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Pantone: Wine Is the New Black
filed under: Ramblings


According to influential international color house Pantone, 2015 is the year of all things wine-in-hue. For this, we can thank the debut of Pantone's 2015 color of the year - Marsala, aka #18-1438 TCX - which has already shown up on everything from the latest Burberry Prorsum collection to Gap cords, a new Sephora mascara and an agreeably burgundy-toned Keurig K400. And while the rush to enrobe goods in the latest Pantone selection isn't anything new - after all, each year's much-hyped color predictably makes the rounds on an array of comely consumer goods - what *is* new is the latest color's fortuitous association with red wine. Never have my twin loves of fashion and wine so neatly conjoined!

Marsala: In Living Color
In the midst of all this talk of wine-hued fabulosity, I would be remiss if I didn't share a bit more about the actual *wine* Marsala, a favorite of Pantone color advisor Leatrice Eiseman. In an article which appeared in the WSJ, Eiseman says she first sipped the fortified wine on a trip to Sicily in the 1990s. Color names, she explains, need to be feel-good and evoke a positive emotion. Wine-colored clothes, makeup, kitchen gear?? Yes, yes, yes. Feel good, indeed.

In spite of some spotty quality issues and a rep dragged down by oceans of basic cooking Marsala, fine Sicilian Marsala certainly has some niceties to recommend it: a rich history steeped in international trade, a global audience and deep, concentrated flavor thanks to a solera-like aging system and fortification in the style of Port or Sherry (British wine maven Jancis Robinson has more on the matter here). And - lest we forget - there is the *color*: earthy red-brown, bold and resonant of cozy things like brown spice, gingerbread, winter sunsets and chestnuts. It's a wine you may not often sip outside of a visit to the island, but when you do - it seems certain the color, together with its concentrated flavors, will leave a lasting impression.

"Bold Neutral" to Replace Black
In the same WSJ piece, Hobo brand accessories designer Koren Ray cited women's desire to replace black with bold neutrals, like Marsala, as drivers which may have influenced Pantone's selection of the color for 2015. The ruddy color works especially well on leather accessories and - according to the article's sartorially inclined scribe, Christina Binkley - can thank earth-inclined movements like farm-to-table for nudging the organic-of-nature towards chic.

I *knew* there was more germinating in all of that besides just the omnipresence of plaid and kale, and a preponderance of spendy gastropubs touting minimalist (albeit delicious) everything.

With this positive reception for Pantone's Marsala, could 2015 be shaping up to be the year of wine-colored everything? Oh, how very delightful that would be!

Posted by Courtney at 02:02 PMComments (0)

Channeling Bella Foster: Spring Sips
filed under: Hip Tasters, Winning Wines

painting by Bella Foster; pair with: Caveau du Mont July Bugey Cerdon Rose - AKA the sweet, pink bubbly that could

My Instagram and Pinterest addictions have officially spilled over into real life: I've been inspired to pair wines with some of the incredible artworks I've discovered online. Bella Foster is easily a favorite. The LA based painter - whose work you may have seen on whimsical-cool scarves and notebooks by Kate Spade - renders delicious interiors I would literally like to crawl into and inhabit with a favorite glass of wine. Of course, which favorite I select depends on the picture.

The common denominator across Bella's pieces easily is color (for more on the artist, who shows often in Southern California, check out this Mohawk interview with insightful commentary on her inspiration and method). Oh, and pets - animal lovers will appreciate the frequent appearance of feline and canine companions nestled on cushions and such. It's pure fun - pretty and comfy and bright-tastic-inspiring. Let's take a look and talk pairings, shall we?

painting by Bella Foster; pair with Liquid Farm "Golden Slope" Chardonnay

Nikki and Jeff Nelson (previously featured on the blog!) are favorites ever since Nikki DM'd me on Facebook and asked if I'd taste her wine. With the first batch released in 2009 (just 4 barrels!) the So Cal couple are now quickly snapping up critical praise for their balanced and Burgundy-inspired Chards from Santa Rita. Golden Slope beautifully walks the line between Californian and Burgundian - lush enough to please the locals yet crisp, focused and mineral-driven enough to turn heads among international-leaning palates. I love the geographic reference this pairing provides - the picture is of the interior of the late Ojai-based artist Beatrice Wood - whose home was not far from Santa Rita.

