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Matt Mills
 
July 29, 2015 | Matt Mills

The Roasted Slope

 

Literally embodying summer and grilling is the tiny France region of Côte-Rôtie AOC, a.k.a. “The Roasted Slope.” The Côte-Rôtie lies at the far northern limits of the Rhone just south of Burgundy with only about 550 planted acres specializing in Syrah-based red wines. Sloped (up to 60 degrees!) and rocky vineyards face south along the Rhone River to take advantage of the sun exposure which promotes ripening during the summer but also prevents vines from freezing during the harsh winters. This region also contends with the famous “mistral”, a strong, cold wind that pushes down to the Mediterranean during winter and spring months sometimes reaching 50 mph for extended periods of time.

 

 

Syrah dominates the region similar to other Northern Rhone AOC’s like Hermitage, Cornas and Saint-Joseph. Here at Baldacci Family Vineyards we grow this varietal on our Honey B Estate Vineyard in the cool climate of Carneros where it traditionally gets blended into our Fraternity wine but also sometimes earns its own bottling as Allwin.

 

 

Wines from the Côte-Rôtie are easily distinguished by their aromatics: green olive, pepper, violet, blackberry, plum, leather and a personal favorite, bacon. These wines pair great with barbecue cuisine, bringing together meat, spice and vegetal qualities. Even within this small region, two sub-regions developed from the rocky terroir: the Côte Blonde (lighter, elegant and enjoyed sooner) and the Côte Brune (darker, more tannin, more ageworthy). Most wines found are blended by local negociants to incorporate both characteristics.

 

 

Astonishingly, the tiny region of Côte-Rôtie has been a grapegrowing region for over two millennia thanks to the Romans during the time of Caligula. Since it received the official AOC status in 1940, the wines are unique in a couple respects. For one, a white wine grape (Viognier) is permitted to be blended into the Syrah. Viognier adds additional aromatic character but it has to be blended by cofermentation, a style of production Côte-Rôtie AOC laws mandate. “Cofermentation” means all the grapes (in this case Syrah and Viognier clusters) are brought to tank to begin fermentation together, in lieu of the more traditional individual fermentation prior to blending.

For your next summer barbecue, consider pushing Zin and Cab to the side for a wine that was truly born of roasting.

 

Michael Baldacci
 
July 23, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

Less is More

 

“The sun is out, the grill is hot, and the pool is luke…” a great line from one of my favorite actors Owen Wilson, in one of my favorite movies Meet the Parents. He is describing the day as he is about to entertain his guests, but to me it perfectly describes the summer days here in California. It always seems like the sun is out, the pool is luke, and the grill is ALWAYS hot. 

 

 

A lot of people pride themselves in their skills on the grills, while I do not want to sell myself short, I have mastered the art of direct and indirect heat, but in the end less is more. Nothing says summer like burgers, hot dogs and a baseball game. The key to all is fresh ingredients, patience on the grill and a good team like the Oakland Athletics to watch.

 

 

Sunday afternoon is a great time for my family to gather in the backyard, enjoy a 1:00 first pitch and begin a late lunch, early dinner type of meal. As I said less is more, this meal calls for limited prep time, and a cook time of about an inning and a half depending on how the A’s are swinging the bats. I like to get the grill going before any of the prep work has begun, consistent temperature is vital to a solid tasting burger or dog. It is important to have plenty of time to dial in the perfect temperature of 375 degrees, hot enough to get a good char, but also allows for a consistent cook all the way through without burning the outside.

 


Now comes the fun part, grilling, the patties should be set, the dogs are ready to cook, and now it is time to throw them on the grill. At the right temperature the burgers and dogs should be fairly straightforward and easy. Once the burger starts to curl up off the grill and show some browning underneath, it is time to flip, generally after about 6 minutes. At the same time you flip the burger, it is time to roll the hot dog on the other side. Two even cooking times will give you the perfectly balanced burger and dog. I usually like to throw the buns on with a couple of minutes left to warm up before serving, at the same time is it a good idea to ask around for the people who are looking to make it a cheese burger.


As the grill begins to heat up, that is the perfect time to get all of the ingredients prepared. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mustard and relish are necessary for both hot dogs and burgers. With the core ingredients covered, I like to switch things up to give my guests some unforeseen and rarely used options when it comes to their hot dog and burger building. I love to throw in a couple of different mustards, including hot and sweet, Dijon and spicy mustard, in case the guest wants to spice it up. I have recently found that jalapenos on the hot dog are key for a nice kick of spice with a hint on sweetness. And while it is frowned upon by some burger enthusiasts, a good ole fashioned “Rodeo Burger”, which consists of a ridiculous amount of BBQ sauce and extra cheese, is usually enjoyed by at least one carnivore in the group!

