Winehiking enters the lexicon!

Winehiking shall ensue!Saturday morning I’ll be meeting up with a group of hikers to tramp along a 5-mile loop trail at Sunol Regional Park near Fremont, California. For those five miles, it will be a rather steep hike that promises such striking features as Cave Rocks, Calaveras Dam, Indian Joe Creek, and an area along its main drainage, Alameda Creek, known as Little Yosemite.

I’ve done this hike a time or two previously (I’m being modest here); in fact Sunol Park was one of the first parks I ever dusted my boots in. What enchants me about being there Saturday is that the organizer of this hike, a fellow from Oakland who goes by “J.D.”, has billed his event as a “Sunol Breakfast & Wine Hike”.

Well, the idea of breakfast before a steep hilly hike is always going to be a good one. To share breakfast first with fun outdoorsy friends is certainly an attractive prospect. The post-hike stop at Elliston Vineyards in the little town of Sunol also promises to be a treat because they’re hosting “Holiday in the Vineyards” in their 100-year-old stone Victorian.

Of course, they’ll be pouring wine, too.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued about the usage of the term “Wine Hike” by others. Perhaps I’ve had some influence; perhaps a winehike just sounds like good healthy fun. Naturally, I’m glad to see the term entering the lexicon, and I’m equally curious to see which trail it’ll take next.



Vino Locale’s local blend of the Silicon Valley good life

If I was to combine the best of the European sense of community with Silicon Valley sensibilities, I would present healthy, well-prepared foods and fine locally-made wines in an atmosphere that promotes easy relaxation and stimulation of the senses, and have it all be very affordable. And to top that off, I’d want passion and education to be a part of the mix.

Thank goodness I don’t have to do that now, because it’s just what Randy Robinson has done with Vino Locale of Palo Alto, California.

Randy Robinson's Vino Locale, in downtown Palo Alto.On the surface, Vino Locale is what its Italian name implies – a purveyor of local wine. But it’s so much more than just a cozy little nook off a major Palo Alto thoroughfare. What it’s not is a typical wine bar, restaurant, or bottle shop. With artisanal cheeses, breads, and meats, a fine selection of wines lining the shelves – all produced within a 100-mile radius – plus local artists’ crafts on the walls and a Victorian house to show it all off in, Randy’s got something worth waxing passionate about.

A buddy of mine, Mike Grey of Blue Yuki Photography, joined me last evening for what promised to be a fun affair at Vino Locale; we had been intrigued by a posting on for an event that offered a tasting of five wines for $5. But the price of this tasting was not the intriguing part. What was intriguing was that for those five bucks, we’d get to taste three components of a Bordeaux-style blended wine, next taste the blend of those three components, and lastly contrast that blend with an actual wine from Bordeaux.

It turned out to be the next best thing to blending the wine ourselves.

For me, it would be an exercise not only in tasting wines made within mere miles of my front door, but also an opportunity to guess the proportions by which Randy concocted his blend. So, after a nice repast of Westphalian Ham, Buendnerfleisch, Danish Salami, Dijon mustard, sliced baguette, a cheese plate nicely strewn with a fine mix of blue and dried cheeses and fruits, all of it liberally dosed by Vino Locale’s friendly and generous wait staff*, Mike and I visited Randy’s tasting table and held out our glasses.

We first tried a Cabernet Sauvignon from Solis Winery of Morgan Hill, which was laden with blackberry flavors and a toasty oakiness that I found quite favorable. Randy then poured one of my local favorites, a Cabernet Franc from Burrell School Vineyards of Los Gatos (see my recent post about a Burrell School winehike). I love the lush cherry fruit in this wine, which is distinctly different and much less acidic/tannic than any other locally-made Cab Franc that I’ve tried. And though they’re no longer pouring this particular Cab Franc at Burrell School’s tasting bar, I was glad to see plenty of it on Randy’s shelves.

Next came a Merlot pour, also hailing from Burrell School, its sensuous cherry flavors and mouthwatering textures making a fine stand-alone Merlot (I came home with a bottle of this one, my palate – but not my budget – having been won over at Burrell School earlier by their Zins and Syrahs.)

Now it was time to taste Randy’s hand-decanted Bordeaux blend. And right away, I appreciated his touch. While very smooth and round with texture, flavor, and finish, this blend eschewed pretense and instead seemed entirely distinct from each of its components. A well-rounded balance of acid and fruit suggested complexity and an expert integration of berry and slight earth flavors not entirely obscuring the Burrell School cherriness. I savored its finish, and made a mental note: “Do try this at home.”

