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From Hollywood to Vine with Vineyard {511}
Adventures in Wine, Food, Film and Travel


Irene Ojdana
August 23, 2019 | Irene Ojdana

Bordeaux Wine Cruise

The City of Bordeaux was the perfect place to start our Bordeaux wine cruise on the Dordonne and Garrone rivers throughout the region of Bordeaux. But the port City of Bordeaux is not just about the "Bordeaux blend." It's not just about what happens inside that French oak. It's about the old, the history which reflects the legendary land of monumental architecture of the chateaux, and the new; not just the Bordeaux that was a dingy city to pass through with coal-blackenned facades on the way to somewhere else, but now a vibrant and beautiful city in its own right. It was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007 after its crumbling city walls had been taken down and the light let in.

We stayed at the Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel, built where the Roman forum once stood, and where we dined at its celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay restaurant. From our hotel window we saw a sparkling street dominated by the opera house with its grand pillars.


Of course, Bordeaux is about wine too, reflected in its wine museum, La Cite du Vin, designed by Anouk Legendre and Nicalas Desmazieres. Its shimmering gold aluminum facade resembles the swishing around a wine glass.                        


We toured the old city ("Vielle Ville"), in the rain. Apparently, it rains a lot in Bordeaux, just as it does in Paris. In fact, Bordeaux reminded me of a little Paris.


 But the main reason Ed and I were in Bordeaux was to particapate in a "wine lover's cruise" aboard the AMADolce,    


hosted by friends Peter and Katie Mondavi of Napa Valley's historic Charles Krug Winery to explore the greater Bordeaux region.

Aboard ship, Peter gave several tastings and interesting discussions on board about Bordeaux and Charles Krug wines.


We even had a blind tasting, comparing Krug and Bordeaux. I preferred the Krug. I guess I'm partial to Napa wines.

Our shore exursions were very interesting. One of the first was to Saint-Emilion AOC (appellation d'original controllee, a government controlled designation of origin, which signifies where grapes are grown, similar to our AVA or American Viticulture Area). We drove through some very lush vineyards with views of stately chateaux,


and vistited the historic Chateau Soutard for a Grand Cru Classe wine tasting


in modern vat and barrel rooms replete with sparkling chandeliers.


On the way to the Sauternes wine region, we visited the historic Roquetaillarde Castle in Mazeres, a fortress initially built in the 10th century by Charlemagne.


It has been in the same family for 300 years. In fact, the current owner led a tour of the castle and demonstrated how his ancestors could pull up the drawbridge in case of an invasion.


In Bommes, located in the Sauternes wine appelation, we toured Chateau Guiraud to see how its lovely, sweet Sauternes wine was fermented in underground steel tanks.


On our last day in Bordeaux, Katie and Peter Mondavi graciously hosted a private winery tour, delicious luncheon and tasting at Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal in the Pauillac appelation. The wine produced there was classified as one of eighteen Cinquiemes Crus in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. It is owned by the Lurton family, involved in Bordeaux wine production since 1820.


We increased our knowledge of Bordeaux wine and made some new friends on this river cruise; we hope we will meet up with them again soon.




























Time Posted: Aug 23, 2019 at 1:52 PM Permalink to Bordeaux Wine Cruise Permalink
Irene Ojdana
March 12, 2016 | Irene Ojdana

Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction

On February 20, Ed and I poured the best of our barrels of our 2013 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvigon, at the 20th annual Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction and Tasting, held at the Culinary Institute of America, in St. Helena. It was our first participation in this exciting event, where 1000 licensed members of the trade gathered to procure wine futures on behalf of their customers through both live and silent E-auctions. Members of the media were also in attendance. In addition to the wine tasting, there was a tasting of delicious artisanal cheese, and a buffet lunch prepared by the Culinary Institute.

Vineyard {511} also participated in Premiere's first online auction with 5 cases of the same 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which will be bottled in mid-March after having been aged for 30 months in 100% French oak barrels. After another year of aging in the bottle, they will be released in March 2017. Each bottle will be hand-labeled, individually numbered and signed by the winemaker (Rob Lloyd).

