Thursday, August 30, 2012

Locavore: Spoonbar

Spoonbar here in Healdsburg, California is a wonderfully big, modern restaurant with breezy, architectural style and gorgeous pops of color from turquoise Eames chairs and caramel-toned acacia tables. When the weather is warm (as it so often is here), the restaurant opens its cantina doors to the sidewalk and that’s when Spoonbar really shines, striking just the right balance between relaxed and luxe. It’s reluxed.

Louis Maldonado of Fifth Floor and Aziza recently came on board to revamp the menu, and the transformation is garnering a lot of positive attention. The Chronicle's Michael Bauer recently wrote, “Spoonbar has become one of my favorite destinations in Sonoma County.”

The new format features 22 dishes in five categories. One of our favorites is the handmade cannelloni of swiss chard and crescenza cheese topped with toybox squash. Crescenza is a sweetish, mild Italian cheese with buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture, so it plays beautifully against a vibrant sparkling wine like J Vineyards’ Cuvée 20. We also loved the Cuvée with Maldonado’s lightly cooked ocean trout with plum and avocado on flax seed crackers. 

Spoonbar, located in the h2hotel, 219 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg, CA 95448 Make reservations on Open Table or call (707) 433-7222

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Glamorous Picnic Spot of the Week: The Palace of Fine Arts

"A fictional ruin from another time.” That’s how San Francisco’s stunningly beautiful Palace of Fine Arts has been described by some. When he designed it for the 1915 World’s Fair, architect Bernard Maybeck said he built the palace to show “the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes,” but he also wanted to prove that Greek architecture could fit within a California context -- adorning its underside with murals of California’s “four golds”: poppies, citrus fruits, metallic gold, and wheat.

The palace’s pale, peachy-gold dome glows luminously against the cooler colors of the city while a sparkling lagoon and plush green lawn sit astride the main structure -- making it the perfect place to have a picnic while you contemplate the mortality of grandeur.  

Items pictured, clockwise left to right: Droplet Wine Glass by Anthropologie ($18), Vintage Coracle Picnic Basket from Harrod’s on Etsy ($79), 2011 J Pinot Gris California, Crinkled Mini Baker in Yellow by Anthropologie ($10 to $28), Leaf Print Retro Napkins on Etsy ($20)

Pick up some lemon soy chicken at nearby Marina Supermarket or pints of delicious roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts from Real Food Company on Fillmore, which carries a good selection of local cheeses, too. And of course don’t forget to bring along some of J’s picnic-friendly wines. Our J Pinot Gris California is a fresh, aromatic white that goes especially well with picnic fare.

For an even more glamorous picnic, try the Terrace experience here at the J Vineyards estate in Healdsburg. You and a friend sit under a white canvas umbrella on our warm, creekside patio while sharing a platter of peak season foods (current menu is here) accompanied by J wines. Cost is $40 per couple ($35 for Club J members). The Terrace experience is only available through October and reservations are strongly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome, too. Call us at 707.431.5430 to make a reservation or request a reservation online

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What We're Buying at the Farmer's Market This Week: Corn

The hottest summer on record since 1936 means it’s been a difficult year for corn in many parts of the U.S. the Midwest especially but it hasn’t all been bad news. Usually farmers have to wait for their corn to dry or dry it with big, industrial-strength blowers, but this year’s high temperatures did the work for them so the harvest is ahead of schedule and while there was some damage, about a quarter of the national crop has been rated good to excellent, so there are still sweet, juicy cobs to be had in most places albeit at higher prices than usual.

When buying corn, look for a bright green husks with moisture. You can pull back a bit of the husk to see if the ear looks well filled. If it’s corn from your garden, pierce a kernel with your thumb nail. If the liquid inside is watery it’s not ready, but if it’s milky, it’s good to go. White corn is sweeter than yellow, while many cobs will feature a mix of both colors. Some corn aficionados say yellow corn has more of a “corny” flavor while others prefer the sweetness of white.  

We love Simply Recipe’s straightforward approach to grilling corn and this spicy corn frittata from the Food Network is another good way to prepare late summer corn while without having to turn on the oven. These farmstand corn fritters with sweet chili sauce pair beautifully with our J California Pinot Gris. The fresh citrus notes of the wine play perfectly against the sweetness and the mild spice notes of the dish. 
Farmstand corn fritters w/ sweet chili sauce and icy cold glass of J California Pinot Gris
The same is true of Pamela Salzman’s elote-inspired “corn off the cob” with smoked paprika and crumbled Cotija.  If you’re making something heartier like this fresh corn risotto with parmesan, try a chardonnay instead.

Monday, August 13, 2012

J Winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse, Harvest News!

