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Sipping J Vineyards Sparkling Cuvées

We're Sipping J Vineyards’ Sparkling Cuvées at Home

Everyone needs a versatile sparkling wine on hand to enjoy with home-cooked meals and to uncork for impromptu entertaining. J Vineyards & Winery is one of Sonoma’s top sparkling and varietal wine producers whose cuvées are made in the traditional method. The six vineyards are all located in the Russian River Valley, a cool climate setting that delivers wines of exceptional, fresh fruit crispness and balanced acidity.

Underscoring the popularity of these wines for casual entertaining, J Vineyards & Winery’s tasting room near Healdsburg offers special culinary experiences. A popular one is the J Bubble Room, a gastronomical experience led by Executive Chef Carl Shelton and Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, which includes both sparkling and varietal wines. Chef Shelton shared, “Many of our visitors come to taste the sparkling wines and leave with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnays.”

The Bubble Room at J Vineyards
The Bubble Room at J Vineyards where exceptional wine and food pairings take place.

What we tasted:

J Cuvée 20 Classic Brut. The winery’s twentieth anniversary is a blend of 51% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier with aging on lees to add complexity. It delivers notes of toasted almond and brioche toast, baked apple, white peach and Meyer lemon. Pair with creamy brie, seared cod, poached lobster, grouper and truffle pasta. SRP: $38

J Vineyards & Winery Brut Rosé gets its soft salmon pink color and ripe red cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors from Pinot Noir. The blending of 32 percent Chardonnay into this wine adds notes of slivered almond, kaffir, jasmine and lemon meringue. We recently enjoyed our J Rosé with a harissa spiced  shrimp over rice.  SRP: $45

Photo of J Cuvees

Both wines are available nationwide through many retail outlets, and you can order direct from the winery.

Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards & Winer
Chef Carl Shelton, J Vineyards &Winery

J Vineyards & Winery Executive Chef Carl Shelton joined us on The Connected Table Sips to share  pairing tips. Listen here (link) or click below:



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Sipping with Dan Panella, Oak Farm Vineyards, Lodi

The Panella family has been rooted in the agricultural industry in Lodi, California, since 1936, first as owners of a trucking business and later as grape growers. In 2004, the family purchased historic Oak Farm. Its original owner was Baltimore native, William DeVries, who came to California to seek his fortune during the 1849 gold rush. While Devries did not find his pan of gold, he did make a small fortune as a merchant and bought the property in 1860. His large white colonial house remains on the 70-acre estate, as are the majestic oak trees that inspired the farm’s name.

The Panellas spent years renovating the property. Third generation farmer, Dan Panella, oversaw the replanting of 60 acres of vineyards in 2012, which grow 14 different grapes. Panella said the focus is on producing estate-grown wines from Mediterranean, American and Bordelaise varietals. “The Mediterranean climate and sandy loam soils provide perfect growing conditions for making our wines,” he noted.

Matriarch Dorothy Panella designed the spacious modern tasting room opened in 2014.  Dan’s wife, Heather, a landscape artist, oversees the grounds. Consulting winemaker, Chad Joseph, a specialist in artisanal grape growing, works with Dan to craft the wines.

What we tasted:

Oak Farm Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. While the vintner used a grape clone derive from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the growing conditions in flat, sandy loamy soil brought out more tropical guava and citrus than kiwi and grassiness. This wine was refreshing without the herbal tang some Sauvignon Blanc wines have. $19

Oak Farm Vineyards 2017 Zinfandel. This elegant, earthy wine had some nice grip and wasn’t overly jammy. A small amount of Petite Sirah added to the soft finish. $25

Oak Farm Vineyards Tievoli 2017.  Zinfandel, Primitivo, Barbera and Petit Sirah augment layers of flavor and complexity that we enjoyed. This is not an everyday ho- hum red blend. Panella noted the wine’s unusual name, pronounced T-VOHLI, spelled backward reads “I Love It.” We loved this wine, too! $22


Here from Dan Panella, third generation farmer, for Oak Farm Vineyards on The Connected Table SIPS.

Dan Panella




The Connected Table SIPS are short, 6-8 minute podcasts on iHeart, iTunes and other major podcast platforms hosted by Melanie and David. Each custom podcast spotlights a brand, region or individual with engaging storytelling. Let us share your story. Contact for details.