The event is an opportunity for Napa Valley vintners to showcase their very special wines, while attendees spend one-on-one time with Napa Valley's noted winemakers and producers. We even had a star sighting of former pro-basketball player Yao Ming, whose winery was represented at the tasting. I couldn't miss him as he towered above absolutely everyone else there!

The 226 lots sold that day raised 5 million dollars for the Napa Valley Vintners Association to support its year-round programs, which benefit Napa Vintners.

We were happy to give up our virgin status after our first participation in this event and look forward to the next one in February 2017!


Time Posted: Mar 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM Permalink to Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Auction Permalink
Irene Ojdana
November 10, 2015 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting in Chianti

Farm House in San MartinoEd and I recently spent a week in a guesthouse in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We were finally able to take advantage of the guesthouse for which we bid and won at a V Foundation silent auction. The week at the guesthouse was donated by cancer researcher Dr.Olja Finn (at the University of Pittsburgh) and her husband Professor Emeritus Dr. Seth Finn at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. They restored the all-stone guesthouse, originally a farmhouse attached to a (deconsecrated) Catholic church with a bell tower. Such a charming home away from home!

We spent the week cooking pasta with Seth in his kitchen or ours (unfortunately Olja was back in Pittsburgh), eating at some great restaurants like Antinori-owned Osteria del Passignano and Ristoro del Lamole, reached from a very winding road with a great view of Chianti.

Of course we visited wineries to experience Chianti Classico wines, like Ca di Pesa, near our guesthouse in San Martino and owned by Jonathan Auerbach, Chief Strategy Officer at Pay Pal in NYC. Our favorite winery experience, however, was at the amazing new Antinori in Bargino, which has English-language tours and a restaurant. Upon arrival, we walked up a dramatic winding staircase to see the very contemporary buildings and vineyards. Little did we know that both the vineyards and buildings were situated over the winery, which is built into the mountain 16 floors below. The cellar structure was conceived to allow the grapes to move with the flow of gravity from the top floor down to the fermentation tanks, eliminating the need for mechanical pumping (protecting the grapes) and the need for refridgeration, as the grapes and wine are cooled naturally by the soil surrounding the cave. The beautiful winery was designed by Archea Assocati Studio, enginering by Hydea, and took seven years.

Marquesa Franchesca Antinori and IreneWe began our tour with a film about the Antinori family and winery. Marquese Piero Antinori, the current proprietor of the winery, can trace his family history back six centuries to 1385, when his ancestor Giavanni di Piero Antinori enrolled in the Wine Guild of Florence.  (We actually met Piero at a Napa Vintners Association Auction, when we sat at the same table with him.) This time, we were lucky to have his wife, Marquesa Franchesca Antinori sit with us at the film and then accompany us on our tour of the winery.

We tasted some delicious Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva and Vinsanto del Chianti Classico, and learned as we did at other wineries in Chianti that the Sangiovese grapes are rarely blended with other varietals in order to capture the uniqueness and freshness of the region.


Time Posted: Nov 10, 2015 at 2:33 PM Permalink to Wine Tasting in Chianti Permalink
Irene Ojdana
September 22, 2015 | Irene Ojdana

Willamette Valley Wine Tasting

View of Willamette Valley from Domaine DrouhinAfter Ed and I  attended a wedding in the Mt. Hood area outside of Portland, we made a wine tasting tour of the Willamette Valley, mostly around the town of Newberg. Some of our favorite wines we discovered were Ken Wright Cellars 2012 Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir; Dobbes Pinot Noir; Chehalem Pinot Noir and Chehalem Ian Chardonnay. This Chardonnay was all the more special since it has the name of our almost- three-year-old grandson Ian. We stayed at the lovely Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg.

We also managed to do some hiking and exploring in Oregon and got to see the beautiful Multnomah Falls when we weren't wine tasting--other healthy alternatives to red wine!

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2015 at 3:41 PM Permalink to Willamette Valley Wine Tasting Permalink
Irene Ojdana
January 24, 2015 | Irene Ojdana

Wine Tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

Ed and I celebrated part of the year-end holidays in Mendoza, in the heart of Argentina's wine-producing region, doing some serious wine tasting when we weren't hiking in the Andes. We stayed at the beautiful Cavas Wine Lodge, overlooknig 35 acres of vines at the foot of the magnificent, snow-capped Andes. At Cavas we had a wonderful Christmas eve dinner with the gracious owners of Cavas, Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal.

