Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: California Wine Club Holiday Selection!

Hello everyone! It's time for another review of the fine wines from the great folks at the California Wine Club! Since this was their Holiday selection, I love that each bottle of wine came festively dressed and a handy wine tote was also included!
After seeing the attention to detail with the first shipment, I looked forward to the next shipment! In front of me was the latest issue of Uncorked and I quickly opened it up to learn about the winery that was chosen for this month! This time I will be reviewing their monthly selection from Dan Gehrs Wines.

Dan Gehrs Wines is located in Santa Barbara County. Here is his story from the web site:

Daniel Gehrs Wines is the personal expression of winemaker Daniel Gehrs, whose vision of wine is simply this: “The holy grail of my winemaking is the taste of the grape on the day of harvest.” Dan hastens to add: “The first duty of a wine is to be interesting. Life is too short for boring wines”. Closely following this dictum is a second, simply put “A wine must taste good. Not just for ‘tasting’ but for ‘drinking’!” Dan firmly believes in wine as food. He remembers: “When I worked at Paul Masson back in the ‘70’s, I guided tours for awhile, through their vast cellar. One of the signs I always pointed out to visitors said: ‘Wine is food’. That’s stuck with me to this day. My greatest experiences with wine have always been in the company of food. So when I’m making and blending wine I’m really thinking about it in terms of complimenting and enhancing food. That rules out blatantly ‘over the top’ or ‘trophy’ wine styles that the press loves to fawn over. They can be terrible with a meal!” He is quick to add: “I’ve never liked the ‘Hollywood’ celebrity image some wineries and winemakers seem to crave. After all, there are better ways to become rich and famous than to make wine!”
Dan, as he is known to his friends, entered the California wine business in 1974 having just graduated from college the year before. He worked for Paul Masson Vineyards in Saratoga, CA for two years in public relations but really craved a career in hands-on winemaking and grape growing. His chance came in 1976 when Dan, his wife Robin and Victor Erickson founded Congress Springs Vineyards on Erickson’s property in the Santa Cruz Mountains which had been a working winery for half a century but was in a state of advanced decay by the early ‘70’s. Congress Springs grew and prospered and in 1980 Dan’s Congress Spring’s 1978 Pinot Noir was awarded Wine Spectator’s “Spectator Selection” honors. This was followed up with the ’85 Chardonnay in which, in 1986, became the most awarded wine in California, surpassing all other varietals, according to the annual California Grapevine survey.
In 1990 Dan and his family left Congress Springs and founded Daniel Gehrs Wines. The original plan was to focus exclusively on Loire varietals; Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Franc. Only Chenin Blanc remains in the lineup now. Today, the line is more diversified featuring Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Free Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and our iconic Fireside Port.
In 1993 Dan and the family left the Bay Area and moved to Santa Barbara County where Dan became the winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery. This started a successful, five year period in which Dan electrified the region and the industry by producing Zaca Mesa’s renowned 1993 Syrah; Wine Spectator’s #6 wine in the world in 1996. The stampede to plant Syrah immediately followed. Dan also produced a 1996 Roussanne while at Zaca Mesa which became the first non-Chardonnay to win “Best of Show” in the white wine category at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.
After the 1997 vintage Dan left Zaca Mesa to pursue his own interests, as an independent winery and also as a successful, consulting winemaker. The 1998 Bridlewood Syrah, where Dan was the founding winemaker, became the most highly awarded California Syrah in 2000. Y2K also saw the move of Daniel Gehrs Wines tasting room from Solvang to Los Olivos with the purchase of Heather Cottage on Grand Avenue, a circa 1904 Victorian house from the horse and buggy era. The Wine Garden outside and behind the historic structure serves groups and the many visitors on weekends and for special events.
In 2006 Dan partnered with Fred, Joe and John Franzia to bring the venerable Congress Springs name and brand back to life with a focus on the historic Lodi appellation where the Franzia’s have substantial vineyard holdings. A new label and package debuted in 2009 featuring five varietals which excel in the unique terroir of Lodi. Already the recipients of numerous awards these wines mark the return of a modern day Congress Springs Vineyards.
The current production level of 12,000-14,000 cases is sustained by brisk sales in a dozen major markets, largely east of the Mississippi. Life is good but the wine business is also extremely competitive and challenging. Dan likes to joke that when he goes to Las Vegas he doesn’t gamble. Why? “I don’t need to – I’m in the wine business!” Still, at three and a half decades in the business, he’s still loving it, still going strong, still optimistic. Want an example? “The world would be a better place if more people drank wine!”

The first bottle that I tried was the 2011 Chenin Blanc, a beautiful white wine.It has won a few awards including:  
Chairman's Best of Class medal at the Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition, 2012
Gold Medal & Best Buy
- World Value Wine Challenge 2012
Silver Medal - Orange County Fair and Events Center Commercial Wine Competition.
Silver Medal - California State Fair

It is a lovely crisp white wine with aromas of plums and wild flowers with flavors of pear and melon. The Chenin Blanc was recommended to be paired with seasoned chicken dishes, spicy Asian foods and mild white fish including oysters. I took a very different approach.
 I paired the Chenin Blanc with a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. It was a perfect match! The delicateness of the red velvet and the sweetness of the cream cheese frosting went perfectly with the flavors of fruits of the Chenin Blanc. They both left a smooth taste on the palate.

The second bottle was the 2009 Merlot. It is another award winner as well:
Double Gold Medal – Tasters Guild International Wine Judging
Gold Medal – Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
Silver Medal – San Diego International Wine Competition
Silver Medal – Pacific Rim International Wine Competition
Silver Medal – West Coast Wine Competition
Silver Medal – New World International Wine Competition
86 Points Very Good "Strong Recommendation" – Ultimate Wine Challenge, NYC

It was a full bodied red wine with notes of earthiness as well as black cherry and left a smooth yet long finish. It was recommended to be paired with prime rib but I once again went a slightly different route.
This time I went the classic route and paired with a wonderful spaghetti with meatballs and Italian sausage, a Caesar salad and cheesy garlic bread from one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurants. The Merlot went perfectly with the richness of the pasta sauce. It was the perfect compliment to my dinner!

The two months of wine selections have been an amazing gift! I would recommend this to anyone you know that is either a wine fan or a wine novice such as myself. After just two months though I feel better educated on wines and I am a fan of the California Wine Club and their dedication to bringing you great wines from smaller wineries.

The ease of ordering online and having a great package presented each and every month to you or loved ones sure beats the Holiday shopping crowds. Save yourself time and stress by giving your friends this unique gift of great wines from small wineries!

And the California Wine Club is offering Reader's of Sasaki Time and Budget Savvy Diva a discount of 10% with the Coupon Code: Blog10 club memberships! Use the link below to learn more about each club membership:

 California Wine Club Fun and Unique Holiday Gift!

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