Julia has been swirling, sipping and swilling wines throughout California and beyond for more than two decades. Her passion is discovering big wines in small places. So, come with her and fill your glass.

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Located on the northeastern coast of Spain, the Basque region is enchanting and filled with great wines and great cuisines.

For such a small nation (just over 2 million population) the Basques have an amazing number of 28 Michelin stars and members of the “50 Best Restaurants” List.

Put idiazabol, a creamy sheepsmilk cheese, txakoli, the white wine of the coast and the famous Rioja wines on your list too.

Today’s Basque autonomous community in Spain is divided into three provinces: Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. And although Bilbao is the biggest city, San Sebastian is the most familiar to visitors.

Their language – Euskara is not related to Spanish or French – or to anything else. Linguists call it an “isolate.”

Albarino wines from Rias Baixas in Spain came to San Francisco recently to re-introduce the varietal to local sniffers and sippers.

Located in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain, the Rias Baixas region was established in 1988. Albarino has always been the flagship of this coastal area’s unique climate with mineral-rich soils and cool climate.

According to local legend, the Rias Baixas are the traces left by the fingers of God’s hand, when after creation He rested for a moment in Galicia.

Whatever your belief, the beauty of the landscape has long inspired divine feelings. This lush regions bears a stronger resemblance to the green fields and rocky coasts of Ireland


Over 99 percent of all wine produced in Rias Baixas is white, Albarino grape represents 90 percent of all plantings.

Often referred to as “a tough little grape, winemaking

styles from this region range from crisp and aromatic to a peachier, softer style. Albarino from this area is an extremely food-friendly wine that shows aromas of green apple, honeysuckle, citrus, ripe melon, peach, pear and apricot.

The wines are fruity, yet bone-dry with bright acidity and mineral overtones and ready to drink upon release.


The fascinating story of “Animo” (meaning spirit in Italian)–Michael Mondavi Family Estate’s Heritage Sauvignon Blanc – began 17 years ago.

In 2004 the family acquired cutting from a special vineyard known as the oldest surviving Sauvignon Blanc in North America. The wine wizards at the estate grafted the cutting onto St. George’s root stock and head trained the vines in the classic style.

(It is believed the heritage of the plant was brought to California 100 years ago from the Loire because of the character complexity of the finished wine.)

Winemaker Rob Mondavi Jr. says they may never know the exact origin, yet understands the remarkable style and quality of the historical selection. Only 140 cases were produced.

The rare 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($65) was hand-picked at first light, keeping the berry and fresh fruit character. The wait for the first taste was over after the wine was aged for five months.

Fresh, springtime minerality with green aromas entice the senses with hints of citrus. Fresh nectarine, green kiwi and lime cascade on the palate with a clean finish.

Pour this exceptional wine with any shellfish, grilled or marinated white meat fishes and sushi.


Prophecy wines recently released four very different wines that are a feast for the palate the eye.

These wines are inspired by the bounty of harvest and the possibility of greatness in a glass. Each of the distinctive wines’ art labels tell the story of the winemakers’ experiences in finding the crafting these selection and how the Victo Ngai, the artist, drew her inspiration from the wines and tarot cards.

Grapes for Prophecy 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($14) comes from New Zealand’s coveted place where a long, cool growing season nurtures vibrant fruit flavors. This varietal is brimming with full-bodied fruit with citrus, green whispers of grass and crisp tropical flavors.

The label depicts the High Priestess carrying a scroll that representsthe search for higher knowledge.  Her story is that to truly know yourself, you must look within and deeply explore your experiences and values.

The 2015 Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio ($14) boats a stunning varietal from Northeastern Italy in the shadow of snow-capped mountains. This delicate selection cascades with citrus aromas and tropical fruit, juicy pear and green apple flavors.

The artwork portrays the Star. The story is that in order to know peace and happiness, you must first discover your place in the universe. The eight pointed stars surrounding the Star represent strength, the quality most needed to accept your faults and love yourself.

The plush, silky 2015 Prophecy Pinot Noir ($14) showcases the best of California. The bright bouquet of cranberry and raspberry embraces the senses and opens the palate with luscious red cherry, clove and strawberry flavors.

This label depicts the Traveler. His story is that to know the world, you must travel across it, leaping into the unknown with an open mind and adventurous heart. The dogs at the Traveler’s feet represent the call of the world.

Prophecy 2015 Red Blend ($14) blends grapes from W

ashington State and California into an outstanding “marriage.” Enticing aromas and flavors of raspberry, blackberry, plum and baked cherries meld int

o a long, smooth finish with whispers of tasted oak and baking spice.

Represented by the Lovers, the blend brings together the fruit from two legendary regions. In order to truly know and love another person, you must fully embrace them, exploring who they are and who you are with them. The shining sun behind them shows the warmth and security of their relationship.




Here’s a scenario:

You have invited a group of wine buffs over for a tasting of sparkling and still whites.The table is set, small bites on the plates and glassware is sparkling.

But wait! The wine is not chilled and there is knocking on the door.

Hyper Chiller (ready in the freezer) to the rescue!

Here’s how it works:

Fill the small stainless steel cup with water up to the indented mark and twist the lid. Next fill large stainless steel cup with water to the indented


mark and pour into the black HyperChiller ($29.95) cup. Twist empty large stainless steel cup to the lid. Twist lid assembly to HyperChiller cup and place upright in freezer for 12 hours.