A follow-up taste of a $10 Bordeaux purchased at a local Trader Joe’s was an anticlimactic contrast lacking in all but earthy aromas and flavors. Obviously the focus was the local blend.

I sensed Randy was about to divulge the formula for his tincturing, and I politely interrupted, wanting instead to hazard my own guess. I estimated 40-45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30-35% Merlot, and the remainder Cab Franc. Apparently my palate guessed pretty close to the actual blend proportionality, which Randy pronounced as being 2 parts Cab. Sauv., 2 parts Merlot, and 1 part Cab Franc.

I instantly was no longer intrigued. Instead, I was hooked on the idea of attending more of Randy’s fun approaches to local wine, art, and produce. And you can bet I’ll be blending a few upcoming winehiking tours with visits to Vino Locale in the year ahead.


*If you should visit Vino Locale, please tell Randy I sent you to try the Fleming-Jenkins Rosé of Syrah.


Vote for me! And do it Chicago-style.

If you haven’t done so already, I recommend you check out, a marvelous events site that lists wine tastings, dinners, and classes all over the country. I subscribe to it for events in my area, and in fact I’ll be attending one of them this evening, a Bordeaux blending class. I’ll even be posting wine tastings and hiking tours to this popular site in early 2007, if not sooner.

Anyhow, Local Wine Events is holding a “vote for your favorite wine blog” contest, and I could really use your support. Click on my voting page and help me find my way to fame, fortune, and a new Mercedes! A lifetime supply of Vasque hiking boots! One million frequent flyer miles and a ski condo in Gstaad! A fully-stocked 2000 square-foot Vinotheque walk-in wine closet in my very own wine cellar!

Well, OK, maybe just some helpful PR.

If you are so inclined, you can even vote “Chicago-style” which, as some of us may recall, used to mean “vote early, vote often, and vote Daley!*

Gratefully yours,


*Richard J. Daley held six terms in office as mayor of Chicago, from 1955 to his death in 1976, and was often accused of corruption, but never indicted. I’ll never be indicted for my vote-mongering either, even if you don’t vote for my blog on a daily basis.

Share your story on Winehiker Witiculture

On occasion, a story comes to my ears that I feel I should share with the readers of Winehiker Witiculture. It’s pretty common to hear a good story being told when I’m out hiking with friends and guests; certainly some of the better stories occur during those times when the wine is flowing. Often, the storyteller is not a blogger, nor has a mechanism for publishing his or her story online or in print. Yet the story is often compelling enough to be shared with a wider audience. If I could just compel myself to remember all of the salient details….

Thus, the blog.

If you have a good story but no bully pulpit from which to share it, why not consider posting it here? I can tell you as the author of this blog that getting feedback on my posts, whether positive, critical, or otherwise, can be immensely gratifying, as well as affirm my desire to keep doing what I’m doing. And I’m willing to share that kind of excitement with you.

Good stories – and good content – are worth their weight in gold. Therefore, what I never want to do is present a hack job to my readers. That’s why I’ll never stoop to being a wholesale content aggregator or use some content-generating tool that cannot possibly filter out the off-topic (and the outright crapola) from the truly worthwhile.

Plus: I think what you have to say is worthwhile. Quite possibly you wouldn’t be here reading this post today if that was not true!

Thus, the story.

So, back to this great story you have. (Because everyone has at least one great story to tell, right?) Yes, whether it’s a tale from the hiking trail, why the fabulous wine you drank is one that others should try, or the trials and tribulations of going from crush to bottling, you have only to share your story with me, and I’ll in turn share it with your fellow community of people who read this wine and hiking blog. I’ll even create a new category on my blog that I’m willing to let you name yourself. (I’ll willingly entertain all input I receive on this naming idea in the Comments section for this post.)