We are looking to begin our sparkling vintage sometime early this week. First grapes will be Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from our Nicole’s estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  This fruit was recently sampled at 17 Brix, and the current heat wave will certainly move it to the desired 19 Brix in the next 5-6 days.

J Nicole's Vineyard

We are on deck for a beautiful vintage this year; having luxuriated in brilliant winter and spring conditions, as well as finally getting the summer temperatures that we’ve been robbed of the past couple years.

Fruit set was spectacular in 2012, giving us relatively large and compact clusters in all varieties. We continue to green drop fruit in our varietal vineyards, ensuring even ripening and balanced fruit load for each vine.

J Nicole's Vineyard Pinot Noir Clusters (April 2012)

Since Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes for our varietal programs won’t be ripe until the end of August, through September and October, our focus at this time is on sparkling wine production.   Therefore, with that said, we are expecting a “Sparkling” Harvest, one that represents the essence of J’s Russian River Valley terroir!
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J Vineyards & Winery

Friday, August 10, 2012

Harvest is Coming, Harvest is Coming!

It Takes a Wine Village to make every bottle of inspired J, especially during harvest.  We are so appreciative of our adoring J Fans that we want to share the hard-working J Harvest Team Members that bring your favorite bottles of J to your table for sharing with family and friends.

J Team Member: Melissa
Position at J: Winemaker
Years working on the J Team: 1 Year & 3 Months
Favorite J Wine:
J Vineyards Robert Thomas Pinot Noir

Collaboration with Melissa’s team in making the best wine possible keeps Melissa inspired at J Vineyards & Winery, Melissa says, “my hope is that the next vintage will yield the best wine I’ve ever made.  I also feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a great team as winemaking is so collaborative, that collaboration keeps me very inspired.”

Melissa is very team-centric, easily approachable, brief and to the point, and quite a mellow soul, Melissa says, “during harvest I thrive in a chaotic stress driven environment that allows me to be very decisive.  I value everyone on my winemaking team, so much so that I give them thoughtful challenges, especially during harvest; this provides them the ability to be great decision makers as well so our team thrives harmoniously during harvest.”

Melissa values her career choice as a winemaker as agriculture has played an important role in her life from growing up in Michigan and having grandparents who were farmers in Minnesota, she became clearly aware of their dedication to the land.  Melissa says, “aside from being able to wear jeans to work every day (which is a big plus!)…winemaking is a career choice that combines science, art, and agriculture. It is rewarding to make a product that is received with joy, and acknowledges a quality to life.  It’s an incredible opportunity as a winemaker to be able to produce sparkling wine, as well as high end Pinot noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay at J Vineyards & Winery.”

Melissa not only values her career choice as a winemaker, she values her greatest joy of all, being a mother, Melissa says, “as a single-mom of a 9-month old, my life away from work is all about my daughter.  I grew up in a very family-oriented environment, and there is no better enjoyment then spending time with my family, my beautiful daughter and my loving dog Scout playing at the beach or reading my daughter’s favorite book to her, Ten Little Lady Bugs.”    

Melissa loves and thrives for the stress of harvest. “I love that moment, when the vintage is unfolding, when you realize what sort of harvest it is going to be, you have an “aha” moment.  I look forward to the unknown with all the twists and turns that harvest brings, and this harvest I look forward to creating exceptional J wines.  I am especially looking forward to blending some of the 2012 Pinot Noir blends. Mmm…! The weather this winter and spring has put us on deck for a spectacular vintage. We’ve had a great summer season as well. Fingers crossed…this one will be memorable, in a good way!”

Melissa’s passion as the J Winemaker shows in her approach as she uniquely connects with people, whether it is connecting with her J team members, consumers, growers, media, trade, or her peers in the winemaking world.  Melissa has a great appreciation for what Mother Nature has to offer and loves to share her wealth of knowledge through her skillful winemaking.  Her strong family values are very widespread with everyone she connects with and has a genuine inspiration when conveying the warmth and admiration she has for her family members at home or work.  For those who know Melissa’s warmth, kindness, and nurturing regards to Mother Nature’s deep roots, knows the timeless personification Melissa exemplifies with everyone she touches.  We adore you Melissa and are so fortunate to be surrounded by your continuous inspiration!     

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Harvest is Coming, Harvest is Coming!

It Takes a Wine Village to make every bottle of inspired J, especially during harvest.  We are so appreciative of our adoring J Fans that we want to share the hard-working J Harvest Team Members that bring your favorite bottles of J to your table for sharing with family and friends.

