The Drunken Cyclist

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Join us this Saturday April 19th, Live on the Radio. 10-11am PST.

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drunk cyclist

The Drunken Cyclist: I have been a wine lover for some time now, but I try not to take it all that seriously.  I am also a Cat 3 cyclist, a husband, and a father of two great (most of the time) boys.  I love to combine all my passions when I vacation, especially when I am going to my in-laws.  Since they live close to Napa and Sonoma I can go there and get loaded as well as ride my bike in glorious California.  Please visit

Sonoma Wineries the Drunken Cyclist feels you should visit…

Flowers: Stunning property out on the Sonoma Coast.  Make some spectacular chardonnays and pinot noirs.  Certainly a trip to get out (and up) there, but worth going in my opinion.  Need to call ahead and make a reservation.

Freeman: A newish winery just outside of Sebastopol.  A beautiful winery and setting.  Eric (and Ed) are really making some incredible wines.  The finalistwinery is beautiful and Eric is an incredibly nice guy.

Hirsch: David Hirsch is one of the pioneers in the ‘true’ Sonoma Coast.  Started the vineyard back in 1980 and sold off the fruit.  Started making their own wine with the 2002 vintage.  About three miles or so as the crow flies from Flowers, but it takes at least 45 minutes to drive it.  An unassuming place, but Jasmine Hirsch is incredible and the wine is legendary.

Littorai: Another legend in Sonoma pinot circles is Ted Lemon of Littorai.  Make both pinot and chardonnay and both are fantastic.  Farms bio-dynamically and has a great tour and explanation of what bio-dynamics entails.  If you visit (and you should) be ready to spend a good hour.

Siduri: One of my favorite producers.  Great pinot, but also syrah and some whites.  Fun tasting atmosphere even though Adam is a huge Cowboys fan.

Skewis: Top notch pinot.  Hank and Maggie are the nicest people you will ever want to meet.  I have not been to their new tasting room, but will get there this Spring.  I’m sure it’s great, but I think I will miss the rusticity of the old ‘ghetto’.

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Daou Vineyards

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Join us this Saturday on the Radio….


Keith and Kimberly welcome Georges Daou to the show this coming Saturday

Click Here to Listen Live!  10am – 11am PST April 19th 2014

Visit for much more info on the Vineyards and the Wines !

In the golden, oak-studded hills of Paso Robles’ acclaimed west side, not far from William Randolph Hearst’s magnificent castle, there is a man with a Homeric vision. His name is Daniel Daou and he is devoting his life and every imaginable resource to creating, first and foremost, a Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals the very best in the world.  daou wines

Gracefully perched atop a stunning promontory at 2,200 feet, the DAOU Spanish Colonial style winery is embraced by a tangible serenity. Hawks wheel and bank while the all-day sun caresses close planted rows of lush, emerald green vines. The 100 percent calcareous soil makes no sound as it parses out nourishment and only a gentle breeze flows up through the Templeton Gap from the Pacific Ocean. The quiet is bewitching; you want to lay down roots here, just as the seven-year-old vines have done. But the sense of peace belies the serious industry at work on this 212 acre estate. No effort is spared to create the luscious varietals and blends that flow from this limited production winery.

This kind of synergy happens rarely: superlative climate and terroir, super intensive vineyard culture, and cutting edge viticultural practice. You’re more likely to find it in Bordeaux than Central California. Coupled with the infectious passion and gracious, family style hospitality of the Daou brothers, Georges and Daniel, the result is pure magic. The kind of magic that comes in a bottle.


Becoming a Sommelier: The Importance of Essays

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by Kimberly Faye

This past week we wrote exam level essays that count toward our final grade. We will repeat that process when we do our final exam which will include a 100-point multiple choice test, 4 essays and 9 blind tastings – all timed. This is only the beginning for those who are truly passionate about furthering their knowledge and career potential as a Sommelier.

Essay writing is an important component of the International Sommelier Guild qualification for certificate achievement and if you have an any inkling that you may want to proceed to diploma level and then pursue the Quarter Master Sommelier or seek to achieve the highest and most prestigious award in the industry: Master of Wine Diploma, then grab your paper and pen because you have some writing to do. To even be considered for the Master of Wine (by invitation only) you must submit an essay describing your achievements along with your current Sommelier knowledge.

Writing is an art form that comes easier for some than others. I happen to pride myself as being a wordsmith and in fact am quite convinced that words are my love language. I subscribe to the word-of-the-day through because it also pronounces each word along with the definition and offers quotes of the word in the context of a sentence. Even so, I grapple with my words, especially conjunctions, because I believe they set the tone for a positive or negative response.

If writing is your strong-suite then you will find essay writing on your Sommelier journey to be rewarding. As an author (see PDF-essay Pays Nantais & Chablis Essay and blog writer, I will honestly confess that while I love writing, I found the essay’s to be challenging. For every essay that I turned in, I wrote and rewrote that essay at least five times. From my own experience, I highly recommend following your instructors homework guidelines and write as many essays as you can prior to taking the exam. “Essay sections on the ISG’s Level II and Diploma exams are important measures of a student’s understanding of the topics covered in class.” (International Sommelier Guild ).

According to Cognitive Science, writing helps to improve your memory through what is called,  Elaborative Encoding ( ).  I am convinced that writing the essays also helps the instructor gauge the comprehension level of his students and make adjustments accordingly. While the instructor’s primary purpose is to educate the students on Wine Fundamentals from the textbook, his ability to size up the room is an important element of the success of the class. Our instructor, Thomas Allen, has done an excellent job of developing a cohesive group of students who achieve the ultimate goal of why we spent our hard-earned money on this class: To receive L2 Sommelier Certification. BTW, I’m not being paid to plug ISG or Mr. Allen. I write this blog for all the fledgling Sommelier’s of this world and those who are considering their options to achieve wine knowledge certification.

