this time I used the caramel Kisses.They turned out AMAZING!

With Valentine’s Day approaching I’ll be revisiting this recipe to share with the Baldacci team and hope you do the same at home… I know they’re the perfect sweet for your Sweet.

And yes, in the end she got the boy!

Peanut Butter Caramel Punch Cookies

Prep: 25 minutes      Bake: 8 minutes per batch

Oven: 350°F              Makes: about 54 cookies


½ cup butter

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flower

¼ cup granulated sugar

Caramel Chocolate Kisses (about 54)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F   

2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter, peanut butter, ½ cup granulated sugar and brown sugar.

3. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.

4. Beat in baking powder, baking soda and as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Occasionally scrape the sides and beat until well  combined. Stir in the remaining flour

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the ¼ cup granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Immediately press Caramel Kiss into each cookie’s center. Let cool.


If you are restrained enough to have some left over they can freeze or refrigerate very well.


Savannah Ryder
August 12, 2014 | Savannah Ryder

Everything You Need to Know About The Big Crush

Around 6 a.m. last Wednesday, work crews began picking pinot noir grapes along Napa Valley's Silverado Trail, marking the start of the harvest season for the North Coast wine industry. With harvest now underway, Baldacci Family Vineyards is gearing up for the process that this much anticipated season entails.

According to Director of Operations, Michael Baldacci, “judging by the taste of the grapes in our vineyards, it’s going to be a great harvest”. This year the growing season has been pretty consistent with that of previous years. The good weather early on has allowed for an “early bloom”, which has in turn allowed for an “early harvest”. According to the NVG (Napa Valley Grapegrowers), this has been the earliest harvest since 2004 - about 10 years.

So what exactly does harvest mean?

It’s the process when the grapes go from vine to wine. 

First, the grapes begin to go through “veraison” or a change in color from green to purple. About 60 days post veraison is when the “harvest” actually occurs. This is when the grapes have a lower acidity and higher sugar content which makes for the most desirable wine flavors.

Our winemaker, Rolando, measures the “brix” or sugar content of the grapes in order to determine when they are sweet enough to pick from the vines. However, Rolando also relies heavily on his own taste buds and what the grapes actually taste like when determining just the right day to pick. The “picks” typically occur between midnight and 8am when the plant is “asleep” and not undergoing it’s daily process of photosynthesis.

Following the “picks”, the fruit is brought our processing area at our Stags Leap Estate Vineyard, where the grapes go through a “destemmer”, a “crusher”, and then into the fermentation tanks where they stay for between 12-16 days. While in the fermentation tanks, the juice is subject to “pumpovers” that occur about three times per day in order to keep a consistent temperature throughout the tank.

Once the juice is fermented, it is drained into another tank and any remaining skins in the prior tank are squeezed in order to get all of the juice out of them. Finally the juice goes into the barrels and into the cave to be stored!

We are very excited for the harvest to begin and we hope you come and celebrate our new release with us in October!

Time Posted: Aug 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Matt Mills
May 2, 2014 | Matt Mills

5 Ways To Make Your Next Napa Visit Even Better

Looking over the vineyard and seeing beautiful new green growth means just like baseball that our season has started! And hopefully it’s approaching time for some of our veteran visitors along with the rookies to make their plans to indulge in everything the Napa Valley has to offer. As I would deem myself (loosely) a pro entering my fifth season at bat in the Valley, here’s what will make your next visit to see us even better.

1. Call Ahead

The most discussed issue in our Tasting Room is how a surprising number of wineries are now asking for appointments regardless of party size.

Although perhaps more prevalent now, this has been a legal requirement for most tasting rooms to stay within their permitted usage (of which Baldacci Family Vineyards must also comply) for a number of years and is more broadly referred to as part of the WDO, or Winery Definition Ordinance.

As a best practice, call ahead or use online reservation services such as VinoVisit or CellarPass to book your tasting appointment so you get to visit all the wineries on your wish list.  The benefit of just a little advance planning will not only eliminate surprises but likely will offer different tasting experiences! Here at Baldacci we have our great patio and bar for tastings but also schedule private tastings and tours in our Cellar for those that inquire ahead of time.

