88 episodes

A weekly radio show and podcast all about the business, science and pleasure of wine. Our guests are the all-star team of the most interesting and influential winemakers in the business, who bring in their favorite wines for tasting. There are always interesting stories behind each vintage and each guest, all in a relaxed, down-to-earth atmosphere.

California Wine Country Steve Jaxon & Dan Berger

    • Arts
    • 4.3 • 8 Ratings

A weekly radio show and podcast all about the business, science and pleasure of wine. Our guests are the all-star team of the most interesting and influential winemakers in the business, who bring in their favorite wines for tasting. There are always interesting stories behind each vintage and each guest, all in a relaxed, down-to-earth atmosphere.

    Northwest Wines founder Tom Eliott

    Northwest Wines founder Tom Eliott

    Dan and Tom

    Tom Eliott, wine merchant and founder of Northwest Wines, joins Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger on California Wine Country.

    Dan Berger has brought his house white wine for the moment. It comes from Claire Valley, just north of Adelaide in Australia. The brand is JB, Jim Berry Wines. It sells for $11.99 at Bottle Barn. It’s called Jim Berry W Riesling. Dan has brought this wine to compare it to Tom Eliott’s wines. Tom brings wines in from three regions which are all cool climates.

    Tom started Northwest Wines in 1985 in Calistoga. Back in 1979 he had a red burgundy which he describes as his first Nirvana moment. “It was transcendental, I had never had a wine like that before.” In 1980 he was a wine buyer at Café Lido in North Beach and he tasted a lot of wine there.

    André Tchelistcheff used to come in to buy wine in All Seasons market in Calistoga, where he was the buyer. He was a pioneer in bringing the cool climate wines that emphasize acidity and longevity.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    In the 80s and 90s he found other similar cool climate wines and built his business on cool climate wines from Oregon, Washington and Germany. When Tom got into the business, there was nobody distributing these wines. The problem was that these wines needed explanation. Dan Berger has known Tom Eliott for close to 40 years.

    Silvaner in a Bocksbeutel

    Silvaner in a Bocksbeutel

    The Silvaner comes in the Bocksbeutel-style bottle. It’s a traditional bottle for German wines, and is known in the US as the old Mateus Rosé bottle. German wine country mostly the south west but this Silvaner comes from Franconia, in central Germany. The bottle shape is protected for that region. The best Silvaners in the world are grown here, although it is grown in many countries around Europe.

    The next tasting is a 2020 Chardonnay, from Cooper Mountain in Willamette Valley. Dan describes it as very delicate and needs some more time in the bottle. It’s a wine oriented toward food. It comes from a second-generation family owned vineyard. They were the first winery to be certified organic by Oregon Tilth in 1995, and the first certified biodynamic by Demeter in 1999. Half stainless steel, half neutral oak aged, no yeast added, unfiltered. Dan would decant it and not drink it too chilled.

    Moving along, they taste the Washington Rosé, Gramercy Cellars 2022 vintage. “Amazing,” says Dan. It’s all from a single vineyard in Columbia Valley. They farm the coolest blocks for Rosé, with more shading and a lower brix, so it comes out 13% alcohol. The blend is 50% Cinsault, 25% Grenache and 25% Syrah.

    Oregon Pinot Noir

    The final tasting is an Oregon Pinot Noir, Elk Cove 2021 from Willamette Valley. Dan says it has a little bit of black cherry, but not only that. It also has vibrancy. It was planted in 1973 and since then the son and daughter of the original owners are running the winery. They have added vineyards and got certified sustainable. The nose is bright and vibrant.

    • 21 min
    Craig McAllister, winemaker for La Crema

    Craig McAllister, winemaker for La Crema

    Craig McAllister

    Craig McAllister, head winemaker at La Crema, is our in-studio guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. The last time we had a guest from La Crema was this March 2, 2022 episode with winemaker Eric Johannsen.

    First they taste a brand new Bonny Doon orange wine, a white wine aged on skins, not very long but very cold, and made for quick drinking. The orange comes from 10% orange muscat grapes, which bring some sweetness. Steve didn’t like it but Dan and Craig do. Bonny Doon is located in Santa Cruz, founded by Randal Graham.

    Craig came to California in 2007. His background in New Zealand was in resort hotels, he trained as a hotel manager. He lived in the UK and worked construction and serving beer in bars. Back in New Zealand, he went to college and studied winemaking. He describes learning about wine and cocktails in the hotel business and how that made for a good transition into winemaking.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    La Crema Viñera was the original name. Jess Jackson bought the property and has made a steady run of high-quality wines at reasonable prices. As they taste the Sauvignon Blanc, Craig says he is focusing on texture 70% of the thought process. 25% of this wine was in neutral oak barrels, 25 or thirty days only, which gives the texture he wants.

