Balloon ride over Napa Valley - everyone should go for a ride at least once! - September 2014Thanks to my friend Allison Steltzner Sharp, last week I went on my first balloon ride piloted by her longtime family friend, Jayson Kimball of Napa Valley Aloft. Jayson was the youngest person in the United States to get his commercial pilot license shortly after turning 18 years old. Napa Valley Aloft is his family’s company and Jayson is now into his 19th year of flying.
Winepalooza 2014 - September 2014A few months ago, David and Monica Stevens of 750 Wines reached out to me and about 10 winery professionals in the valley to ask if we would be on their wine committee for Wineapalooza, a fundraising event that would benefit their new project, Jameson Rescue Ranch. Our goal was to help bring great wineries to the table to pour that evening as well as help with creating the live auction lots. Their vision was to bring wine enthusiasts who were also animal lovers under one to roof for an evening of tasting many of the best wines in the valley along with a dinner, live auction and dancing to live music by Wristrocket.
Napa Valley Harvest - #kerrinworksharvest - September 2014It’s hard to believe that as I’m typing this on 9/20, harvest is almost finished for most of the Napa Valley wineries. Many of my winery friends, including those at Futo, Abreu and Rudd, have all said that they will be finished with harvesting the grapes before the first week in October, which is very early. Typically picking ends anywhere between end of October to mid-November.
Visit to Mayacamas Winery - July 2014On Monday, I spent a fantastic afternoon at the renowned Mayacamas Vineyards touring and learning more about the property and tasting current and past vintages thanks to Mayacamas' Artie Johnson. As the newest stewards of this special vineyard high atop Mount Veeder, vintners Charlie & Ali Banks and Jay Schottenstein and son Joey, have created a dynamic team including Artie, winemaker Andy Erickson, viticulturist Annie Favia and Estate Director Jimmy Hayes. They are serious about preserving this winery while also bringing it to a new level in terms of farming, hospitality and winery logistics.
Bastille Day Celebration at Marston Family Vineyard - July 2014Celebrating Bastille Day at Marston Family Vineyard with friends and hosts, Liz Marston and Jamie Leahy, meant another fantastic day on Spring Mountain but this time with some incredible French flair. From the homemade madeleine cookies and macarons that Liz had made for this special day to the older vintage Burgundies and Rhones to Champagne and Sancerre, this was a day filled with our favorite French fare; complete with beautiful California sunshine and good friends. Below are a few photos from the festive afternoon. Enjoy! - Kerrin Laz / Wine Director
Auction Napa Valley - June 2014Last week was the first time I attended Auction Napa Valley’s barrel tasting and auction and actually bid on lots. Thanks to the Napa Valley Vintners new mobile app, the bidding process turned out to be very smooth and organized. In total, I was able to get 19 cases of some of the best wines showing that day. Those wines included 2012 and 2013 vintages of Kongsgaard, Tor, Gallica, Stone the Crows, Vineyard 29, Spottswoode, Arrow & Branch, Vineyard 7 & 8, O’Shaughnessy, Jones Family and Pahlmeyer. Below are a few photos from the barrel tasting. I wish I had taken more photos because the set-up at Charles Krug’s renovated winery was phenomenal but I took the barrel auction seriously this year and was too busy bidding, tasting the barrel lots and enjoying the great food that all the restaurants in the valley were offering.
Visit to Checkerboard - April 2014To date, Checkerboard remains one of my favorite wineries to visit. It might be partially because I first visited them upon their debut vintage release and have seen first-hand how this winery has progressed from conception to completion. Spending the afternoon catching up about wine and non-wine matters with vintners Dennis O’Neil and Steph Martin also has something to do with it as well. This most recent visit, I was able to taste the new 2010 vintage of Checkerboard Kings Row Red, 2010 Checkerboard Cabernet Sauvignon (to be released this fall) and a new, third label called Impetuous (to be released late summer/early fall). I also got the chance to meet Angela, the black Angus cow that now calls Checkerboard home after wandering onto the property a few months ago.