PRO-TIP: Throughout the Valley you can discover more experiences beyond just tasting such as cave tours, ATV rides, food pairings, cooking demonstrations and more… it usually requires nothing more than asking for it ahead of time!

2. Corkage

The Napa Valley is home to some of the most desired restaurant experiences and celebrated chefs, so hopefully planning for a great meal or two while you’re visiting is on your agenda. Since wine runs through the veins of the Valley it shouldn’t be too surprising that nearly every restaurant offers a great selection of vino, from the hamburger joint down the street to our three-star Michelin rated restaurants.

What may be surprising is that bringing an unopened bottle or two to the restaurant, even bottles you discovered that day, is perfectly acceptable.  Each restaurant has their own policy on corkage so best to call ahead of time or check out their website to review.  Corkage fees average $20 per bottle but are sometimes waived if you buy a bottle off their list.  Attentive staff will see the bottle on the table and usually offer to decant for you. Some common corkage policies are to restrict the number of bottles you may bring in or that you may not bring in a wine they already offer.  It’s a great way to ensure you have a bottle at your table you know that you enjoy at a fair price. 

PRO-TIP: If you bring in a rockstar bottle, do be sure to leave a pour behind for the service staff especially if they did a great job… and sometimes they’ll waive the corkage fee to show their appreciation.

3.  Appellation Education

With regard to grape growing and wine production, the Napa Valley is an American Viticultural Area (or AVA for short).

These geographic distinctions are approved by the federal government and are meant to recognize areas that share nearly identical grape growing conditions.  With the immense soil diversity the Napa Valley enjoys along with changes in microclimate and elevation we currently have sixteen recognized AVA’s within the Napa Valley AVA itself totaling seventeen different named grape growing regions.

Baldacci Family Vineyards is privileged to be located within the historic Stags Leap District which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary as a designation this year, along with estate vineyards in the Carneros and Calistoga regions.

PRO-TIP: Schedule an entire day tasting within one AVA. You’ll develop a deeper appreciation and understanding to what makes that area unique and you’ll save on driving time between wineries.

4.  Get a Driver

Responsible drinking means not driving drunk. A common misconception is that police in the Napa Valley are somehow lenient towards or permit impaired driving… nothing could be further from the truth.

A full day of tasting numerous wines at numerous wineries can and will takes its toll. There are a wide variety of driving services available, from professional chauffeurs to group tours to individuals hired to drive your vehicle for you. Beyond the immediate benefit of not driving impaired you additionally have a local expert who knows the roads, get help set your agenda, and can recommend new wineries.

A new mobile app service (Uber) just was introduced in the Valley this past month that will complement the late night taxi rush and help get up and down the Valley quicker.

PRO-TIP: Always be responsible.

5. Try Something New

Pretty self-explanatory. If you’re a regular to the Valley it’s easy to get caught up in the favorites and not venture out to experience new tasting rooms, restaurants, art exhibits, hiking trails or hot air balloon rides. Lean on the experience and recommendations of people out here and past visitors… word of mouth is still the number one driver of new guests. 

PRO-TIP: Phone a friend.
Time Posted: May 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM
Kevin Baldacci
April 9, 2014 | Kevin Baldacci

5 Ways to Look Like a Wine Pro At Your Next Dinner Meeting

Dinner meetings paired with good wine have long been a standard of executing the arts of business. History is full of examples! The "Dinner Table Bargain" of 1790 where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton agreed on the site of the nation's capital over several bottles of Jefferson's finest wine. Not only that, the Ancient Romans and Greeks rarely held a business or government meeting without wine!

Understanding wine during a dinner meeting (without looking like a snob) is a great way to establish a good rapport for yourself and build trust. It may sound silly but it's true! It's a skill that often eludes many people so when properly shown off, can be a huge benefit to your position at the table.

So with that, here are 5 basic - yet still very important - ways to look like a wine pro at your next dinner meeting:

1. Start With Bubbles Then Move from Light to Heavy

Although Sparkling Wine or Champagne (also known as "bubbles") are commonly selected as a celebratory drink after dinner, try choosing it as a starter. The complexity of sparkling wine somewhat "supercharges" your senses and taste receptors making your future wine experience even better.