Catena Zapata Winery, Mendoza, ArgentinaOur favorite wineries we visited were Vino Cabos, of which Sonoma winemaker Paul Hobbs is part owner, and Catena Zapata, which is housed in an amazing replica of a Mayan pyramid (picture). Our favorite wine at Catena was the 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay.

Hiking the Andes was surely an experience with our guide Francisco. We had a picnic lunch in the middle of a clearing with horses looking on.


Time Posted: Jan 24, 2015 at 11:03 PM Permalink to Wine Tasting in Mendoza, Argentina Permalink
Irene Ojdana
December 7, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Pouring Vineyard {511} Cab at Flavor Napa Valley and at SF Vintners' Market

Ed and I spent an entire weekend pouring our 2010 Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, at two wine events--Friday night at Flavor! Napa Valley, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, formerly the historic Christian Brothers Winery, in St. Helena; and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, at the San Francisco Vintners' Market, at Fort Mason, on the shore of San Francisco Bay, with incredible views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Flavor! Napa Valley's Grand Tasting event, also known as the Appellation Trail, drew over 100 Napa wineries and rock star chefs, such as Michael Chiarello and Thomas Keller. Wineries were grouped by appellation; we were paired with other Diamond Mountain District wineries- Wallis Family Estate (Edward Wallis pouring) and with Schramsburg-- and paired with delectible bites from Chefs Joe Panarello of City Winery, Stephen Barber of Farmstead and with Don Giavanni restaurant. Yum!

Early Saturday morning, we were off on a longer drive to San Francisco, to set up for the Vintners' Market, a wine tasting and buying event that drew over 200 wineries from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara and Russian River Valley. We chose to pour in the event's Cult Lounge, where only premiere wineries were pouring their wines, such as Chappellet, Lail, Plumbjack, Spring Mountain Vineyards, Twenty-Four by Charles Woodson Wines, and Miner Family. Luckily, daughter Kelly and son-in-law Jeff helped us pour at this two-day, very busy event.


Time Posted: Dec 7, 2014 at 11:54 AM Permalink to Pouring Vineyard {511} Cab at Flavor Napa Valley and at SF Vintners' Market Permalink
Irene Ojdana
November 8, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Pouring Vineyard {511} at Breeders' Cup Taste of the World

We recently poured our Vineyard {511} 2010 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon at the Breeders' Cup "Taste of the World," a food and wine/beer/cocktail extravaganza held in a hugh tent at the Huntington Library, in tony San Marino. The event followed the first day of the Breeders' Cup, horse racing's glamourous international event. Two days of championship races and over $26 million in prize money attract the best horses from the U.S. and around the world including Europe, South America, and Asia.

The Huntington Library includes legendary gardens, which are populated with everything from massive succulents to lovingly-pruned roses, and Japanese and Chinese pavillions. Inside the Library, we were able to enjoy a massive art collection. The current exhibition includes thirty rarely-seen masterworks from its vast collection of American drawings and watercolors.

Each winery was paired with one of Los Angeles's best restaurants. We were lucky to be next to Austrian BierBeisl (formerly of Berverly Hills and soon to re-open on the Westside and Downtown L.A.), where talented young chef Bernhard Mairinger served up the best meatballs I've ever tasted.


Time Posted: Nov 8, 2014 at 8:16 PM Permalink to Pouring Vineyard {511} at Breeders' Cup Taste of the World Permalink
Irene Ojdana
October 24, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Vineyard 511 Harvest Party

Vineyard {511} celebrated its harvest of 2014 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon with a harvest party for its esteemed customers. Napa Valley Crust rolled up in a  vintage 1946 truck in mint condition repleat with the hottest of hot pizza oven, from which NV Crust owners Betty and Aldo Nunez made and served delicious salads,  caprese skewer appetizers, and pizza topped with the freshest produce and specialty meats from Fatted Calf and others, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomatoes, fresh basil and spinach, baby arugula, roasted corn and veggies and on and on. Chef Irene added to the menu with her specialty appetizers: crinkle potato chips topped with  nova scotia lox and creme fraiche, and deviled eggs; and for dessert Itsit ice cream bars, strawberries and cream and cookies. And all afternoon we poured our 2010 Vineyard {511} Cabernet Sauvignon and our winemaker Rob Lloyd's 2012 Chardonnay. Yum!