A Little Joie de Vivre with Jean-Charles Boisset

Does Jean-Charles Boisset have a James Bond complex? Perhaps. He definitely blends dapper and debonair in his style and businessman-meets-bon vivant. The descendent of Burgundy wine producers, Jean-Charles oversees the family business on two continents. In France this encompasses: Jean-Claude Boisset Winery, Domaine de la Vougeraie, Bouchard Aîné & Fils, Ropiteau Frères, J. Moreau & Fils, Château de Pierreux, Mommessin (all Burgundy), Bonpas (Rhône Valley) and Fortant (Languedoc).


Jean-Charles Boisset, International Man of Mastery When It Comes To Making Wine an Experience of the Senses

In the U.S.A., Jean-Charles acquired Buena Vista Winery (Carneros) the first bonded winery in California, Raymond Vineyards and De Loach Vineyards. And he’s created the lifestyle “brand,” JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset.  The Boisset Collection also includes jewelry, home decor, fine goods, gifts and exclusive tasting events in addition to his wines.


Buena Vista Winery (est 1863) was acquired by Jean-Charles Boisset in 2011. Read the entire story here.

Jean-Charles has also recently published a book, co-written with Sommelier Marnie Old, entitled

Passion For Wine: The French Ideal and the American Dream

The book takes a sensory-and sensuous- approach to learning about and enjoying wine and we found it easy to read and very informative. We love how they compare certain styles of wine to screen sirens. What do you think is the “Elizabeth Taylor” of red wine? Or the Bridget Bardot of white?


Jean-Charles Boisset and Marnie Old. (photo from The Boisset Collection)


Listen to our edition of The Connected Table Live! with Jean-Charles Boisset here:

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Celebrating 50 Years with Trefethen Family Vineyards

“What were you doing 1968?” That was the opening question Kevin Zraly asked the group attending this week’s tasting at Corkbuzz Wine Studio to commemorate Trefethen Family Vineyards’ 50th Anniversary Retrospective. Kevin was joined by proprietors Janet Trefethen and her son, Lorenzo Trefethen, who shared the history and milestones of this family-owned winery located in Napa’s cool climate Oak Knoll district.

The tasting notes included a historical marker for our nation. Some were happy times: the growth of the American culinary revolution and California wine industry. Some noted the natural disasters that impacted the region, such as floods, earthquakes and drought. And the federal debt went from $316 billion in the 1960s to 20 trillion in 2010. The Good News is that the wines survived it all and each vintage we tasted was exceptional.

It was an afternoon to share family stories while enjoying the wines. Patriarch Eugene Trefethen purchased the Eschol Ranch in 1968 and planted vineyards with the intent to sell the grapes. Janet and John Trefethen met, married and started the winery in 1973 with Tony Baldini, as their first viticulturist. Janet noted there has been a Baldini family member involved with the winery since Day One. Lorenzo also underscored that Trefethen winery workers are treated like family with salaries and health benefits, no contract workers. Many employees have worked at Trefethen for years.

Chardonnay vintages from 1977 to 2016

Trefethen is world-renowned for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Lorenzo noted with a smile that the family was unaware their 1976 Chardonnay- the family’s fourth vintage- had been named “Best Chardonnay in the World”  at the Gault-Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris until a CBS news helicopter landed to request an interview. Numerous awards and accolades have followed.

At Corkbuzz, owner Laura Maniec and her team poured first a selection of Chardonnays, vintages 1977, 1985, 1991, 2005, 2011 and 2016; and Cabernet Sauvignon, vintages 1979, 1986, 1999, 2006, 2011, 2015. Kevin Zraly wisely encouraged us to taste at our leisure to allow time for us to really savor and contemplate the wines.

Kevin Zraly, wine educator and raconteur

I (Melanie) like to play a mental game when I taste wine: I create personalities and stories for each vintage and style. For me the Chardonnays were a multi-generational family of pedigreed blondes, starting with elegant elderly dowager (1977) to the perfectly coiffed classic Bergdorf blonde (1991) to the more preppy and peppy 2012 and 2016. And, yes, drinking these wines I thought, “These Chardonnay blondes are more fun.” Each generation had its spirited personality.

Cabernet Sauvignon vintages 1979-2015

The same went for the Cabernet Sauvignons which ranged from my timeless idea of the “dreamy matinee idol” (1979) to the sophisticated “Rat Pack” (1986, 1999) to the ”Leonardo Di Caprio” (2011) and “Bradley Cooper” (2015). They were all stars with different appeal. For some reason I conjured all men for these wines.