From there, start light - probably with a white wine (Chardonnay) or light-bodied red (Pinot Noir) - and make your way to the heavier wines. This practice goes well with the progression of your meal as typically you begin with light courses (appetizers, salads and soups) that pairs well with light-bodied wines. From there, move to heavier wines - such as aCabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc. Medium to heavy-bodied wines typically go really well with the main dish. Wrap up dinner with a nice dessert wine, sherry or port.

2. Make Menu Maneuvering Easier By Understanding Wine Appellations and Regions

Wine list maneuvering can be a difficult task - sometimes a very difficult task. There are upwards of 1,300 types of wine in the world so memorizing all of them helps but would obviously require a lot of time. Don't sit there at your meeting, with your glasses on, trying to pronounce the wines from France or asking about the house wine. Try getting a deal signed or a promotion after pronouncing Merlot, Mur-lott. It's happened before, and it isn't pretty.

An easy way to navigate through a list and understand what may fit your meal is to have a basic understanding of wine regions and their most common varietals.

For example, the wine region of Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey is a cool, coastal part of California which has some fantastic Pinot Noirs. Or Rutherford in the Napa Valley is known for having some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the world therefore could be great wine to show off to your boss.

See how easy that was? And I only know the basics! By understanding wine regions their most notable varietals, you won't even need to taste the wine because everyone will be so impressed with you.

3. Understand the Basics to Pairing Wine with Food

Picking out the wine for your boss is a great way to show him/her your stuff but if you really want to blow the table away, pair wine with your food. Pairing wine and food can be one of the most magical, delicious experiences of your life - if done properly.

Below is a simple list of wines with some solid food pairings:

[Bubbles] Sparkling Wine: Bread, all starters, any kind of cheese
[Light] Pinot Noir: Fruit salad, chicken, BBQ
[Light] Chardonnay: Seafood, Crab, Lobster
[Medium] Sangiovese: Chicken, pork, roasted vegetables
[Heavy] Cabernet Sauvignon: Steak, asiago or havarti cheese, all red meats
[Heaviest] Port: Dessert, Crème brûlée, pie

Here's another great post on how to properly pair wine with food.

4. Learn How To Read a Wine Label

You can find most of the important traits of your wine on the bottle's label. However, understand that some of it is important and some of it is just smoke and mirrors. When the waiter brings out the wine that you ordered and presents the bottle, don't give it a blank, confused look. Know the 5 basics of a wine label:

Producer: Who made the wine
Vintage: Year the grapes were harvested (not bottled or barreled)
Region: Where the grapes grew
Variety: Type of wine (Pinot Noirt, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, etc.)
ABV: Alcohol By Volume (typically 13-15%)

5. Know What You're Smelling and Tasting Without Looking Too Much Like a Snob

We've all seen them before...those dinner partners that stick their nose 2 centimeters from the surface of their wine glass and inhale to a point where it looks like they're attempting to suck the liquid in through their nostrils. Huge intakes of breath and slurping is in no way a sign that you are a pro with wine and in many ways counterproductive.

When the waiter brings out your bottle of wine to taste, all eyes will undoubtedly be on you. The conversation will stop and people will look at you as if you're the emperor choosing life or death. There is a lot going on with wine so make sure you have a simple checklist of items that you're looking for.

Here is a really brief step-by-step checklist of items to note:

(Eyes) Color: Not only is it red or white of course but check for the intensity of the color. Bright indicates a young wine where browning on the edges indicates it's a little older.
(Nose) Aromas: Is it fruity or does it have any mineral taste (you'll get the hang of it). If it smells like wet cardboard (seriously) then it's corked or bad so send it back with the waiter.
(Tongue) Taste: Is it sweet or acidic? What's the tannin structure like?
(Mouth) Finish: Is the taste lasting or short - meaning does the deliciousness hang around or sneak out the back exit? If it's a long lasting sensation then you don't need me to tell you it's good.