A highlight of the afternoon was a drawing for a 3-bottle vertical of Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon in a wooden box. Newlywed Rita Burris was the lucky winner!

Check out these harvest party pictures courtesy of Jeff Nicola and Joe Schmitt:  Vineyard {511} 2014 Harvest Party


Time Posted: Oct 24, 2014 at 8:45 PM Permalink to Vineyard 511 Harvest Party Permalink
Irene Ojdana
September 25, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Lunch in the Grove at Lynmar Winery

Lynmar Winery GardensOn a lovely Saturday afternoon, Ed and I attended a tour, tasting and luncheon at Lynmar Winery, in Sebastopol, California, guests of owners Lynn and Anissa Fritz, along with other members of the Family, of which Ed and Lynn are also members. Lynn led us on a tour of Lynmar's extensive vineyard and its fantastic, colorful vegetable garden (see photo), of which we were all so envious. We sampled Lynmar's 16-year-old balsamic vinegar right out of its barrels; the balsamic was made at Lynmar over all of the 16 years and tasted like candy.

A delicious lunch consisted of salads, chicken and cookies from many ingredients grown at Lynmar. Lynmar Chardonnay and Pinot Noir served with lunch were fabulous too.

Time Posted: Sep 25, 2014 at 11:35 PM Permalink to Lunch in the Grove at Lynmar Winery Permalink
Irene Ojdana
July 23, 2014 | Irene Ojdana

Touring Bien Nacido Vineyards and Winery

Ed and I were lucky enough to attend this July's annual Wine Bloggers' Conference, held in Buellton, Santa Barbara County, California, home not only to Anderson's fabled pea soup, but also to many fabled wineries. The area has four official appelations--Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and the Santa Rita Hills; Buellton is in the Santa Ynez Valley.

One of the conference activities was a secret tour of and dinner at one of these wineries in Santa Barbara County. Most of the 300 attendees boarded one of the buses outside the conference hotel, not knowing to which winery they were going. Luckily (again) Ed and I boarded a bus heading to Bien Nacido Vineyards and Winery, in the Santa Maria Valley. Bien Nacido means "well born" in Spanish, harking back to the roots of the vineyard which, in 1837, was part of a Mexican land grant from the then Governor of Alta California.

On board was Nicholas Miller, youthful 5th generation owner of Bien Nacido, a branch of whose family has owned the vineyard since 1871. He explained that most of the vineyard's almost 900 acres is Burgundian and Rhone in nature--Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with some Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Blanc. Bien Nacido owes much of its exceptional quality to the cool climate from the Pacific Ocean's morning fog and cool afternoons, creating the longest growing season (grape hang time) in California. The result of these favorable growing conditions is that much of the Chardonnay planted in California began as a Bien Nacido Vineyard cutting, and that the Bien Nacido Syrah grape's reputation is unique and notable.

Although Bien Nacido has begun making its own wines, most of its vineyards is divided into blocks farmed according to the customers' wishes, customers (over the years), such as Au Bon Climat, Qupe Winery, Foxen, Gary Farrell and Hitching Post.  Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist of Qupe Winery actually make their wines at the vineyard.

Duing a tour of the vineyards overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and a delicious buffet dinner at the original adobe home of the vineyard, we tasted Qupe, Foxen and Hitching Post wines. Gray Hartley, co-owner of Ostini Hartley Hitching Post Wines, who poured a great 1997 Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir with dinner (photo), has gained some local notoriety from appearing in some scenes of Alexander Payne's Sideways, partially filmed at his Hitching Post Restaurant, in Buellton.

As you may remember, one of my earlier blogs was about our trip to the La Jolla Playhouse to see the play Sideways, also based on the novel of the same name written by Rex Pickett. Look forward to a future blog about the Napa Valley Film Festival's anniversary screening of the film Sideways, along with a Merlot tasting. Merlot has actually regained its popularity since the character Miles in the film criticized it by saying he was not going to drinking any of that .......Merlot.






Time Posted: Jul 23, 2014 at 11:32 AM Permalink to Touring Bien Nacido Vineyards and Winery Permalink