So, if you have a story that you’d like me to publish in Winehiker Witiculture, I welcome your enthusiasm! You may submit your story by following the six requirements below:

  • Be on topic. Your story must be relevant to your fellow blog readers, and therefore must be about at least one of the following three topics: hiking, wine, or California. Your story can be about, though not necessarily be limited to, trends in the active travel industry, the wine industry, or any experience you may have had with me personally.
  • Your story must be no longer than 1000 words.
  • If you are a blogger, you are ineligible to submit a story unless the story you submit is off-topic for your own blog; please provide valid reasoning to support your submittal.
  • Please write your story in a plain-text application such as Notepad, then copy it and paste it into a new email (or just write it directly into an email, but use your email client’s Save Draft feature often). Submissions copied from Microsoft Word or other word processing software that include extra characters or truncated sentence fragments may be cause for rejection. If you’re using Word, you might want to turn off any Rich Text or HTML editing features first.
  • If your story includes hyperlinks to other publicly-available information on the Internet, please verify and include your links. If you wish to link to an online profile about yourself on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, feel free to include it.
  • Submit your story via email to rkbeebe [at] yahoo [dot] com. You must include “WW Story Submittal: ” in the Subject line followed by the official title of your story.
  • You consent to your story being edited for clarity prior to being posted to Winehiker Witiculture.
  • You consent to your story being available publicly under a Creative Commons License.
  • All submissions are considered to be in final form; post-publication editing just ain’t gonna happen.
  • Include your full name; I’ll include your byline upon posting and provide a link to your story when it’s posted so that you can forward it to your friends, family, boss, or whomever you wish.

Thus, a new story unfolds.

I’ll continue to post my usual wine reviews, group tasting notes, and “grape squeezins”. But blogs, unlike television, magazines, and newspapers, are not just a one-way street – they represent a great way for authors and readers to engage in interaction. I hope you agree and that you’ll want to see your story – and comments in response to it – published here.

Often, the beauty of a story told is that it prompts the telling of another. Together, let’s encourage and engage each other in the age-old storytelling tradition! I thank you barrelsful in advance, dear reader, for your contribution.


An Early-Warning Army of Foot Soldiers

Passing through 14 states and 8 national forests from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is a living laboratory that could help warn 120 million people along the Eastern Seaboard of looming environmental problems. That is why a diverse group of organizations has started a long-term project to monitor the trail.

read moredigg story

The 2006 Beaujolais Nouveau wine reviews are pouring in

Editor’s Note, November 15th, 2007: If you’re searching for a review of Beaujolais Nouveau wines from the 2007 vintage and wound up here, I must admit that I haven’t yet reviewed the new vintage. But what I’d like to know is, should I?

Funny how the 2006 Beaujolais Nouveau reviews thus far from other bloggers seem to mention the BN from Georges du Boeuf and not much else.

From Benito’s Wine Reviews:

I’ve been to Nouveau tastings before, but I generally just stick with the old standby: 2006 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. Once again we get the classic whiff of bananas on the nose with a little cherry behind it. Last year’s edition was pretty tart, but this year shows a much smoother profile, with characteristic light tannins and a short finish.

Here’s a review from PhilaFoodie that includes one BN that I didn’t cover last week, a Leonard de Saint-Aubin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau.

This year’s Saint-Aubin, though, is less impressive. Compared to the Duboeuf, the color is lighter and the palate is thinner, grittier and more tart. Cherry remains the principal flavor, but it’s not as explosive as it was last year. More importantly, unlike last year the fruitiness of this year’s vintage is somewhat masked by its forward acidity.

That being said, I still lean toward the Saint-Aubin. The Duboeuf is probably more approachable due, in part, to its balance and smooth finish. But the Saint-Aubin’s rough edges have a certain appeal.

And from Wine Weekly:

Is this a wine to contemplate? No – and, yes. It’s too simple to pore over, but simple enough to pour over. At the same time, it’s worth analyzing for a few minutes, if only as conjecture for the 2006 Beaujolais vintage. If we are to taste it as a preview to the “real” Beaujolais wines, then this Nouveau tells us that 2006 Beaujolais wines might have more tannin than in a typical year, and be slightly fatter and rounder than we’re used to. The ripe, bright fruit certainly suggests that 2006 will be a fine year, perhaps excellent year, for Cru Beaujolais. If the extra tannins do in fact come out in the spring 2007 releases, then 2006 may cellar longer than most vintages (not an outlandish thought: there are some Cru from the miraculous 2003 vintage that still need time).

Thoughtful stuff.

The Wine Weekly blogger, Vino Joe, then sharpens his pencil. He raises interesting questions, but adds provocative commentary:

Personally, I don’t love the taste of Beaujolais Nouveau, but have come to appreciate the icon that it has become. Think about it: is there any other universally accepted date in the wine industry than the third Thursday of November? Is there any other wine in the world that brings together so many different people, in events and ceremonies and do-good causes? Yes, Nouveau is an over-hyped public relations event for an under-performing wine – but the only folks complaining are either 1) jealous insiders who can’t think of anything to top it; and 2) pretentious wine geeks who can’t appear powerful and intelligent speaking about such a simple wine.