 

Now comes the best part, cracking open a nice bottle of Elizabeth Pinot Noir, pouring enough for everyone to enjoy, allowing them to build their burger or dog and sit down just in time for a big A’s Rally!!

 

 

Elizabeth Burchard
 
July 16, 2015 | Elizabeth Burchard

Thrill the Grill

 

There is nothing like grilling and drinking Baldacci wine with family and friends during the long summer days. You may think more beer and barbecue, but I like wine. It has the intensity, body, aroma and flavor to complement almost anything you can grill over a fire. Before the guests arrive, I start early by chilling a bottle of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. I also prepare an easy appetizer by throwing a couple of seasoned pitas on the grill. I let them get just enough color on each side before cutting them up into bit-size triangles.  These make the perfect cracker to enjoy with hummus, which pairs well with a refreshing glass of Baldacci's Gewurztraminer.  The clean and dry style Gewuztraminer will complement the creaminess of the hummus.
 

 

 

Summer grilling season often means super fresh fare of veggies to go around. I love making veggie skewers, they are easy and delicious. Pick out some of your summer favorites and slice them into big pieces. I prefer bell peppers, zucchini and mushrooms.  I also love to grill corn on the cob with lots of butter! These skewers and corn taste amazing with either Baldacci's Sorelle Chardonnay or Elizabeth Pinot Noir. Both these wines are grill friendly and are capable of handling all sorts of barbecue favorites.

 

 

The protein is one of the best parts of grilling.  Browns Valley Market has some of the best meat in Napa. Anything you get from there is always tender and delicious. I usually like to grill hamburgers or a tri-tip or steak.  The best wine to enjoy with these types of meat are Baldacci's Black Label Cabernet or Syrah. The big bold flavors in these wines are mellowed by the meat's fat; while at the same time the salt in the meat will also help intensify the fruit creating a palate pleaser to remember. These wines definitely shine at any barbecue gathering!

So next time you find yourself pulling out the grill remember it's also a nice time to pull out the wine. Enjoy!


 

 

Mike Knox
 
July 8, 2015 | Mike Knox

Cooking with Fire!

 

 

For me Summer time is about moving the kitchen outdoors and cooking with fire!  There are all sorts of foods that I like to apply fire to but my most favorite is Tequila Lime Chicken.  Nothing fancy… just quality ingredients make this an off the charts dinner for the family to enjoy on the patio.  First I track down some boneless organic chicken breasts along with brown sugar, cilantro, high quality Tequila (not any of the cheap stuff… bad memories of Tijuana) and some local olive oil produced here in the Napa Valley.  I have found that our friends at Round Pond make some off the charts olive oil!  After the roundup of the ingredients the last piece of the puzzle comes from my lime tree in my back yard.

 

 

With 4 – 8 pieces of chicken in a one gallon zip lock bag, add olive oil so that there is plenty to coat the chicken. (Make sure your olive oil is fresh and that it has not passed its shelf life which happens to be very short by the way.)   Add 1 cup of brown sugar followed by 1 cup of your finest Tequila. Include the lime juice from 6 limes and half a handful of chopped cilantro will round things out.  Mix all of these ingredients together in the zip lock bag for an hour or two and then cook over indirect heat on your grill.  As you are cooking, pour the contents from the bag over the chicken on the grill so that the brown sugar continues to caramelize while you cook.  Indirect heat will prevent flame ups when you pour the marinade over each side of the chicken on the grill.   Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked it is time to feast! The chicken is phenomenal on its own, but pair it with a bottle of Baldacci’s dry Gewürztraminer and it is to die for!

 

 

Kellie Duckhorn
 
June 30, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Hike Napa Valley

Mount St. Helena, CA

 

I love to run, but my favorite end of the week exercise is my Sunday hike. It’s my time to slow down, feel the week fall behind me and re-energize for the next week. It’s about seeing a place for the first time, even if it’s my favorite trail that I have traveled hundreds of times…it’s the awareness of the seasons, the subtle changes in light and foliage and flowers…it’s about hugging my favorite redwood tree and giving thanks.

For those of you who are new or who are veterans of the Napa Valley, the best way to plan a Sunday hike is to gauge your energy level on Sunday morning! Do you want to stroll or break a sweat? Picnic or just water? View or solitude? All things are possible!