siri kitchen.jpg
painting by Bella Foster; pair with Inman Family Wines Brut Rose Nature Sparkling "Endless Crush"

Kathleen Inman is a master of the sophisticated Cali pour - and her initial forays into bubbly hew true to her rep for stellar balance and depth. The only thing regrettable about this wine is its rarity - there wasn't a lot made. If you're able to track it down (hint: call the winery), you'll be rewarded with a suave, blush-hued bubbly with excellent snap and juiciness on the palate. You could pair it with prosciutto and a crisp baguette - or a gorgeous room with vibrant hints of color as complements. I had the good fortune to taste Kathleen's bubblies with her twice within the last year - and it seems they keep getting better and better...

painting by Bella Foster; pair with Josef Leitz Rudesheimer Drachenstein "Dragonstone" Riesling QbA

BLUE - calls to mind water-kissed river rocks (see wine name: DragonSTONE) and all things cool...hence this pour for the picture. Riesling is so high in acidity it practically sings on the palate, and the refreshing finish - in this case a touch sweet - brings it back to earth for a breezy, effortless-seeming landing. (The abundant minerality in the stony soil ensures it channels those river rocks, too.) Imported by wicked smart wine guru Terry Theise (the man, the myth, the legend!), the wine hails from Germany's Rheingau and is described by Theise thus: "Pointed yet creamy, salty and minty; animated and seductive." How COOL.

painting by Bella Foster; pair with Hirsch "San Andreas Fault" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

With all the buzz we're hearing about Jasmine Hirsch's In Pursuit of Balance events in SF and NY (including yesterday's piece in the WSJ), it seems fitting to include this almost unbelievably good Sonoma Coast pour. Jasmine's family has been growing some of the state's most sought after Pinot Noir grapes for years, and when they began bottling under their own label Jasmine took the helm of sales. The wine is spectacular* - and I love how the name - San Andreas Fault - invokes the jagged pattern on the walls of Bella's painting. Lots of angles on the image, but this wine's super smooth.
* Side note: several bottles of this wine were lifted en route to a client tasting I hosted at an upscale SF hotel last year. Looks like even the box handlers were cued into its legend - much to our chagrin.

painting by Bella Foster; pair with Domaine des Aubuisieres "Cuvee de Silex" Vouvray

I selfishly singled out this image as my fav due to the blonde in the picture-within-the-picture. It seems personal - and doesn't art need to be personal in some way to resonate? - and so I've reserved my (most recent) favorite wine for the pairing. I poured this selection when I spoke at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business' Wine Business Speaker Series last month, where it was - as always - a treat to get back in front of the students and walk them through some great wines and my background.

Dry Vourvray is a hidden gem I can't get enough of - I just love the complex minerality and awkward-awesome, not-often-seen smells (I dig the wet hay and wool notes, the honeyed apple, the piquant lemon curd). It's medium-bodied yet manages to come across as both zesty and refined, and is just viscous enough on the palate to keep the Chardonnay kids satisfied. It's a wine that's complex, that I come back to in order to better understand, and that offers up new interpretations each time based on mood and company.

In other words, it's like a terrific piece of art.

Posted by Courtney at 11:19 AM

Duck Dynasty Goes to Napa
filed under: Hip Tasters


I get a lot of invitations to head up to wine country for industry events - but with a busy consulting schedule it's tough to entice me to make the drive to wine country. But when I heard that the Duck Dynasty family - the bearded Louisiana crew known more for cammo than Cabernet - had created a wine in Napa, curiosity took over and I headed north.

The gist: the Southern family that's captivated millions with its A&E reality series - in which the gun-toting, tongue-in-cheek backwoods crew hams up their country lifestyle - partnered with Napa's Trinchero family to produce a line of wine for Wal-Mart stores. Korie Robertson, wife of series star and family company CEO Willie Robertson, told me the family was motivated to reach out to a California wine partner after a televised failed attempt at making their own wine.