Rainy day photos in Napa Valley - March 2014In other places I’ve lived throughout the country, when rainstorms came, dreary grey skies also appeared. But that’s not the case with the storms that rain on our valley. Even in the rain, Napa Valley retains its beauty and incredible light. And when the sun begins to peak out of the sky, the views are magnificent. Here are a few rainy photos from this past week. Enjoy! – Kerrin Laz / Wine Director
Spring at Bryant Family - March 2014I just picked up some of the new 2011 Bryant Family offerings from the winery- their 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bettina and DB4. The view from their property on Pritchard Hill looking north to Lake Hennessey is hard to beat. Here are a few photos from my quick visit with them. The photo of the vines looking up to the sky? I took that after climbing up a vertical pitch that felt like Mt Everest in my heels. The hike up was easy. Coming down? Not so much. But it was worth it. For more updates on all things wine that I'm working on, check out or facebook page. And follow me on my F&W adventures through instagram. Enjoy! - Kerrin Laz / Wine Director
Mustard flowers in full bloom - March 2014When the mustard flowers didn’t bloom at the end of January or even in the beginning February weeks I started to get nervous. Our lack of rain in the winter months was the culprit behind all of this. The mustard flowers, sure, are beautiful to see but for me, have been an indicator of health and growth in the vineyards. But as soon as we got a few good rainy days, sure enough those beautiful bright yellow flowers began to emerge and my nerves were put to rest. Below are a few photos I’ve taken in the past few weeks in the valley. For more updates on what's happening in wine country, check out our DEAN & DELUCA Wine facebook page. Also follow me on my f&w adventures through instagram. Enjoy! – Kerrin Laz / Wine Director
Winery visits in Sonoma - Monday, February 3, 2014Spending the day in Sonoma was one of the best experiences last month. The idea culminated after a long brunch at Farmstead in St. Helena with friends from Napa Valley. But unlike some ideas that never come to fruition, it was Realm Cellars vintner Juan Mercado who organized with winery friends the entire trip for me and friends Liz Marston and Jamie Leahy of Marston Family Vineyards and Elyse Chambers of Revana Winery.
Monday, December 16th - Holiday Thank You Reception 2013!I'm sure I'm not the easiest person in the wine business to work with - with all the moving pieces in play at all times - D&D stores, D&D catalog, D&D website, D&D private client division on top of the new projects I'm working on with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and another incredible partnership in the works that we'll launch in 2014- I'm continually working the relationships with vintners, distributors and brokers on possible allocations, pricing and deals. Last Wednesday was an evening to say thank you to all of those in the wine business that have really supported me and our program through the years. It also was a nice break for my DEAN & DELUCA wine team. Those of us in retail and in the service industry are so entrenched in helping everyone's holiday cheer, we sometimes forget to take a breather and enjoy the holiday season ourselves.
Our 2013 Holiday Wine Country Gift Guide Launches with Limited Edition Gifts!I'm super-excited at how our 2013 DEAN & DELUCA Holiday Gift Guide came out. Recently launched, quite a few of the gifts I created are limited in quantity only because of the highly-allocated nature of the wines I selected. Several wineries gave me a special allocation specifically for this gift collection to share with you. Hopefully there's something in there that will grab your attention to give to those that love wine, spirits or glassware or to treat yourself! Happy Holidays! Kerrin Laz, Wine Director / email@example.com
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - Saturday visit to Kenzo EstateAfter a big day on Friday hosting a sit-down wine seminar for friends in town followed by a crazy dinner at Press including some of the best Abreu Cabs I’ve ever tasted side-by-side with Colgin Cariad and BOND Quella, Saturday’s afternoon at Kenzo Estate was serene. With my friends in tow, I finally visited Kenzo Estate for the first time. A few years ago, when they were first opening their winery, I was invited to a reception and couldn’t attend. Many days after, I still had friends talking about how impressed they were with Kenzo.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - Visit to Continuum Estate and their newly built wineryAfter many countless friendly encounters with Tim Mondavi at different restaurants and wine functions last month, it reminded me once again that I had yet to visit his winery, Continuum. Now with their winery almost complete and harvest almost finished, it was the perfect time to visit. Before heading out of the country last week, I visited with Stu Harrison, their Director of Sales and Marketing and a longtime member of the Mondavi team for over 25 years. Having never met him before, it was a huge treat to spend the afternoon with him and later with Tim and Carrie Findleton, who’s in charge of all wine protocols.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - Schramsberg Release DinnerIt’s always nice to feel appreciated. You probably don’t even think twice about opening a door for someone else but when the person acknowledges your small gesture with a thank you, it means something. Last evening’s dinner at Schramsberg was entirely about giving thanks to a new harvest, the new vintage release of their 2005 J. Schram Rosé and 2010 J. Davies Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and to us, the supporters of their brand in the marketplace.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - Labor Day WeekendI had two choices in how I could spend Labor Day weekend - the first was to spend the weekend in Tahoe with good friends. But with that came gambling on how long I was actually going to be in the car dealing with Labor Day traffic. The second choice was to stay in the valley and spend it with good friends sans traffic. I chose the latter and it was the right call. It was the perfect weekend combining quality time with close friends, delicious food and wine and a few visits to places I’d never been. Below are a few photos I took along the way. - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director / firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, August 9, 2013 - Last weekend's WOW 2013 Wine Tasting at The Barlow, the newest Sebastopol Brewery and What's in my Glass?To continue the theme of tasting and appreciating West Sonoma Coast wines like the offerings I tried during last weekend’s West of the West Sonoma Coast Wine Festival, what’s in my glass this week is an incredible West Sonoma Coast offering. Below are the hints – first one of you to guess the wine will win a few bottles to enjoy on your own! I’ve also added some photos from last week’s tasting of wines that I enjoyed. (If it helps to tell you, “What’s in my glass” is not one of the wines in the photos below.)