    Taste of Sonoma

    La Crema will be pouring at the Grand Tasting at the Taste of Sonoma at Kendall-Jackson, on Saturday June 24, an event sponsored by Sonoma County Vintners. All the other great labels will be there too. Dan Berger says it’s one of the most enjoyable events on the calendar. There will also be live music as well as early bird pricing, which is available until May 31.

    Craig also brought a Rosé of Pinot Noir from Saralee’s vineyard, which is only sold in the tasting room. It is grown and made with the intent of making Rosé. It has bright natural acidity and smells a bit like champagne stock, says Dan. There is Pinot Noir flavor without any of the tannin or bite. It’s copper colored with a hint of pink. It is bone dry, close to zero sugar. “All fermented out…” says Craig. The hand harvested fruit is picked in the very early morning and it goes straight into a very gentle pressing cycle. Direct to press means that the grapes are only gently pressed, not crushed, which would bring more tannins and other flavor elements into the juice.

    The Themed Lounges at Taste of Sonoma

    Dan describes the themed lounges at Taste of Sonoma as an opportunity to get an education in wine. A public wine event like this allows you to understand why the wine is as good as it is. You learn all about the wine at the different lounges, like Rodney Strong Destination Rosé lounge or the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge sparkling wine.  Over in another lounge, there will be a silent disco (where everyone has separate headphones and is hearing different music.)

    There are different options for visiting La Crema, visit their website for more information. Some wines are only available in their tasting room and it is on a beautiful historic property.

    • 26 min
    Morét-Brealynn Wines

    Morét-Brealynn Wines

    Barry, Moret & Dan.

    Moret Brealynn from Morét-Brealynn Wines is our guest on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Barry Herbst is also in today from Bottle Barn, to describe their current Rosé promotion.

    Moret started working in a tasting room and noticed that there was more to wine than just that. So she started taking classes in winemaking, first at Santa Rosa Junior College. She interned at the SF Chronicle wine competition. She went from Silver Oak to Kosta Browne working on promotions, tastings and shipping wine. This was her first exposure to production. At Silver Oak everyone is a specialist but at KB people wear different hats so she learned a lot of different jobs. See this page of the Morét-Brealynn website for her whole story.

    The winery also supports animal shelters. In her career before wine Moret was Teen Center director for the city of Davis, in charge of park activities for teens, which is the job that later brought her to Sonoma County.

    Dan's cellar wine of the week, Baileyana 2013 Chardonnay.

    Dan Berger’s cellar wine this week is a 2013 Baileyana Chardonnay that was made to have good acidity. It has been in a good cellar at a steady 55 degrees too, so it is in great condition.

    Stray Cats

    They taste the Morét-Brealynn 100% Muscadelle called Stray Cats. The fruit comes from the Sonoma Valley. There is a case on sale at Bottle Barn now. Dan mentions that Muscadelle is usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon to make a white Bordeaux blend. Dan has never seen it before all alone, as a varietal. The orange kitty on the label is her cat Simba.

    Next they taste two Rosés, a 2021 and 2022, and she describes her process of making each one. Moret compares them to sisters. They were both bottled in December in neutral barrels, but they come from different vineyards.

    Barry Herbst describes how Bottle Barn's Rosé season is starting now, at the store.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    The last two tastings are her two Pinot Noirs. They are made with 60% new French oak, 30% whole cluster. It has got some pretty high ratings. All of the Morét-Brealynn wines have screw caps, which everyone agrees is more and more popular. Dan mentions that we only have about a 10-year history of aging big red wines with screw caps, and it will take 10 or 20 more years to reach the 30-year threshold.

    • 24 min
    Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience and more

    Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience and more

    Steve Dveris of The Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience, Domenica Catelli from Catelli’s in Geyserville and Leslie Sbrocco, host of Check Please Bay Area on local PBS television, are all in studio today for California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon, Dan Berger and Tom Simoneau. Barry Herbst, the wine buyer at Bottle Barn, is also in.

    This is the second annual edition of the Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience, May 18-21, and it is bigger than it was last year. They have 140 wineries that have signed up. The Grand Tasting on Saturday May 20 (from 12-4pm) is the largest one that Steve has seen in thirty years of organizing such festivities. Tom Simoneau says that if you're going to attend only one event of this kind this year, this would be the one.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    There will be live music, cocktails, a beer garden and lots of local producers featured. There are several levels of tickets including several a-la-carte events. On Friday after noon at 4pm, there is a craft cocktail event with some famous bartenders. On Saturday there is a concert at Rodney Strong as well.