Calistoga

For a picnic hike, pop into Cal-Mart and grab a fantastic sandwich, drink and other snacks. Table Rock is the best place for a view and a place to eat. It is a bit of a climb and you will have earned your picnic, but fortunately, it’s not too far. In the spring there are plenty of wild flowers and there is an area where people have put rocks into creative formations which seem surprisingly natural and almost unearthly. Go early as parking is limited and since the trail is western facing, you will be in the sun. No dogs are allowed.

Mount St. Helena is a longer hike, but has the sense of accomplishment…that flat topped peak at the north end of the Valley that has been in your sites will now take on a different dimension. The trail is actually a fire road, so very easy to navigate with a steady uphill grade for about five miles. There is an old wooden platform at the base of the cell phone towers to sit back on, and enjoy the view. On clear days most of the San Francisco Bay Area is visible, to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Sierra’s to the East and the top of Mt. Shasta, 192 miles to the north. This hike has been a family Thanksgiving tradition for over 20 years and it is how we all earn our extra helping of pumpkin pie! No dogs allowed.

St. Helena

One of the best state parks is Napa Bothe. This little gem is tucked up into Ritchey Canyon and the rich forest belies our more arid Valley floor climate. It is so unexpected to find beautiful redwood trees, ferns and seasonal flowers. This is also an excellent park for weekend camping! Even if you are a local, it’s nice to break out the car camping gear and spend the night under the stars without the grind of a long drive. There are many different trails and my favorite is Coyote Peak for the view and the solitude as you follow Ritchey Creek up to the summit. If you have young children, this is one of the best “intro to car camping” parks around as it is often overlooked for sites on the Coast or the Sierra’s, thus making it a quiet and peaceful nature escape that is close to home.

Ritchey Canyon to Coyote Peak Trail Lake Hennessey

 

Lake Hennessey is my go to Sunday stroll. Follow old Howell Mountain Road to Conn Valley Road and keep driving until you cross a small bridge over Conn Creek. If you hit Greenfield Road, you’ve gone too far. The parking turn out is just before the bridge, on the east side of the road. Directly across the parking area is a gate to access the dirt road which follows Lake Hennessey along the west side. It’s about two miles to the dam with an easy, level grade until just before the settling ponds. The short climb up the slight incline brings you to the top of the dam. This walk is a bird watcher’s paradise! Pack a picnic from Sunshine Market and bring your binoculars. It is so easy to pass a few hours sitting on the bank of the lake soaking in the sunshine with the sounds of water and wildlife to gently lull you into a nap.

Napa

Without having to plan too much in advance, Napa offers two small parks for a quick hike. Choose from either Alston Park or Westwood Hills Park as a remedy for the Sunday hang-over when it’s necessary to have some exercise, without being too serious. Both have benches perfectly placed for a rest and a view and both are active with locals and their dogs. These parks can also be best enjoyed with a pastry from Alexis Baking Company or Sweetie Pies and a hot cup of coffee!

If you want something a bit more strenuous, Skyline Wilderness Park is part of the greater Bay Area Ridge Trail system. The hike up to Lake Marie is steep but gorgeous. It’s a true trail that can be narrow and rocky, but given that you are minutes from downtown Napa, it provides nearby adventure and an escape from the world.

Skyline Wilderness Park, Lake Marie and Buckeye Trail

 

Finally, for those of you who love to backpack, I highly recommend the Lost Coast. It is as remote as the literature describes and the variation in terrain is fantastic! Redwoods, open scrub brush, coastal wild flowers, lush ferns which grow along the creeks, grassland and more…this area is still wild and we saw whales, a bear and a multitude of birds. The trail is often a goat scramble, but the final reward is a campsite on the beach at Little Jackass Creek. Pure backpacking bliss!

 

Matt Mills
 
June 23, 2015 | Matt Mills

The Sport of Kings, Soldiers and Vintners

 

While the Roman Empire was expanding their political and military reach from Italy to the Atlantic, they propagated two additional components of their everyday life that we as Napa Valley vintners are proud to carry on in the modern era: winemaking and bocce. Influencing every region they conquered the Romans brought a rich history of viticulture and winemaking practices out of the Italian peninsula including the first recorded instances of glass blown containers. This disbursal helped set the foundation for what we generically call “The Old World” of wine across the European region.