Tuesday, August 6, 2013- Good wine and a great cause.A weekend filled with good wine and a great cause – this was the theme of last weekend for me and many Napa Valley vintners and friends. It was the weekend of the annual Jimmy V Foundation Wine Celebration.
Friday, July 26, 2013 - Guess what's in my glass and win a bottle to enjoy on your own!There have been some great wines in my glass this past week but the one in my glass now is produced from a Napa Valley winery. Below are the hints to help you figure out what's in my glass this week. Be the first one to guess correctly the name of the winery and you'll win a bottle to enjoy on your own! GOOD LUCK and happy Friday! - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - An Evening at Gandona Estate with awesome Redd Wood pizzaNapa Valley is a small valley, especially when you’re living in it. And last week I was once again reminded of just how small this valley truly is. Coincidentally, the day after I attended a casual gathering at Gandona Estate up on Pritchard Hill, I ran into Bob Long at Sunshine Market. I first met Bob while working on the east coast with Dean & DeLuca in 2003. At the time, he would do market visits to taste us on his releases of Long Vineyards Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. After more than 28 years making Long Vineyards wine, Bob sold his Pritchard Hill vineyard to Manuel and Cristina Pires, the current owners of Gandona and new stewards of this special land overlooking Lake Hennessey.
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - Another visit to Spring Mountain, but this time Vineyard 7 & 8July has been the month of Spring Mountain visits. It began by celebrating Bastille Day at my friends’ property, Marston Family Vineyard, and then moved onto Sarocka Winery and finally for the first time ever, I visited Vineyard 7 & 8 last week. High above Spring Mountain at about 2000 feet in elevation, where Napa Valley meets Sonoma County is home to Vineyard 7 & 8. This Napa Valley estate vineyard is not just physically impressive to look at immediately upon entering the property but also designed with function in mind, especially when touring the winemaking space and cave.
Friday, July 19, 2013 - The newest jewel in the Spring Mountain District AVA in Napa ValleyJust when you think you’ve heard of all the wineries in the valley, a new one is established. That was the case for me last week when I was introduced to the new General Manager of Sarocka, a 1.94 acre vineyard high atop the Spring Mountain AVA. While I had heard about this new project at least a year ago, it wasn’t until yesterday that I was finally able to visit the property and taste the wines. Planted by David Abreu, the Sarocka Vineyard consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cab Franc and is the newest addition to vintner Irene Sarocka Scully’s portfolio of wines she produces.
Friday, July 12, 2013 - Guess what's in my glass this week and win a few bottles to enjoy on your own!This Red wine in my glass is made by a vintner who learned and worked with some great Napa Valley wineries before starting his own venture that interestingly enough, has nothing to do with the king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, since the winery’s 2007 debut vintage, Pinot Noir is the winery’s only star.
Monday, July 1, 2013 - Countdown to the 4th of July begins now.When in doubt, if you’re not sure what plans to commit to for the 4th, create your own soirée and for the love of fun, do NOT forget the wine! Without sounding like a tired meteorologist, so much of what we do and how we spend our time in Napa Valley, is wrapped around the weather. So as we’re in the thick of a monster heat wave with temps nearing 104 degrees for the next few days, I plan to keep myself and my friends completely hydrated with great wine on the 4th.
Friday, June 28, 2013 - Here we go...guess what's in my glass and win a few bottles for yourself!Happy Friday! I just opened this Red wine to include in today’s private wine tasting I’m hosting for visiting friends in town this weekend. The winery gave me this debut offering a week early so I could include it in today’s line-up. Below are the hints – the first one of you to correctly guess the winery making the wine in my glass will win a few bottles to enjoy on your own. Good luck!