    Dan Berger's Cellar Wine of the Week

    Dan Berger has brought a wine from his personal collection, for tasting. This a 2021 Sicilian white wine varietal called Grillo from Tenuta Regaliale. Dan describes it as having a similar structure to Chardonnay but also with the flavor of a Pinot Blanc with kumquat and citrus notes.

    Domenica Catelli represents the third generation operating Catelli's restaurant. Her grandparents started it in 1936. Her father took over in the late 60s then for a while the family was not involved in it, but 13 years ago she and her brother took over. For a while the restaurant was known as The Rex and it's still the "silent name" of the place.

    Leslie Sbrocco describes how her career covering food and wine began, when she created Wine Today dot com, through the Press Democrat. From there she started to write books and started doing TV. Check Please Bay Area is now in its 18th season. She also hosts show on national PBS called 100 Days, Drinks, Dishes and Destinations. She will be speaking at the Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience.

    Zinfandel and more

    On Sunday, Leslie will be hosting the Zinfandel Live Experience with a list of 30 Zinfandel producers. She is also the author of a book about wine for women, her second book is The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide, a Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing and a third book is in the works. Leslie will also be pairing music with wine at the Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience.

    Steve Dveris mentions that the Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience is the first festival of its kind in Sonoma County that invites wines from all over the world, even Napa Valley!

    Leslie Sbrocco has brought two more wines as teasers for her Sunday Zinfandel seminar, each one representing a musical genre. The Rodney Strong 2019 Old Vine Zinfandel has the Zinfandel spice component of raspberry and spices, says Dan Berger. This is her jazzy wine, she associates it with Ella Fitzgerald. The last tasting is the Robert Biale Zinfandel, a 2021 Black Chicken label. Leslie associates it with blues music. Dan Berger suggests two more years in the bottle for this wine.

    • 31 min
    Julie Pedroncelli

    Julie Pedroncelli

    Julie Pedronelli

    Julie Pedroncelli joins Harry Duke and Dan Berger on California Wine Country. She is the President of Pedroncelli Wines. The Pedroncelli family has been making wine for nine decades. They are into the third generation of active winemakers. They are well known for grape growing as well as winemaking.

    The Pedroncelli 2022 Rosé of Zinfandel comes from a single vineyard that they have been using since the 1940s. They changed the packaging in the 2022 vintage too. Dan says, “I can not tell you how good this is!” He says Zinfandel demands to be made into Rosé and this one is bone dry and crisp with raspberry and strawberry, instead of the aromatics you get from a big dark red Zin.

    Montse Reese, their winemaker, says this one is the most challenging and the most rewarding wine to make. They have to pick the grapes early. She has also been selecting the best vineyards and has settled on this Bushnell vineyard. Montse trained with Julie’s late uncle John, and succeeded him as winemaker. Dan hails her great sensitivity as displayed in this Zin Rosé.

    Today's labels

    Giovanni and Giulia

    The next wine is the 2022 Sauvignon Blanc. It tells the story of their founders Giovanni and Giulia, on the label. They farm 11 acres of Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Dry Creek Valley. Julie describes how Montse picks one block a week or so before the other. This allows her to make Sauvignon Blanc that has some characteristics of both sets of grapes that have ripened either less or more. It’s good now, but Dan says it’s beautifully structured to age, as well.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    Julie describes how she majored in English in college and worked in the East Bay in publishing, while commuting to Geyserville to work in their tasting room, on weekends. That is when she accepted her father’s suggestion that she come work at the winery, in 1985.

    Visit Pedroncelli in Geyserville

    They are located in Geyserville where their tasting room offers three different flights for tasting. Every flight starts with a splash of Rosé and ends with a taste of their Port wine.

    The next tasting is the Mother Clone Zin. They farm 33 acres on the home ranch and they also use fruit from other vineyards. The oldest vines are 100 years old, most are second generation and are 40 years old, and a smaller vineyard is 10 years old. Their Zin has always been blended with a small amount of Petit Syrah.

    The Sonoma Classico is the last wine tasted today. It is a blend that honors their roots in the red wine blends that were popular in the past. They grow all four of the varietals in this blend. They intend to maintain the integrity of the brand as they begin a 10-year growth plan. That includes the adoption of a sustainability plan.