Dynasty is the top reality show on cable television in the U.S., with an estimated 11.8 million viewers per season. How could I not look into this fascinating mashup of pop cult and vino?!

pictured: signage at the Napa event, held at the Trinchero winery in St. Helena

Awkward Beginning
"We tried [making wine] already ourselves and decided we'd better stick to making duck calls and work with someone who knew what they're doing," Korie explained of the decision to partner on production. For the uninitiated, the family made a fortune after developing a novel duck calling device, the Duck Commander. How apropos that their wines, now available, are marketed under the label Duck Commander.

pictured: posing with Dynasty's Willie & Korie Robertson

Launching the Wine In Napa
Touching down late last year in Napa after wrapping filming for the new season, Willie and Korie saw the visit as "kind of a work trip, but one of those good work trips," according to Korie. "This is our first time in Napa, it's been a great experience." While in town they dined with the Trinchero family and checked out Bottega and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.


Easy Drinking Style
The wines are straightforward and made for an audience perhaps transitioning to wine for the first time, whether from beer or soft drinks. There is a Chardonnay, Pink Moscato, Zin, Merlot and Cab. Labels riff on cammo prints, changing up colors for varietals.

I was surprised to find the Pink Moscato a standout before recalling that the Trinchero family is famous for pink: they pioneered White Zin back in the day and still boast record sales for the stuff. (Trend alert: I'm just back from Sonoma where a promising young winemaker poured a still-unreleased version of White Zin - which totally rocked.)

Korie confirmed that the buzz is about the blush. "Pink Moscato is already a favorite, people are loving it - Miss Kay and some other women in our family like the sweet, fruity taste."


Dessert Time
Off dry to medium sweet, it's not exactly a wine for dinner, which the family famously is seen enjoying together at the end of shows. I think they've got the flavor direction right, pairing with other moments - like dessert. "We had it last night like as a dessert wine, with an apple tart," Korie explained.
Sounds like a good call.

pictured: a recent cast shot, via A&E

pictured: #DuckStyle - I hopped on an ATV at the party to get in the Duck Dynasty spirit

pictured: Korie & Willie mug for the camera with "Redneck Wine Glasses" - via A&E

Posted by Courtney at 09:27 AMComments (0)

*Wine for Techies*
filed under: Hip Tasters


Last night I accepted the challenge of writing a blog post in 10 minutes at a General Assembly digital marketing class led by the charming Ritika Puri.

I felt that combining my affection for tech and wine was totally appropriate - here is the 10-minute post, with just a couple of *tiny* updates made apres:

If you are a...

Content creator
Look for something flowery and purportedly soulful, like Pinot Noir. Fact checking is crucial - this variety's becoming over-planted. Look to New Zealand, Russian River, Santa Rita and Oregon for inspiring selections.

Grab a bottle from an obscure location with challenging coordinates, an improbable pour that somehow manages to be a game-changer. I'm thinking Finger Lakes Riesling.

Number cruncher (aka OG)
You are the IRL evidence of earlier, pre-digital times. You will enjoy older vintages and elevated prices...vintage Port.

SEO wizard/growth hacker/marketing wonk
You are relentlessly trying to game the system. You don't play by everyone else's other words, you are French (or at least your wine should be). Go big: go bubbles - Champagne.

UX developer
Elegance and intuition. Genius but not obviously so...I'm thinking German, cut from a nouveau-, Berlin-inspired cloth. Rock some Rheingau - but red (hello, Spatburgunder!), to be divergent. Because you live for disruption.

You run this town. You in fact run this - urban - winery, too (natch). A just-in batch of nouveau SF will blow away any annual offerings from Beaujolais touching down this month. Next stop: world wide wine domination!