J Team Member: Tracy
Position at J: Production Forklift Operator
Years working on the J Team: 15 Years
Favorite J Wines: J Vintage Brut Magnum &  
J Vineyards Nicole’s Pinot Noir

Tracy tends to have an inspiring outlook on life, that includes his life at J Vineyards & Winery, Tracy says, “the dedication that my team members have at J for their job makes me want to always put out my best effort”.

Tracy is a very unique individual and he is known around the winery as the favor guy, “I am always ready to start my day at J with my best foot forward by making my team members laugh, seems to pass the day by on a happy note.  And I am always happy to lend a hand; even though I am very busy since I am the main forklift driver for the winery, if someone else needs a favor with other work duties around the winery I am always ready to lend a hand.”

Tracy landed his job at J Vineyards & Winery by accepting a temporary job that his friend advised him about, Tracy says, “I held a temporary job for two years before being offered a permanent position in the production department working on the bottling line.  When I became a full time permanent J employee I was so fortunate to have another J team member take me under his wings and be a mentor to me, he trained and developed my career by teaching me the aspect of forklift driving, disgorger the sparkling wines, and learning the operation of the bottling machine.  My most impressive task was learning the operations of the riddling machines, this is very important for J’s sparkling wine production as I need to keep the riddling bins operating on a timely  and efficient manner as this is an imperative process for making sparkling wine, after all, sparkling is J’s legacy.  I have advanced my career over the past 15 years at J Vineyards & Winery and have kept a steady pace of continuing to learn all aspects of production”.

Tracy is not only very active with his team members at work, he also has a couple of hobbies that keep him bonded with his family, Tracy says, “my family and I have a strong bonding relationship when it comes to bowling.  I have been bowling since I was five years old and started on a league in Santa Rosa, CA.  I am currently, and have been for many years now, on an adult bowling team in Windsor, CA.  Since a lot of my family members bowl, it makes for a favorite family activity for us.  So far, I have bowled 11 out of 12 strikes about seven times; I am still looking for my perfect game.”

Just like bowling, another family and friend activity is fishing, Tracy says, “fishing is a very strong passion for me, my father took me before I could even walk and I have not lost my grip on my fishing pole since.  My family and friends plan all of our camping vacations around fishing, a favorite time is from July to early November during the fall run when the salmons return at the Klamath River.  Unfortunately, this time frame is during the winery’s harvest, which is a very busy time at J, but I do find time to enjoy this family and friend outing in the small windows of opportunity that arise during harvest.  In addition, if there are a few hours of opportunity before the day ends, I love to fish in the Russian River, which is right behind the winery.  My favorite fish to catch is the Steelhead as it is the best fighting fish, this fish gives me quite a challenge to catch, which makes for a more appreciated and savoring meal.” 

Tracy not only loves catching the fish he also loves cooking it too, Tracy says, “the best recipe for cooking steelhead is to smoke it, or cook it in Bear Republic beer batter, by the way, Bear Republic is a great local brewery in Healdsburg.  I will also put a spice dry rub on the Steelhead and barbeque it, goes great with the J Vineyards Nicole’s Pinot Noir, really tasty.”

Tracy spends his morning break with a cup of coffee in one hand and the comics in the other hand.  “I love reading the comics; my favorite comic strip is Hägar the Horrible with his wife Helga.  It really makes me laugh as the comic strip reminds me of my parents as Hägar is a mild-mannered working class Viking devoted to his family and answering to his wife.”

Tracy is really looking forward to harvest as he learns new skills every year, and with our new Winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse, working her second J harvest he plans on picking her brain, Tracy says, “It’s going to be really cool working with Melissa again this harvest, it is a great time for me to learn more about her winemaking techniques as I tend to ask her a lot of questions as the grapes are arriving at the winery very early in the morning.  Melisa is such an admired Winemaker and I am fortunate enough to learn from one of the best in the industry.”

Although Tracy has a passion for fishing he is also a big baseball fan, “I started going to the Oakland A’s games with a friend when I was 21 and I got the A’s bug, hook, line and sinker.”  Melissa Stackhouse organized a fun baseball trip for the J team members to watch the A’s verse the San Francisco Giants at the Oakland Coliseum on June 24, 2012 and of course, Tracy was all over that one. “It was a really fun employee outing for all of us, but the highlight of the game was the walk off home run by the A’s in the bottom of the ninth inning, the A’s had two outs with their last batter brought the final score to A’s at five and Giants at three, I was in my glory.”

Tracy is an all-around solidly dependable and very helpful guy around the winery; he is much appreciated for his fun humor and great nature.  Moreover, he loves to share his prized caught fish with J team members; he tends to lure the team in during the lunch hour for a tasty treat.  We are so lucky to have Tracy as a J family member, he is the revered “favor guy” always more than willing to lend a helping hand to other’s at the winery.  We love ya Tracy!