In conclusion of today’s blog I am attaching one of my essays that I achieved a 10/10 score.

Enjoy !


Please visit for info on the classes and how you can sign up in your area!

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you may also purchase my Book Memoir of a Broken Brain at

Swanson Vineyards and Winery

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Chris Phelps is our Guest today. Enjoy the Full Show !!



The Wines we are Tasting Today… (Wine Life Radio: Purchase all of these Wines)

When Chris joined the Swanson Vineyards team in April 2003, it was an ideal partnership for both winery and winemaker. The Swanson family’s passion for innovation and history of consistently producing French-style wine from its Oakville vineyards posed an irresistible draw.

“Merlot was a big reason to move to Swanson, bringing me back to my Bordeaux roots,” Chris explains. “Merlot is the biggest red variety in Bordeaux, and in all of France. It is a winemaker’s grape, with natural acidity, lots of tannin, but the gentle kind that makes drinking red wines pleasurable.”

Since then, Chris has contributed a fresh, cutting-edge perspective to all phases of winemaking, from pre-harvest through blending and bottling. His style can be summarized as minimalist, in respect of excellent grapes. “If the fruit is picked when it is physiologically ripe and balanced, intervention through winemaking techniques is minimized,” Chris says. “My job as a winemaker is to form an honest interpretation of what a specific vineyard site in a specific vineyard is trying to tell me.”

Chris is a member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Maria, and their four children, with whom he shares a love of swimming and backpacking. An assistant scoutmaster, he also leads his local Boy Scout troop on expeditions.  Read more at


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Swanson Vineyards Face Cabernet

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Keith and Kimberly welcome back Winemaker Chris Phelps to the show today.

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Enjoy the Show part 4



Swanson Vineyards 2009 Face Cabernet Classic Napa Valley Cabernet at its very best, this wine is a profound wine with many layers of depth. Although it drinks quite nicely now, it will continue to age gracefully through at least 2028.

Winemaker Tasting Notes: The dominant aromas are intense ripe black cherry,cassis and sweet French oak. In the mouth, the entry is sweet and supple,withhintsofcreamycassis, vanilla and roasted espresso. The wine is full-bodied, with intricate complexity and very ripe,

Chris Phelps
Chris Phelps

powerful tannins, while still showing the grace, finesse and long finish we expect from our FACE Cabernets. The 2009 FACE can be cellared and enjoyed through at least 2028.

This wine was sourced exclusively from two ultra-premium sustainably-farmed vineyards. Fifty percent of the fruit came from Blossom Creek, on a gravelly-sandy slope outside of Calistoga. Fifty percent came from Sleeping Lady Vineyard, at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range in the Yountville appellation.
Winemaker Notes: The 2009 growing season emerged from a relatively dry winter into a warm spring with little frost danger. An inch of rain in May fortunately did not interfere with fruit set. We had a late July heat spike, with only a few days over 100 degrees. Veraison was smooth and fairly short. Temperatures remained moderate throughout the final stages of ripening, allowing us to harvest under optimum conditions before heavy rain fell on October 13th. Production  197 cases
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Swanson Vineyards Merlot

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Keith and Kimberly welcome Winemaker Chris Phelps to the show today.

Please visit

Enjoy the Show Part 3



Swanson Vineyards 2010 Merlot, the heart and soul of our storied 100-acre Oakville Cross Road vineyard, established itself 20 vintages back and continues to set the standard of balance and consistency among all Napa and Sonoma Merlots. As complex and delicately layered as most Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, while delighting both new and discriminating palates with its trademark drinkability, Merlot is who we are and what we do. We are Oakville’s largest producer of estate-grown Merlot, aptly and quite frequently described as the “Cab-lover’s Merlot”.

Merlot is a dark blue-coloured wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally, with an increasing trend. This puts Merlot just behind Cabernet Sauvignon’s 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres).

While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favored by many New World wine regions tends to emphasis late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.


Swanson Vineyard 2010 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon is voluptuous, celebratory, and exquisitely finessed, our bewitchingly original Cabernet  Sauvignon stands tall among Napa Valley’s blockbuster Cabernets. Alexis is a wine lover’s wonderland: complex, aromatically beguiling and as  powerfully elegant now as ten years forward. A consistent Swanson Vineyards classic with a cult-like following, mouth-watering richness, and a friendly price tag which makes buying a case of this rare gem irresistible.


Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada’s Okanagan Valley to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay, Australia’s Margaret River and Coonawarra regions and Chile’s Maipo Valley and Colchagua. For most of the 20th century, it was the world’s most widely planted premium red wine grape until it was surpassed by Merlot in the 1990s.

Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Its popularity is often attributed to its ease of cultivation—the grapes have thick skins and the vines are hardy and naturally low yielding, budding late to avoid frost and resistant to viticultural hazards such as rot and  insects—and to its consistent presentation of structure and flavours which express the typical character of the variety. Familiarity and ease of pronunciation have helped to sell Cabernet Sauvignon wines to consumers, even when from unfamiliar wine regions. Its widespread popularity has also contributed to criticism of the grape as a “colonizer” that takes over wine regions at the expense of native grape varieties.

Chris Phelps

The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be full-bodied wines with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the  wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages. In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olives notes while in very hot climates the current flavors can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side. In parts of Australia, particularly the Coonawarra wine region of South Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to have a characteristic eucalyptus or menthol notes.

Buy Cabernet Sauvignon the next time you are at a Restaurant or Retail Store.


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