Oh, there were plenty of wine terms tossed around to describe the wines, like the ABC’s of acidity, balance and concentration. But, inspired by the stories Janet and Lorenzo shared and Kevin’s always enjoyable remarks, I let my mind daydream about each generation of wine and its place in time and the remarkable family who brought them to life. Thank you!

Janet and Lorenzo Trefethen

Listen to our show with Janet and Hailey Trefethen broadcast from Napa Valley last year:


From Dietitian to Winemaker- Denise Shurtleff- Cambria Wines

It’s all about chemistry. Cambria Wines’ Denise Shurtleff was studying for a degree in dietetics and food administration with the intention of focusing on a career in nutrition when she decided to apply for an internship at a winery. She never looked back, and the chemistry of winemaking became her calling.


Denise Shurtleff

Denise spent 16 years working at Corbett Canyon Vineyards as Winemaker and Winery Manager before joining Cambria Estate Winery in 1999 as Assistant Winemaker. Today she’s Head Winemaker.

Located in Santa Barbara County, Cambria is part of Jackson Family Estates. Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke acquired what was then called Tepusquet Vineyard in 1987 and renamed it “Cambria,” the Roman word for “Wales,” a nod to the family’s heritage. Today, Barbara runs Cambria with her two daughters, Katie and Julia Jackson. The winery is located on the Santa Maria Bench located on eastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley AVA. This area is kissed by cool fog, ocean breezes and a long slow growing season for the estate grown grapes, most notably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Gris and Syrah. Cambria has been certified sustainable since 2009.

Listen now:


About us: Our mission is to engage and connect our audiences to the diverse world of food, fine beverage and hospitality and the dynamic people who help shape it through our shows, digital media and educational events. All of our 50 minute shows and SIPS! podcasts can be heard live on Wednesdays 2pm EST and anytime on and the free iHeart App.  Connect with us on Twitter@connectedtable, Instagram@theconnectedtable and Facebook@connectedtable


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Kenwood Winemaker Pat Henderson on the Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Recently we met with Pat Henderson, Chief Winemaker at  Kenwood Vineyards in Sonoma to taste through some vintages of the Artist Series, the winery’s portfolio of carefully blended Cabernet Sauvignon produced from the very best vineyards in Sonoma County. Every picture tells a story as does the vintage in the bottle. Pat shared anecdotes and aging information with equal finesse as we sipped.


Selections from Kenwood’s Artist Series

A veteran of more than 30 vintages, Pat worked at five wineries including a summer with Kenwood Vineyards as enologist in 1983. After earning his degree in viticulture and enology, he worked in both the Napa and Sonoma valleys before taking his first position as head winemaker in Washington State. Pat rejoined the Kenwood team in 2003 where under the mentorship of Mike Lee, the original Kenwood winemaker, he learned the art of small-lot winemaking. In 2015 Pat became chief winemaker.

Winemaker Pat Henderson, Kenwood Vineyards

Pat Henderson- February 8, The Connected Table LIVE and iHeart.Com


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Joanne Weir: Kitchen Gypsy. Global Culinary Ambassador

Waiter! There’s a fly in my wine! 

This is just one of the serendipitous stories in Joanne Weir ‘s new memoir, “Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food.”

kitchen gypsy cover

I particularly loved this story because Joanne ends up in her tender 20s as a guest at a famous Bordeaux Chateau as a result of mailing the dead fly to the producer. That’s gumption!

I’ve known Joanne for years. We connected annually at The James Beard Awards where her PBS TV series such as “Weir Cooking in the Wine Country” and “Joanne Weir’s Cooking School” were honored.  I enjoy visiting her Mexican restaurant Copita in Sausalito, just a short walk from where dear friends, Valerie and David live.  Joanne’s the original “Agave Girl” and serves a fabulous selections of tequilas at Copita and a mighty fine margarita.



Joanne’s a fourth generation professional chef who grew up on a farm in Massachusetts. Originally destined for a career in fine arts, she refocused on the art of the table. Joanne trained under the notoriously tough teacher Madeleine Kamman to receive her Master Chef Diploma. She spent five years cooking with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (Alice wrote the forward to Kitchen Gypsy.)

But Joanne’s first love is teaching, and she does it around the world. She’s a true global culinary ambassador, in this case being one of 80 chefs  appointed by Hilary Clinton and the State Department in 2012 to promote world relations through food. We’ve always known better decisions are made on a happy and full stomach than an empty one, no matter side of the political table you sit on. – Melanie Young

Joanne Weir
Joanne Weir

Joanne joins is at The Connected Table LIVE!  September 30 on ( Link to all show episodes is:

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