 

Bocce, stemming originally from the Latin word “bottica” (meaning “ball”), developed simply enough as an organized game soldiers played in their downtime throwing larger stones at a smaller “leader” stone, with whomever getting closest to hitting the leader would win the point. The first records of this game show up over 6,000 years ago in Egypt, then in Greece and witnessed an explosion under the Romans. To this day historians claim ancient bocce as the Godfather to the modern era’s most physically and athletically demanding sports such as bowling, curling and tetherball.

 

As the sport spread in popularity so did follow its prohibition. Numerous instances in European history point to Kings as well as the Catholic Church banning the game as it presented a clear distraction to more necessary daily pursuits and a more pious life. Upon being notified during a game of bocce that the feared Spanish Armada was about to attack the English, Sir Francis Drake remarked “First, we finish the game; then we have time for the invincible armada.” Even the new colonies of America considered protecting the commoner’s right to bocce as a fundamental and unalienable right deserving of its own constitutional amendment, but a lack of bipartisan support stopped the bill from progressing.

Nowadays the dimensions of the field of play vary but it’s usually a long stretch of level crushed stone or oyster shell (replacing the customary Roman practice of the crushed bones of your vanquished foes). A target ball - the pallino - is tossed down the field of play and two teams battle bowling larger balls to get closest to the pallino and hereby scoring points. And in homage to our Roman forefathers, we here in the Valley prefer to bowl with one hand while holding a glass of wine with the other.

 

 

Starting my career in the illicit and lucrative underground bocce scene in Oakland, I was drafted three years ago as a pro into the highly competitive St Helena Bocce Sunday Night League with fellow bocce enthusiast, Michael Baldacci (a.k.a Michael “Bal-bacci”). A good night of competition often ends in elation, tears, an iced shoulder or two and usually celebratory (or consoling) cocktails. We look forward to continued American domination this season against the highly touted New Zealand, French and Finnish squads, as well as a much needed All-Star break.

 

Michael Baldacci
 
June 18, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

A Championship Effort

 

As a DIE HARD sports fan I have cheered on my teams (Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors) for as long as I can remember. I have wanted to experience a championship season SOOO BADLY. Each of the teams have had their ups and downs but recently each team has had a year that gives me hope. Believing that this this will be the year but only to fall short and sadly breaking my heart. After so many let downs I began to question is all of this excitement and anticipation only to be let down worth it? Will a championship season mend all those wounds? I am here to tell you YES it will! Experiencing your team win a championship is truly the mountaintop of fandom.

 

 

On Tuesday night the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years, and the first for any of my teams that I was of age to fully appreciate. I didn’t know how to react other than to scream at the top of my lungs, hug everyone around me and dance the night away. I had followed the team through all of the ups and downs, and when others doubted I stayed strong. This year that all paid off.  The Golden State Warriors are, and forever will be the 2014-2015 NBA Champions.

 

Winemaker, Rolando Herrera  The Baldacci Team Vticulturist, Garrett Buckland

 

Championship teams do not always materialize on the court or the field. Here at Baldacci Family Vineyards we have our own championship team.  Wine takes a total team effort: it starts in the vineyard, to the production team, and finally the sales and marketing team. Each part of the team works together, but separate, we need each piece of the team to do their job to the best of their ability, and together we put out a great product. Our team starts in the vineyards with Garrett Buckland our viticulturist. Each year he puts together a game plan for the vineyards and things to keep an eye on as the growing season evolves. More leaves when it is hot, more water at the right times, as well as proper oversight to maintain the health of the vines through all weather. From there Rolando Herrera takes the ball. Rolando has been the head of our winemaking team for the last 12 years and each year he creates wines that are a true reflection of all the hard work done in the vineyard. Once Rolando is finished crafting a wine that reflects the vineyards and the vintage it is passed on to the Sales and Marketing team to tell the complete story of that wine. Sharing the team effort it took for that wine to get to their glass.

As a member of the Baldacci Family I am proud to say that we have a championship team. We may not be given a championship trophy each year but being able to look at each bottle of wine and be proud about the hard work put in by everyone involved is just as rewarding and exciting.

 

Elizabeth Burchard
 
June 9, 2015 | Elizabeth Burchard

Refuse to Lose

 

I have always enjoyed sporting events whether I am participating in them or just being a spectator. My most memorable sporting events are the ones that I spend with my sisters. I am one of four girls with only a two-year gap between each of us. Being so close in age, my parents always encouraged us to participate in similar activities, including sports.  Quite honestly I think it was more convenient for them to only have to drive us in one direction, but regardless the activities ended up being more enjoyable when we did them together.  