Image credit: General Assembly

Posted by Courtney at 11:46 AMComments (0)

Instagram Mind Explosion: My So-Called Wine Life
filed under: Ramblings

Thanks to the kind folks at Everlapse, now we can share our most popular Instagram moments in a super-fast pseudo-mind-exploding retelling of past adventures. Here are my besties - covering a range of fab wine exploits (Auction Napa Valley, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, Share Our Strength gala, - and yes, that's Tyler Florence mugging with moi), SF holidays/highlights (a la: hanging with Eddie Borgo) and travel cool. Follow me on Instagram so we can share even more moments to come! xoxo CC

Posted by Courtney at 11:05 AMComments (1)

Shine On, Sonoma Coast
filed under: Regional Spotlight

Pic: The rocky, windswept Sonoma Coast

For starters, I have to tell you that the Sonoma Coast is both on and off the radar of many a serious wine fan. It's on thanks to the meteoric rise of pours from the area - think offerings from Hirsch, Marcassin, Flowers, Wild Hog (a personal fav), Failla, Littorai, Williams Selyem, Peter Michael - and off because, until recently, there really wasn't a there-there: Wineries are tucked way back into the hills on barely-accessible roads, cell phones don't work at all, and invites to visit are about as scarce as Internet access. Lodgings, restaurants, fancy tasting rooms? Forget it.

Pic: Tie-dye technicolor en route

Yet over the years I yearned to visit based on the fabulosity of wines I tasted. The haunting minerality, cool acidic bite and wonderfully rich flavors shot through with terroir were sirens of a sort. So - naturally - I jumped at an invitation to trek up the 1 and stay at the rustic-cool Timber Cove Inn, a hotel perched on coastal bluffs north of Jenner and accessible to the newly anointed Fort Ross-Seaview appellation. Under oversight from an enthusiastic new owner, the inn is being slowly updated to appeal to wine travelers accustomed to trendier spots in Healdsburg and Yountville.

Pic: Fort Ross Vineyard

Along the way, we dropped into the new tasting room (yes - a tasting room on the Sonoma Coast at last!) at Fort Ross Vineyard for a bite and view of the ocean beyond, visible through a thick stand of Redwoods. Tucked comfortably into a corner of the spot's expansive Redwood deck, we learned that Fort Ross' are the closest vineyards to the ocean in California. Founded by an adventurous South African couple, the winery, its manicured hospitality center and grounds hew to South African decor ideals emphasizing quality materials and minimal fussiness. We picknicked on hummus, wrap sandwiches and fresh fruit prepared by Timber Cove's new chef, William Oliver, and washed it all back with delicious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a surprisingly good Pinotage.


Pics: Eye candy at Timber Cove Inn

We caravanned from there to the inn, where our host was dapper new owner Robert "Bob" Olson. Bob's blue eyes are twinkling in a Fred Astaire sort of way, and his tastes run to the art and real estate markets. He recently acquired the inn - founded in 1963, the same year Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was shot in nearby Bodega Bay - and is transforming it room by room into a modern retreat with amenities to attract well heeled guests. My room - one of the handful refurbished and with bay views to make any worldly traveler take note - lived up to the hype.

Pic: Bufano's Peace obelisk, the inn's 93-foot homage to peace, the Sixties, and contemporary art (credit: Timber Cove Inn)

We kicked off the evening with libations from a pop-up "1963-era" cocktail bar helmed by mixologist Danny Ronen, who slid us pours of vintage cognac between drinks any Mad Men fan would appreciate.

Pic: Vintage Cognac by the fire

Bob treated us to a lovely dinner at the inn's Alexander's restaurant, where we tasted selections from the wine list focused almost exclusively on Sonoma Coast producers, including a cuvee bottled especially for the inn by Hirsch. And what would a modern coastal retreat be without a pedigreed chef? Oliver's recent arrival from stints at Cook St. Helena and Russian River’s Michelin-starred Farmhouse bode well for the culinary program.

Pic: By the glass pours to make any Sonoma Coast fan swoon

After the wine and food had been suitably enjoyed over a breathtaking coastal "double sunset," we indulged in cigars by the fire pit, mingling with other guests and taking in the oceans of stars overhead. I loved the sunset, the stars, the people and the wine - but the best sight of all, outshining it all - was the place itself. I had found my "there-there" on the Sonoma Coast at last.