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - Two days of misty June rain in Napa Valley.Two days of misty June rain in Napa Valley – just what does that do to the grapes? I asked a few of my friends who are also really good winemakers that very question. One of my friends replied back saying that the only potential problem now is powdery mildew. “Unless it stays nice and chilly or gets super-hot, 70 degrees is perfect for mildew”.
Friday, June 21, 2013 - Guess what's in my glass this week and win some bottles to enjoy yourself!Happy Friday! Congrats to Sarah Parker in St. Helena, CA for correctly guessing Checkerboard Kings Row Red was the wine in my glass last week! Just when I thought I was going to have to toss out another hint, she came through with the winning guess. This Friday brings a glass of Red and a glass of White to the table. Check out the hints below – first one to guess correctly will win a bottle of each of the wines in my glass! Happy Friday and good luck! - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Thursday, June 20, 2013 - Field trip to Cade WineryAfter sending countless wine friends and clients up to Cade Winery on Howell Mountain since their inception, I finally took the time and visited them myself on Tuesday. My longtime Cade contact and friend, Ryan Keith, organized and hosted me and two of my colleagues, Lee Reinsimar from our St. Helena store and Michael Green from our private client division. We spent the day with Ryan and their winemaker, Dani Cyrot and Director of Sales, Sandra Roberts to really get a better sense of the property, their wines and focus going forward. We finished our visit with a fantastic lunch overlooking the infinity pond/pool that spills over the hillside onto the valley floor. It was most interesting to hear Dani talk about their winemaking philosophy at Cade. While I hear all the time that winemakers try to let the grapes show their potential instead of really manipulating them in the winery, I do believe that's the case with Dani's style of winemaking. And with former fulltime winemaker Tony Biagi consulting with Dani on the vineyard specifics, I think she will help to make the vineyards shine and bring out the best with each harvest. Below are a few photos from this great afternoon. If you haven’t visited them yet or if it’s been awhile, schedule a time to meet with them and taste their releases. As their vines mature each year and as they also continue to work with some of the best vineyards throughout the valley, their Howell Mountain Estate Cab gets better with each vintage. www.cadewinery.com - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Friday June 14, 2013 - Guess what's in my glass and win a few bottles for yourself!Happy Friday! What’s in my glass this week comes from one of my favorite properties in Napa Valley. Yes, the property is phenomenal and yes, every inch of the vineyard is meticulously cared for but it’s what’s in the glass that has impressed me most. Last weekend I brought their 2007 vintage, which was their debut vintage, to dinner. I hadn’t tasted it since their release and I didn’t know for sure what a few years in bottle would do to it. Immediately upon opening, I was very happy and even a little relieved that what I tasted was a Red wine that had really evolved; the layers of forest floor were now intertwined with the dark red fruit notes and clove. The tannins were silkier and the finish was smooth. Back to what’s in my glass - below are the hints and the first one of you to guess will receive two bottles of this! - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - Let's taste some wine together...If you’ve checked out our DEAN & DELUCA Wine facebook page or seen links I’ve posted on twitter or Instagram, chances are you’ve seen photos showing off incredible line-ups of shiny wine bottles. Those photos are from recent private, customized wine tastings we’ve hosted through the years. Up until now, we’ve kept this tasting program under the radar so it could grow organically to ensure we were only offering the best wines we could find coming out of California. I worried that if I increased the scope it would potentially undermine the quality of wines being shared at the table.
Thursday, May 23,2013 - Don't forget the Chardonnay!There’s nothing like a great Chardonnay. If made well, I can drink it as often as any other white variety. My idea of a great Chard offers layers without too much weight, citrus oil, maybe a little stone fruit, some crushed mineral notes and most importantly, clean acidity that allows all of this to take shape on the palate with elegance, structure and balance.