What, me, a pretentious wine geek? Should I take that as a compliment, hmm?? Methinks Vino Joe readeth not my BN tasting notes.

And finally, in a fit of egalitarianism, I am compelled to reference a place for you, dear reader, to add your own review of the well-known BN, the Georges du Boeuf, on cork’ Better yet, add your own tasting notes for any of the Beaujolais Nouveaux you’ve tasted this week. In fact, reviews are still wanting for other 2006 offerings from Joseph Drouhin, Dominique Piron, and Laboure-Roi, plus you can add other labels that you’ve tried but aren’t currently listed.



Manic Monday Links

Wine review: 2001 Boundary, Te Awa Farms

7.5 winehiker points*

Every once in a while, we wine lovers find that promise does not deliver what expectation anticipates. You can read all the words that are written to describe a wine; most of us want to believe them enough to reach into our wallets if we are at all tantalized by the copywriter’s scribblings. But then you taste the wine, and you wonder if maybe you’ve had a head cold for a week.

Such was my experience with the 2001 Boundary, a Bordeaux blend from Te Awa Farms in the town of Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

The 2001 Te Awa Boundary from Hawkes Bay New Zealand. The copywriters quite obviously did not taste *this* wine.

The 2001 Te Awa Boundary from Hawkes Bay New Zealand. The copywriters quite obviously did not taste this wine.

A case in point on the copywriting, from The New Zealand House of Wine:

“A delicious wine with melting tannin and complex layers of flavour. Intertwined aromas of fresh leather, dark cherry, bramble and plum on the nose. A supple, round attack opens to show layers of flavour on the palate, which reflect those of the nose. The tannins are now well integrated giving the wine depth and length.”

From Bottlenotes, from whom I purchased the wine:

“A high quality, high value New World Bordeaux blend. Smooth and lush with aromas of cedar, sweet tobacco, blackberry and a bit of spice. On the palate, the wine is quite smooth with moderate tannin, a bit of leather and dark berry fruit flavors.”

My own tasting notes:

“Medium garnet-colored Bordeaux blend, strong earthiness on nose, but with mild elusive fruit aromas and slight fragrance of wood and spice. Moderate balance aspects, with slight tartness, agreeable bitterness. Medium body, good mouthfeel, but heavily lacking in fruit flavor; very short finish.”

Hmmm…. I was not attacked by supple round plums, especially on my nose. Which New World are we talking about here? Were my defenses too solidified? I thought I should clear my throat, blow my nose, and try again. So I did, three more times over the course of the evening. Up until I tried this particular wine from Bottlenotes, I had been pretty pleased with their selections. Fortunately with Bottlenotes you can share your tasting notes with them so they can further tailor their selections to your palate. In fact they actually ask you to do so.

And I’ve been doing that. Perhaps not enough, truth be told. I guess we still have some tailoring to do.

At any rate, I tried this wine again after 45 minutes in the decanter, then again after 2 hours of opening. Still, after four hours, the 2001 Boundary tasted way way way too [insert your own invective here] earthy. You know, being a winehiker and all, I’m a big fan of earth. I like it beneath my feet. A lot, in fact.

I just don’t like it in my mouth. At least not that [invective] much of it. I think I’ll stay on this side of the Boundary for a while.

Often I find that the earthiness aspects of some wines dissipate within a short time of opening or decanting. Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t try this wine with roast lamb, roast beef, game, or grilled duck, as suggested by the well-meaning folks at Bottlenotes. Heck, Te Awa Farms even has its own restaurant, which is considered to be one of New Zealand’s top six dining establishments. Says something about the NZ palate, perchance. They must quite naturally be pairing their foods with (or is that to?) their wines.

So, I suppose I’m remiss for not suckling on a duckling for this one. Nevertheless, good food does not make bad wine better.

So sayeth I.

OK, so that’s my first stellar review of a not-so-stellar wine. There are bound to be more.

$30.00 at; priced at $22 elsewhere online. That is, if you really want to buy it after reading this post.

Disclosure: I am a member of’s Limited Addictions club; this wine arrived in their summer shipment and was purchased by me.

*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale using my Wine Scoring Sheet.