Stepping out: Windwalker Vineyard and Winery scores big

By From page B2 | June 29, 2011



“This wine is too good for toast-drinking my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.”

— Ernest Hemingway

Congratulations Windwalker Winery

I have been keeping a close eye on commercial wine competition around California for the past 20 or so years. During that time more and more El Dorado County wineries have earned higher and higher awards as their quality not only increased, but stayed at those high levels.

As far back as I have been keeping track, El Dorado County wineries have often scored as many high awards at the California State Fair as Napa and Sonoma, and have received a number of “Best of California Awards” for a specific varietal, the most recent being the 2007 Sangiovese from Nello Olivo Vineyards last year.

At other competitions such as the highly respected Orange County Fair, El Dorado County wines have always done well. In 2009 of the nearly 3,100 wines entered, only 26 received the top award, a “Four Star Gold Medal.” Of these, two were from El Dorado County, the 2006 Fair Play, Sierra Moon Vineyards, Reserve Petite Sirah from MV Winery and the 2006 Estate Grown, Fair Play Zinfandel from Granite Springs Winery. Two out of 26 out of 3,100, not bad.

Unfortunately, El Dorado County wines don’t aways get the best press outside of the county. After all, when “Two Buck Chuck” chardonnay won a big award a few years ago, it made for a more interesting story than how our wines did in a competition.
This year an El Dorado County winery, Windwalker Vineyard and Winery, may have helped prove the case to the media that our wines are as good or even better than others in California when their 2008 Shady Lady Amador County Primitivo received the coveted Best of Show Award for Red Wines at the California State Fair, a competition where 2,800 wines competed. It also received 98 out of 100 points from the judges, a double gold medal, Best of Region Sierra Foothills Appellation award, Best of California award and Best of Class Sierra Foothills Appellation award.

A few newspapers and TV stations picked up the news of the award and, because of some confusion in the scoring sheets, some decided the winery was named Shady Lady and was in Amador County. Wrong! The wine is 2008 Windwalker “Shady Lady” Amador County Primitivo. The grapes came from Amador County, but that wine was made at Windwalker Vineyards and Winery on Perry Creek Road in Fair Play.

If you are wondering, a winery making wine from grapes grown other than on their own land is a common practice in the winemaking trade. Not only do El Dorado County wineries do that, a number of wineries in other regions of California use grapes grown in El Dorado County and make wonderful, world-class wines. Maybe there is a varietal that just grows better somewhere else or maybe the winemaker just likes those grapes.

Congratulations James and Alanna Taff, owners of Windwalker, and winemaker Dominic Mantei for a job well done.

Oakstone’s Fourth of July Sale

This Friday through Monday, July 1 through 4, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Oakstone Winery invites everyone to join them in the tasting room at 6440 Slug Gulch Road in Fair Play for a special celebration of the Fourth of July weekend.
On sale will be two favorite wines, the 2008 Cabernet Franc and the 13th Anniversary Slug Gulch Red, and they will have a special preview tasting of the second edition (2009) of their “Super Toughskin” (Super Tuscan) blend at a reduced price. The wines will be accompanied by red, white and blue chips and a selection of gourmet salsas.

Ken Pence, who blended the Super Toughskin, will be on hand all four days to tell everyone how it was done and to sign bottles.

Everyone is invited and there is no charge for the event. Bring the family, bring friends, bring a picnic and celebrate the holiday weekend.
For more information call 530-620-5303.

Miraflores events this weekend

This weekend Miraflores Winery, which is located at 2120 Four Springs Trail, off Sly Park Road, has a couple of events to visit. From Friday through Monday, July 1 through 4, artist Marjorie Dodrill will have her landscapes, seascapes and florals on display. A professional artist for 11 years, her work is on view in various art galleries throughout Northern California.

Saturday through Monday, July 2 through 4, Miraflores is “Putting on the dog for you” with a cool white sale and a hot “with all the fixin’s” dog.

Also, coming up on Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, chef Jordan Grosser and sommelier Michael Whipple from Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio Restaurant in San Francisco will be back presenting an exciting weekend of wine and food pairings served on the vineyard patio. Make reservations for Saturday, Sunday, or both. Tables on the patio are limited. The cost is $50 per person, which includes tax and wine. Call for reservations.

Miraflores Winery is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and can be reached at 530-647-8505.


Last weekend I stopped by Holly’s Hill Vineyards for its 10th anniversary event. One of the dishes prepared to go with the wines was grilled lamb with pasilla sauce and Mexican white rice. It was first class and equalled what would be found in an upscale restaurant. It had great flavor, texture and taste. I hope the vineyard does it for another of its great events.

I also took the opportunity to try the 2009 Grenache Noir. I love Rhone varietals and especially grenache, most of which is used to blend with other varietals. This one, as my editor would say, is “yummy-delicious.”

Holly’s Hill Vineyard is located at 2680 Leisure Lane in the Pleasant Valley area and can be reached at 530-344-0227.

Adding to my delightful week, I also had the opportunity to try the 2007 Lava Cap Reserve Grenache with dinner. It too was delightful and “yummy delicious.” And no, I’m not sharing it.

Lava Cap Winery is located at 2221 Fruitridge Road in Camino and can be reached at 530-621-0175.

Celebrate the day

Birthdays to celebrate today: French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot (1872); the man after which Clemson college was named, mining engineer and agriculturist, Thomas Green Clemson (1807); blues singer Willie Dixon (1915); South African millionaire politician Cecil John Rhodes (1853); French novelist George Sand (1804); actors Dan Akroyd (1952), Pamela Anderson (1967) Karen Black (1942), Andre Braugher (1962), Genevieve Bujold (1942), Leslie Caron (1931), Olivia DeHavilland (1916), Jamie Farr (born Jameel Farah in 1936), Jean Marsh (1934), Alan Ruck (1956) and Liv Tyler (1977); Princess Diana (1961); director Sydney Pollack (1934) and dancer Twyla Tharp (1941). It is also Canada Day and the start of National Hot Dog Month.

Doug Noble

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