BONUS TIP: Start Drinking More Wine and Keeping a Journal

Wine is in no way, shape or form, easy to grasp. There very knowledge of wine is so elusive that less than 1% of the world can say they are actually "wine experts." However, as noted before, by learning the basics, you will be a few steps ahead of most people. The best way to learn is to experience. Start drinking more wine throughout the week and keeping a journal of what you are seeing, smelling, tasting and experiencing. This is an incredible practice that will certainly help you look like a stud at your next dinner meeting.



Time Posted: Apr 9, 2014 at 9:11 AM
Michael Baldacci
February 24, 2014 | Michael Baldacci

My Weekend at the 2014 Premiere Napa Valley

2014 Premiere Napa Valley (PNV) just concluded with a record-breaking auction after a week of tastings, events and dinners.  Being a member of the Steering Committee as well as the Stags Leaps District board I wanted to share my “insider’s” perspective on this wild and fun – yet important – annual event.

Premiere Napa Valley has been taking place for the last 18 years bringing together the top media, trade and restaurateurs to the Valley for one week full of NAPA! Wineries donate 5, 10, and 20 case lots of wine uniquely made for the culmination of the PNV: the auction. This serves as a barometer for how the vintage (in this years’ case the much anticipated 2012 vintage) will be received in the market and gives an opportunity for bidders to experience and potentially buy truly one-of-a-kind, ultra small production wines.

My PNV week started on Thursday afternoon where we poured our 2009 Allwin Syrah in a tasting that featured “unique wines of Napa Valley.” The lunch hosted at Trefethen was a part of a weeklong boot camp for twenty handpicked sommeliers from across the country. This group of ‘somms’ was picked from many applicants through the Guild of Sommeliers. I was a little nervous showcasing a personal favorite in front of the firing squad of professional tasters and critics but our Syrah showed beautifully and earned some great praise!

Friday of PNV Week is traditionally known for being able to share Premiere wines with the bidders in a more intimate setting. As in years past we participated in the annual Stags Leap District “House of Cab” tasting hosted by Pine Ridge in their caves. The barrel tasting features wines exclusively found in the Stags Leap District and once again showed that this pocket of the Valley (celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year as an American Viticultural Area) is producing the best wines in Napa.  

Saturday I awoke with great energy and started blasting “Eye of the Tiger:” it’s Game Day! Out of 225 lots I have to stand out and share my excitement about our lot with hundreds of bidders, media professionals and other vintners to make Baldacci Family Vineyards memorable! Our winemaker Rolando created a 5 case lot that was one of the top tasting wines in the room. 9 o’clock sharp the gates opened at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in St. Helena and were soon filled with eager palettes and empty glasses. Myself, our general manager Debi Cali, and my father Thomas Baldacci took turns pouring and sharing our wines as well as tasting some of the other lots that were in the room. Personal highlights for me included trying Rolando’s wine from his winery Mi Sueno and a newer production called Saunter Wines from our very own vineyard manager Josh Clark and acclaimed winemaker Thomas Brown.

The barrel tasting portion lasted until 12:30 and we enjoyed lunch that had been prepared by the students at the CIA. The Greystone restaurant at the CIA is a hidden gem that can be overlooked amongst the amazing restaurants in this valley but I believe offers a unique experience to try foods be prepared by the next generation of great chefs.

At 1:00pm the first lot kicked off the auction and it was a race to the finish from there with 225 lots taking just over three hours to bid through. The bidding was fast and the generosity from the bidders was amazing.  By the time the gavel struck on the last lot the auction had raised an astounding $5.9 million dollars… a new record for PNV!

Yet at the end of all the PNV events, this week serves a great and important purpose in the Napa Valley.  All of the proceeds from the PNV Auction go into our collective vision as vintners to grow and showcase the reputation of the Napa Valley as the world’s premiere wine growing region.  Amongst all of us Napa Valley vintners we enjoy a truly collaborative and cooperative environment aimed at making Napa Valley wines the best in the world, and every year we get to prove that.

Time Posted: Feb 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM
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Blind Chardonnay tasting from top Chardonnay growing regions! #WineIs knowing your…

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