Monday, May 13, 2013 - A few great wines to try.I missed a great tasting a few weeks ago that one of my wine brokers hosted at Redd Wood, one of my favorite restaurants in Yountville. It included a wine line-up that I was really excited to taste but the good news is,Jonathan, my wine rep, was nice enough to leave the open bottles for me to taste on my way home from work. Since Redd Wood is just down the street from my house, I stopped by and I tasted all of them with one significant lack of knowledge - I didn't know the price for any of the wines I tasted. And the cool thing is, I just found out pricing and love that they're fairly reasonable in relation to the quality in the bottle. Below are a few of the wines from the tasting I was especially impressed with and will be bringing into D&D before the end of the week. - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - Splash and dash of Lorenza Rose 2012There's nothing like a little splash and dash visit from my broker to taste the new vintage of Lorenza Rosé just before lunchtime… this 2012 vintage release is just what you’ll need to keep cool and quenched this summer. Bright, lean and satisfying, the fruit components (Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Carignane) are the same as the 2011 but the 2012 as a whole is even better. With firmer acidity and a drier palate, this is exactly how I like Rosé- think Domaine Ott but from California, without the huge price tag and produced by the fun, charismatic Michèle Oullet and Melinda Kearny. This mother/daughter team has nailed down producing great-drinking Rose and this vintage is proof in the bottle. - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - Three new debut vintage Cabernets…all uniquely different, all incredible.The #1, most important and very much appreciated factor about these three Cabs I just tried yesterday afternoon is that they all taste....uniquely different. These are exciting new releases (3 are actually in their debut vintage) that will enhance our private client collection, wine halls and website. Just took photos of the labels, more to come later this week in the release letter about these four phenomenal Cabs coming from Oakville, Howell Mountain and Knights Valley. - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director
Monday, April 22 - Recipe for the Ultimate Napa Valley Dining ExperienceATMOSPHERE
Saturday, April 6, 2013 - our new 2013 Wine Gift Sets are ready to go!In light of all the ways we can market products nowadays; our DEAN & DELUCA catalog is still a vital way for us to showcase new seasonal food and wine, gift sets and housewares. It takes a solid team of many savvy players to create a catalog in tandem with strong relationships with the purveyors we feel provide the best of the best. Heading our food team is Kathryn Flouton, based out of our New York offices and Sherri Doyan and Malissa Nelson, our catalog and ecommerce and catalog directors, based in Wichita, KS. As I head our wine program and am based out in Napa Valley, together, we strive to bring unique and quality-driven gift offerings to the table.
Thursday, April 4, 2013 - A great week in tasting new releasesSpring has sprung. Or at least new offerings have begun to see their way out of the cellars and vintners are stopping by our wine offices to taste their new offerings with us. Check out some photos of some wines I really enjoyed trying these past few days. I know there's a home for each and every one of these great new offerings at DEAN & DELUCA.
Monday, April 1, 2013 - Meeting with our DEAN & DELUCA Japan and visits to two of my favorite Napa Valley estates
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - St. Helena Fire Department Fundraiser and Lobster Feed and WINEThe time honored tradition of St. Helena Fire Department’s annual lobster feed fundraiser is an event one should not miss. If you’re allergic to shellfish, you get a pass for missing it. Everyone else, start thinking about blocking out that special Saturday next year when local vintners, winemakers and friends in the valley gather at the fire station in support and to raise funds for the St. Helena Fire Department, taste some great local wines, drink a glass of the potently delicious fireman’s punch made by our friends at Charbay and then dive into steamed lobster, corn on the cob, sausages, shrimp and artichokes prepared by John Sorensen, the “lobster guy”. John is also St. Helena’s fire chief so who better to bridge two great components (fundraising for the fire department and lobster) into one night than him.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - No more drive-bys past Brix without a Happy Hour visit!I hate to admit this but in the past six years I've lived in Napa Valley, I've probably driven past Brix,a little over a thousand times yet have dined there once. I went there for brunch a few summers ago and remembered thinking it was ok but nothing to rave about. And the reality is, nothing I ate compelled me to go back.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - Quintessential day at Marston Family Vineyards
Friday, March 15, 2013 - Time to taste Charnu, Vineyard 29 & AnomalyBetween my "real" work aka non-tasting work, I'm squeezing in three tasting appointments today. First up is Charnu, a new winery I was first introduced to at the annual Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction. Based in St. Helena, I actually bought their special lot barrel at auction. It was delicious and fortunately somewhat under the radar which meant I didn't pay an obscene amount for it. They dropped off a bottle of their '07, '08 & '09 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Mark Porembski, who's also winemaker at Anomaly and partner at Zeitgeist Cellars.
Thursday, March 14, 2013 - Let the adventures begin!When I tell friends and family that on any given day, I HAVE to taste a new wine before it launches or dine at a restaurant in Napa Valley or god-forbid, attend a winery party, I definitely don't get the sense that sympathy is coming my way…Welcome to my world of tasting, dining, visiting, sharing and teaching about wine and food as wine director of DEAN & DELUCA.