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Shuck for Shelter happens Sunday, August 24th, 2-5 PM, at FISH Restaurant in Sausalito, benefiting Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the last oyster cannery in California, was recently forced to close by NPS and Department of the Interior with workers (many of whom have worked on the farm for a good 30 years) and their families will lose jobs and homes. Stag Dining, Fine & Rare and the Carneros Wine Alliance are hosting this benefit oyster event in a cocktail-style party for the workers of Drakes. Carneros Wine Alliance will be pouring wines from a number of wineries, including Domaine Carneros and Clos du Val, while Stag and Fine & Rare will serve the likes of broiled oyster dynamite with shrimp, togarashi spices, ginger and Japanese herbs, and oyster po' boy sliders with jalapeno slaw.
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I’m in Carneros today, visiting one of Jackson Family Wines’ newest estates, Carneros Hills, on the site the former Buena Vista vineyard and production facility on Ramal Road, on the Sonoma County side of that sprawling appellation, just over the Napa line.

Well do I remember the acclaim and hope that greeted Carneros’s emergence as an appellation on the wine scene. Los Carneros (the proper name) wasn’t declared an American Viticultural Area until relatively late, 1987,* by which time its neighbors—Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, even little Suisun Valley and Solano County Green Valley—already were AVAs. Why it took Carneros so long, I don’t know; perhaps it was because it crossed county lines, which was something the TTB hadn’t encountered before. It’s not as if Carneros was a new place to grow grapes: the Carneros Quality Alliance says wine grapes were first planted there in the late 1830s, and by the 1870s, the first winery had been built...
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... 'The vines came out strong in the spring, and we had no frost that would require our growers to use their water for frost protection,' said Axel Schug, managing partner at Schug winery in Carneros. 'The vines and fruit look very healthy, maybe a little on the early side.'

Alison Crowe, winemaker at Garnet Vineyards, which sources grapes from Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Napa and Sonoma Carneros AVAs, said, 'The crop size overall is looking to be healthy but certainly not as big as 2012 or 2013. Knock on a lot of wood, it’s been an almost textbook growing season. The North Coast suffered hardly any frost events and this Spring and Summer have been warm and mild.'

Doug Shafer, at Shafer Vineyards, said the crop looks normal and quality is looking good, even if not the size of the last two years. 'We had two very heavy crop years in 2012 and 2013, so there is no way that 2014 would ever be a “heavy” year,' he added.

An average-sized harvest may help some winemakers, after reports last autumn that some producers were struggling to make space for two consecutive bumper crops.

Crowe said the true effects of the drought may not be seen until next year. 'Our North Coast vineyards seem to have enough water to get them through harvest, but we need a nice wet winter to keep all the vines, farmers and winemakers happy,' she said.

Right now, because of the early harvest, 'the only thing winemakers are freaking out about is going straight from bottling the 2013s into harvest 2014,' said Chris Kajani, winemaker for Saintsbury in Carneros.

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... Asparagus is delicious, but it’s also laden with a sulfur-containing amino acid that can conspire with the vegetable’s grassy flavor to make wine taste vegetal, metallic and downright awful. It’s known in the wine world as one of the untouchables — a pairing best not attempted. Despite the taboo, I’ve seen asparagus on enough wine country tables to know that although the pairing may be difficult, it’s certainly not impossible. It can even be enjoyable!

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Domaine Carneros 2012 La Terre Promise Carneros Chardonnay ($44): With aromas of green apples and soft vanilla, this wine is nicely rounded, with a fine balance between fruit and subtle oak. This wine would pair best with asparagus dishes that involve some richer elements.

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Speaking to the group of growers and winemakers, the board’s vice chair Anne Moller-Racke, who is the president of the Donum Estate, said she was thrilled to see the renewed focus of the alliance. She said the collaborative and cooperative spirit of the region is part of what sets Carneros apart—as well as the area’s excellent Chardonnay. “For myself, I think we should always pay more attention to Chardonnay,” she said.

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One could feel right away that this wasn’t an ordinary trade tasting but it was totally Carneros: intimate, laid back, cool background music, great wines. The venue itself was so symbolic of the region and its winegrowers – ZD’s modern barn, open and transparent, looking out onto the bucolic setting beyond and the restored 19th century Victorian next door. It’s a region where a confident new generation embraces tradition in a search for authenticity, and the old garde hews to its free-thinking, but no less authentic, ways...

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The Carneros Wine Alliance had a successful 2014 Annual Barrel Tasting Event on March 25th  at ZD Wines Barn.  

Wine media and trade were invited to the annual Carneros Wine Alliance Barrel Tasting Event featuring Carneros Chardonnay.  Attendees tasted current Carneros Chardonnay vintages as well as older Chardonnay and Pinot Noir barrel samples.  

  

Click here for more photos of the event.