Pic: Exterior of inn's main lodge/restaurant (credit: Timber Cove Inn)

Pic: That delicious double sunset

Posted by Courtney at 11:52 PMComments (0)

Yoga-Beverage Hotties Mix Drinks, Down Dog, Music & Good Deeds
filed under: Events, Hip Tasters

pictured: Kristine Hodsdon and friends at Wildcat Beach

"When it rains it pours" is a phrase we use to describe things we generally like to manifest, when they come in waves: job offers, love interests, party invites. But lately, I've been feeling this kind of happy gratitude - laced with a lot of wonder at my good fortune - about a set of women I've gotten to know who marry a love of drinks with stellar aptitude in yoga. Perhaps it was inevitable that upon getting into a regular yoga practice - part of a HIP TASTES Wellness initiative! - I'd gravitate towards teachers who have another foot in the drinks business. But you know, I never saw it coming, and I couldn't be more pleased to see these two interests aligning like some sweetly in-tune chakras.

So who are these hotties?

pictured: Nicole Cronin and DJ Ryan Lucero

The yoga-drinks lady movement got started with Nicole Cronin, with whom I teamed up for The Cleanse Party: DETOX/RETOX. Nic lent mindfulness savvy to the introduction of the class, initiating Hip Tasters to the art of eating and drinking with intention, keeping balance in mind when dining and enjoying each sip and bite to the max. Nicole knows a bit about each of these topics, having managed Mas Sake in SF's Marina for years while building up her own savvy around healthy foods and cooking.

Now a certified yoga instructor, Nicole's taking the nightlife-yoga combo to new heights with REBOOT, a DJ-d yoga set she's hosting monthly at The Pad Studios in Cow Hollow. She's been wrapping up classes with parties powered by stellar drinks from an array of cool brands including Vega One, Pressed Juicery and Ceago Vinegarden (see - she's still detox-retoxing ;)). Here's a VIDEO shot at Nicole's first REBOOT, with insights on music, movement and community. And this great news just in: REBOOTs will be held monthly from here out at The Pad - go check one (or several) out! Keep an eye on the Workshops schedule for details.

pictured: instructors at One Love SF, with Leila Burrows second from left

It was via Nicole, in turn, that I met entrepreneurial yoga maven Leila Burrows, who co-founded The Pad Studios. Leila's family has been in the drinks business for years, so she's been an industry savant for some time. But it's the addition of her yoga affinities and business savvy that make her a triple threat in the Hip Tastes mind's eye - and which offered the perfect excuse for me to head across town to Dogpatch WineWorks to see her bring these worlds together.

The occasion was One Love San Francisco, a yoga fundraiser benefiting the Amazon rainforest via Off the Matt Into the World's Global Seva Challenge. Leila was one of 11 teachers who donated time and fundraising leadership in guiding us through 108 sun salutations on a not-so-sunny San Francisco summer morning. She raised the most money of participating teachers for the cause and brought her cheerful, athletic style of practice to the group - this its own gift. I really enjoyed seeing her in action before sampling pours from Dogpatch WineWorks (the Chardonnay was especially memorable). That Leila shared the love in attending DETOX/RETOX - where she julienned up a storm, I might add - earlier this year was also so appreciated! ;)



pictured, from left to right: Leila Burrows, Kristine Hodsdon, Courtney Cochran

Yoga-wine worlds collided yet again when I met Kristine Hodsdon at One Love SF, where Leila cameoed. Kristine is a busy wine rep in the city working with some of the coolest books out of Spain and Eastern Europe, and turns out she's a bright young thing on the local yoga scene, too. One Love SF was Kristine's initiative, something she's been actively promoting since attending Off the Matt's leadership training program. In her words: "I became involved with wine, yoga and Seva because of the connection I feel to community and nature. There's a healthy balance between both that brings us together."

Having previewed the Dogpatch WineWorks space while working there on private events, she decided the spacious, stylishly industrial spot was the perfect venue for One Love SF. The selection was certainly doubly appealing to me, and auspicious for the organizers, too, with more than $2,300 raised for environmental justice in the Ecuadorian Amazon. For more on Kristine's fundraising efforts and the Seva challenge, visit her Seva page. Let's help her meet her fundraising goal!


pictured: One Love SF instructor Autumn Feldmeier (R) and friend at Dogpatch WineWorks


Posted by Courtney at 07:07 PMComments (0)