 

 

I recall us working our way through the various sports from swimming, karate, soccer, to softball, cheerleading, water polo and cross country.  Swimming had special memories for me, as I think it was probably the perfect family experience.  Hanging around the pool deck, goofing around with my sisters and friends, and finally when it became so unbearably hot…. it was time to (dive) jump into the pool for my next event.  Now that I’m a bit older and no longer the athlete I once was, I find myself more in the role of a spectator of sport enjoying competition through the play of others. 

 

 

Having gone to a big time (Pac 12) college at the University of Arizona where sports was a huge part of my college experience, I eventually learned the “fine art” of being a super fan.  Whether it was enjoying a great tailgate before watching our UofA football beat down another opponent, to rocking the McHale Center with loud chanting as we worked the fans into a frenzy while our basketball team played its way into March Madness tournament again.  Now that I’m back home in the bay area, I’ve re-established a connection and love for some of our great local franchises (namely the 49ers, Giants, A’s and Warriors).  One thing I’ve learned to be true, and that is there’s no better way to enjoy a great sporting event than to do so with a fine glass of (Baldacci Vineyards) wine in hand.  Of course, that’s why being a spectator of sport is so much fun, you can do so while surrounding yourself with all your “creature” comforts (aka: fine wine and food amongst the company of your friends and family). 

 

 

Mike Knox
 
June 4, 2015 | Mike Knox

Swimmers Take Your Mark

 

The days of my participation in competitive sports are behind me these days but that does not mean I can’t find a way to be involved.  With my daughter taking a big interest in competitive swimming I have experienced a whole new realm of participation; that of a swim dad.  Addy belongs to a club team here in the Napa Valley (St. Helena Waves) and she swims year round with the team.  My participation comes during her meets with lots of time spent timing.  I have learned to love the timing aspect of the meets because I get to be right at the water’s edge with the best view of the races.  When my daughter is on the blocks I can watch her entire race and cheer for her even though I might be timing another swimmer.

 

 

Then there are the home meets.  It is all hands on deck to set things up and run the meet so there is usually a bigger role to play for the parents on our team.  I decided to take on a bigger role as head timer and wow was that a whole different level of participation.  I thought the head timer just held a stop watch and walked around looking official but that turns out not to be the case.  I learned quickly that I was in charge of making sure there were enough timers in every lane from all the different teams and that I had to start my watch for each and every race to have ready for handing off to any of the other parents that were not able to coordinate pressing a button at the flash of the starting light.  There were a lot of hand offs…All through the two days of the meet!  Yeah my daughter raced but did I get a chance to see?  Sort of… I got to see some of her starts and a few finishes.  More importantly I got to be involved in making the meet run smoothly so that my daughter could do what she does best which is swim fast and have a lot of fun with her friends.  I also love it because my daughter loves swimming and I am so thrilled to share that with her.

So where does the wine part come in with these ramblings of being a competitive swim dad?  Hot tub time of course! What better way to relax sore timing fingers than the warm waters of the tub and some soft, smooth, velvety, cab.

 

Kellie Duckhorn
 
May 27, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Endless Summer

Our family has a tradition of spending one summer week together. This was started by my mom, when all of the grandkids became of an age where table manners were stabilized, sleeping habits were consistent and diaper bags were replaced with proper luggage! 

The first of several gatherings took place at the Gros Ventre River Ranch, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. First stop is at Dornan's to stock up on wine. Next stop for a bite at the Snake River Grill before heading into the Gros Ventre Wilderness...

Margaret Duckhorn and her grandchildren
Gros Ventre River Ranch

Our other favorite summer hang out is Lake Tahoe. Since I was a small child, our family has spent countless summers and winters in this extraordinarily beautiful place. It's a place filled with generations of families who have found a quiet place to reconnect with each other and to continue the storytelling of first downhill runs at Squaw Valley or Homewood, 6:30a water skiing on a lake of glass, or brunch at Sunnyside with a cocktail for the adults and a shirley temple for the kids...

  Finally, there is the tradition of having a completely spontaneous moment that is often orchestrated by my brother, David. Chester, CA is a sleepy town outside of Lake Almanor. Every year, Chester hosts a no-nonsense Fourth of July Parade. Without preamble, David enrolled our family in the parade! After a quick consult with everyone, we towed our vintage jeep up to the rental cabin, converted the trailer into a float, loaded up on beer (Chester is blazing hot) and were awarded First Place in the Group Division! Cheers to summer fun...

Chester Fourth of July Parade

 

 

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