Grab a favorite bottle of white wine off the shelf and pour into the chiller; no need to worry about settling for the limited selection in the cooler. Chill the whole bottle in a matter of minutes! Flash-chill your favorite spirits, coffee and juices quickly, while protecting their delicate flavors. Perfect for chilling ‘Happy Hour” cocktails too.

This method is like adding 30 ice cubes to your beverage without any dilution.

No corkscrew? No problem. Backpack wines has you covered.

For the first time, great-tasting, quality wine is offered in a convenient, take-anywhere, easy-open, recyclable can. Backpack wines are available in Cheeky Rosé and Snappy White, is available in four-can packs of rosé and white wine blends sourced from the finest vineyards.

Backpack offers a unique combo of great-tasting, quality wine in a rebellious and fresh manner and brings the convenience and accessibility of a can, along with the great taste and higher quality people who enjoy wine appreciate – a perfect addition to any activity. This unique product is not only easy to socialize over, but it’s portable, shareable and fun to pair with any foods, from casual to fancy – making it a perfect option for any activity or environment you may find yourself in.

No glasses. No hassle.

The Rose selection is perky with aromas of strawberry and rose petals with a helping of wild plum. Snappy white is clean, refreshing with whispers of apple and kiwifruit.

Last year, Backpack Wine began hitting the shelves in leading grocery stores and beverage retailers. And has expanded across the U.S. and making the recyclable canned wine a $15 million dollar industry.

If you are a Zinfandel lover there is only one place you should be today: It’s Zin- EX Grand tasting at Pier 27 in San Francisco.

Sponsored by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), members study and celebrate the Zinfandel grape and educate the public about Zinfandel’s place in American culture. ZAP springs from an enormous and uniquely Zin-like experience from those who love Zin.

Zinfandel crafters from all over California will be pouring today from 11– 4:30 pm.

From A-Z :ACORN winery in Healdsburg to Zinlena in Geyserville and Lange Twins winery and Vineyards in Lodi and Opolo Vineyards in  Paso Robles, and more will be swirling and sipping.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased here: http://www.zinfandelexperience.com/tickets



Maybe you’ve been waiting for that Oscar invitation for weeks and the mail carrier is avoiding those desperate stares?

You can still party like an Oscar nominee for little cash and a lot of panache.

First is the guest list of your movie buff buds. Cut a sample ballot out of the newspaper (most will carry them this week) and made several copies.

Wine presentation is very important so if you don’t have a champagne chiller just cover a small bucket with foil. Make your sparkling wine and still wine the centerpiece for the party.

Add an element of surprise and ask each guest to bring an appetizer that is typifies those in the “Best Picture” category.

For example, little lobster rolls is an obvious choice for “Manchester by the Sea.” Several bread sticks anchored in a pesto-covered block of cream cheese is a good call for “Fences.”  “La La Land” requires a little razzle, dazzle. Cut cheese into crescent shapes and top with edible silver sparkles.

Champagne is the obvious celebratory beverage to accompany Oscar night. The prices are as varied as the number of nominees. Zinfandel is a nod to California’s wine so it’s a good pairing choice. Hang gold ribbon curtains around the main party area and pop the corks.

And the envelope please…






Flora Springs Family Estate has created a 2014 cabernet sauvignon and a 2015 chardonnay that celebrate winemaking skills and define elegance.

The Komes-Garvey family (Flora Springs’ proprietors) have been farming on 350 estate-owned acres and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The family – with the second and third generation working side by side – is as committed to producing estate-grown wines of character and quality. Their portfolio of distinct wines mirror their stewardship and respect for the land.

Fermented in French oak barrels and aged in a combination of oak and concrete containers, the Family Select Chardonnay ($35) shows off rich, ripe, caramelized fruit with notes of ripe pear and almond. Twice-weekly lees stirring and 30 percent malolactic fermentation give the wine a creamy, open texture, and the long finish coats the mouth in delicious vanilla custard.

Enjoy this chardonnay along side crab cakes with Remoulade sauce and roast chicken with fresh herbs.

This fruit-forward Napa Valley Cabernet ($40) offers seductive aromas of blackberry jam, dark plum and boysenberry with hints of toasted spice and dark chocolate. In the mouth, lush fruit is layered with notes of brown baking spices, vanilla, dark espresso bean along with traces of fresh sage and lavender. This is a warm, voluptuous selection, packed with fruit but displaying a good balance of oak, tannin and acid.

Pour this with loaded tacos, pork loin and milk chocolate


So your Valentine’s Day isn’t the romantic day of your dreams.

Things can improve…Why not buy yourself a bottle or two of Laphroaig single malt Scotch? It comes conveniently packaged and ready for imbibing. No gift wrapping required either.

Laphroaig “Lore” – the most richly flavored of all – means the passing of tradition and skills that have been passed from generation to generation for over 200 years. The name means “beautiful hollow by the broad bay.”

It is the only single malt Scotch whisky to bear the Royal Warrant bestowed by HRH Prince Charles. ($124.99 for a 750 ml bottle.)

The deep mahogany hue is rich and deep with smoke, peat and minerality with a hint of ash and bitter chocolate drops. Vanilla follows with unroasted chestnuts and a hint of fudge. On the palate the selection is richly peaty with a spicy chili bite.

Laphroaig “Select” ($44.99) has an eye catching, sparkling gold color with full-bodied enjoyment. Burning embers of peat embrace with aromatic hints of coconut and banana. It is deep, complex and silky with hints of sweetness on the palate. The finish is tantalizingly long and dry with smoke and spice.

Distillery manager John Campbell described it best: “This selection is peat, ash and spice wrapped in a blanket of sweetness.”