    • 31 min
    Pedroncelli Wines, April 5, 2017 episode

    Pedroncelli Wines, April 5, 2017 episode

    To go along with this new CWC episode recorded on April 26, 2013 (today) with Julie Pedroncelli, here is an encore presentation of this 6-year-old episode, also featuring Julie Pedroncelli and her husband Ed St. John. If Dan Berger can age wine, can we also dig a well-aged podcast episode? Listen and find out! 

    From Pedroncelli Wines, Julie Pedroncelli and her husband Ed St. John, join Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger on California Wine Country. Also with us in studio are Sajive, owner of Bottle Barn, and Barry Herbst, their wine buyer.

    The first tasting is a Rosé that Dan Berger brought in. It comes from Mount Beautiful, North Canterbury, in New Zealand. Dan says this region will become very well known in the next few years. He says this wine is “soft and sweet” and everyone enjoyed it.

    Julie briefly tells the story of Pedronceli, which started with her grandparents, Giovanni and Giulia Pedroncelli, who bought a shuttered winery during Prohibition and made a living selling grapes at first. Then after Repeal, they returned to production. Her father Jim was the head of wine making. Now the second, third and fourth generation are all working in the business in different roles. For everything you'll ever need to know about Pedroncelli Winery, visit their website http://www.pedroncelli.com/

    Dry Creek AVA

    They are located in Dry Creek, which Ed describes with great affection, saying they have been in Dry Creek before it became famous as the Dry Creek Valley. They just promoted Montse Reece to Winemaker last year. She is only the third winemaker they have had in their 90 year history and the first who is not a family member. They have had only three winemakers in the 90-year history of the company.

    Click the logo to visit our sponsor Bottle Barn online for the coolest bargains on wine, beer and spirits.

    Dan Berger describes the iconic wines of Pedroncelli, starting with Zinfandel, which Julie says is their flagship varietry. They brought in a Saugvignon Blanc 2016, their flagship wine Mother Clone Zin, and their Three-Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

    The tasting begins with their Sauvignon Blanc is made without any oak. Dan says that it would go very well with some spicy Thai food. “The structure is gorgeous,” he says, and suggests it would bear 3 or 4 years of aging.

    The next tasting is a 2014 “Mother Clone Zinfandel.” Ed explains how it got its name from the old Italian practice of “borrowing wood” when growers would give cuttings to others. Once, a grower was asked where a clone came from and he replied that it was the “mother clone” meaning it was his best original source. They then trademarked the term.

    Dan says it shows flavors of violets, black cherries and a little trace of pepper. There is almost a subtle taste of nutmeg in the aftertaste, a gorgeous wine…. Just stunning, gives you the real character of Dry Creek Valley.” He suggests it would go very well with some lamb.

    Ed adds that this is wine is what they are striving for at Pedroncelli and adds, “My favorite thing to pair with this wine is a glass.”

    Kinds of Zinfandel

    Ed says that today many Zinfandels are “fruit bombs” and Dan and Steve agree, they slap you in the face, you’re tired of it halfway through the glass. This Zin lets you enjoy a second and third glass without losing focus.

    Ed tells how he was recently tasting their 2017 vintage, with winemaker Montse Reece. It is her first at the winery as winemaker. She said, “We don’t make fruit bombs, we make spice bombs.” She Julie agreed that they strive for spice over fruit flavors.

    Sajive asks them to describe the Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel style and Julie replies that it is the spicy berry flavor. Dan adds the wild strawberry flavors are also present which comes from harvesting the grape when it is not over-ripe.

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
8 Ratings

8 Ratings

DCNYer ,

Glad I found another wine podcast

I'm always looking for interesting wine podcasts that have regular update schedules. I enjoy the hosts' banter and enthusiasm. The guests are more Napa focused and hope they can invite more winemakers or professionals from Sonoma and the North Coast. I also like that they take show notes seriously and provide good descriptions and links discussed during the show.

Schmatz74 ,

Stick to wine!

Just listened to the 12/23/2020 Wines of the Year podcast. As usual, the awards went to outstanding wines.

I just wish you hadn’t closed with unnecessary political commentary.
While many people are glad to see the change, not everyone is gleeful about the prospects for the next four years.

Stick to wine!

Archie DiAvolo ,

Duke of Barolo

I'm a longtime listener to this radio show and I'm really glad that it's a podcast too now. If you like great wine or are just curious, this pod is for you. Just listening to the people on this show is an education. People spend a lifetime accumulating this knowledge and making wine and they come on this show and just tell all about it. I love listening to winemakers explain what they do, how and why they make the choices they do.

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