Zenaida Cellars: A Stop along 46 West in Paso Robles!

Disclosure: I was invited out to Zenaida Cellars to learn about their wines, and be introduced to their winery..  This was my experience. All opinions are my own. 

When I first pulled up to Zenaida Cellars, it was early morning (9:45ish) and the beautiful Paso Oak Trees were silhouetting off of the Winery.  It was a beautiful image of Zenaida Cellars that will always leave a lasting impression on me.


After taking in this sight, I wandered around the property a bit, taking photos, and enjoying the beautiful morning after a week of rain.  This morning, the sun was out, and we were surrounded by beautiful blue skies, the perfect welcome! This was the kind of winery that was perfect for photo taking with a lot of different vantage points surrounding the property!

I was drawn to the Z that hung off the Welcome Gate to the winery, and began to realize how much Zenaida Cellars embraced the “Z” in their name, and totally loved it!


I then headed towards the tasting room. Once inside, I was instantly drawn to the tasting bar, that had some GREAT photos of Eric Ogorsolka (owner and winemaker) and of the vineyards and winery hanging underneath the bar.  I also noticed the bike hanging on the wall, I found out later, by Eric, that the bike was bought for his wife when she owned her catering business, and she utilized that bike to deliver goods throughout Downtown Paso Robles, and when they sold the catering business to focus on the winery, the bike has stayed with them!


Eric, soon, appeared at the tasting bar to greet me. We talked about Zenaida Cellars and how it all began: He’s been making wine since 1990!   It all started with him going to school at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.  He graduated with a biology degree, got home, and asked the question, “what am I going to do?” So he began planting vineyards. He soon got his first job within the wine industry at Wild Horse Winery in Templeton, California where winemaker Jon Priest took him under his helm, and ignited his passion for the industry!  Eric then took on a position with Kendall-Jackson while continuing his wine education at UC Davis University Extension.  He finished planting the vineyard in 1996, and in 1998 began work on the winery, Zenaida Cellars.  His love of biology, and of wine, were a natural pairing, and has helped Eric farm and maintain the vineyards through agricultural sustainable practices.  His vineyards focus on the Rhone Varietals, but there is also some Zinfandel around to pay homage to the Paso Robles heritage!

And then we began tasting wine….

It all began with the 2014 Zephyr (a Red blend wine that combines Syrah, Zinfandel, and Voignier).


Retail: 42.00 Dollars

When Eric first described this wine to me, my ears perked up when I heard Voignier was blended in with Syrah and Zinfandel.  As a wine lover, and somewhat wine geek, I tend to go after the things I haven’t tried before, or look for the unique combinations.  This combination set was a new one for me.  I was curious as to how the floral notes of the Voignier would fit in with the Syrah and Zinfandel, but after one sip, I realized how well this combination truly worked together.  I was pleasantly surprised.

2014 Zinfandel

Retail: 35 Dollars

After trying his unique combination, he pulled out his Estate Zinfandel for me to try.  We talked a bit about Zinfandel, and Paso Robles pasttime of how they truly began with Zinfandel vines.  Zinfandels known for their high alcohol content levels, and his was no exception at 15.8, however, that is a characteristic of Zinfandels. We were able to look right outside the tasting room as he pointed out where the Zinfandel plantings were located.  All of his wines, at this point, were smooth, and easily drinkable wines that were waiting for the perfect food pairing!

2014 ZC Red:


Retail: 29.00

The ZC Red is another Red Blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine really highlighted the beauty of Paso Robles Syrah and Petite Sirah.  A really well-balanced every day drinking wine that would pair quite well with a lot of red meat dinner dishes.

2014 Wanderlust: *limited release*


Retail: 42.00

If you’ve been looking for Paso Robles well known GSM blend, this is where you find it!  The combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre that Paso has been known for.  This was definitely one of my favorites of the tasting, and one I couldn’t put the glass down for.

2014 Fire Sign:


Retail: 45.00


Eric is a fire sign, along with his wife and one of his children.  Just one family member isn’t so this wine has special meaning for Eric, and of course, he truly saved the best for last! This blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (being the leader at 40%, followed by Syrah (35%) and Zinfandel (25%).

Eric has truly mastered the art of blending while fine tuning the right combinations to bring out the best in the wines (the best part about being a winemaker, right?)

After running through the wines, Eric lead me to the barrel room, where I got to try a few wines out of the barrel.  The 2015 Wanderlust was tasting lovely.  We got a bit more daring when he asked me if I wanted to try a 2016.  I did get brave and tried a Syrah, however, it is very, very young, and it shows.  It’ll be fun to see what it turns into (I’m coming back once it hits the blends Eric!)

and then there was one last request: Right above the Winery are two rooms that can be rented out at Zenaida Cellars to Wine Club Members.  The Winemaker’s Suite and the Cellarmaster Studio, I asked to take a quick peek:

A look inside the Cellarmaster Studio:


How fun would it be to stay here during a Summer Wine Tasting Trip or during the Harvest season?  You could peek out your window to see all the action happening in the vineyard or at the Winery.

For more information about Zenaida Cellars, the Wines, or the Lofts available for rent, please make sure to visit their website.


Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Joseph Jewell Wines: Your Next Visit in Sonoma County!

There’s something special about the Russian River Valley.  Depending on the day, you could experience the fog in the morning coming off the Sonoma Coast, take in a view of the Russian River, or enjoy the comfort of the nearby Redwood Trees.

But, it’s a little known fact that the Russian River Valley excels in making excellent Pinot Noirs.  And, if you’re looking for a great example of this, look no further than Joseph Jewell Wines in Downtown Forestville.

They also offer some pretty incredibly wine experiences such as a picnic in the vineyard they source their grapes from where the winemaker will pour the wine for you right out in the field, or a full helicopter ride experience over the Russian River Valley Vineyards!  TALK about an experience worth remembering!  More info on those experiences can be found at their website.


Adrian Jewell Manspeaker and Micah Joseph Wirth

Joseph Jewell Wines have been around since 2006, when friends, Micah Joseph Wirth and Adrian Jewell Manspeaker came together to form a business in winemaking.  Micah, had grown up around wine his entire life, his dad being a winemaker himself, Chris Wirth, and, at the time, was mentoring under Gary Farrell Winery.  That year, Gary asked Micah if he wanted to make some wines since he had an extra ton of grapes.  That’s when Micah turned to his friend, Adrian Jewell Manspeaker, and asked, do you want to make some wine together?  Adrian’s response, at first, was, “Can we do that?”  And so, they began, making wine, right out of their garage, and 10 years later, they’re still making wine, getting a better sense of their winemaking style, establishing a fan-base, and getting the word out about their extraordinary wines! And they’ve moved well past making wine out of their garage!

Adrian Jewell Manspeaker, came from Humboldt County, and, you will see a huge tribute to where he grew up the more we explore their wines.  And, from there, learned about the micro-climates of Northern California.  It was when he moved to Sonoma County when his love of wine truly began, and of course, opened up his true passion.  He began to study wine at UC Davis Extension Program, and also, where he ended up crossing paths with Micah.

I spent an afternoon out with co-owner Adrian Jewell Manspeaker to learn more about their wines, and to experience one of their vineyards they source from out of the Russian River Valley: Starscape Vineyards (formerly known as Floodgate Vineyards).  This vineyard, also houses some of the oldest Pinot Noir Vineyards in the region.


Upon arriving to Starscape Vineyards, Adrian led us around the vineyard, explained where their lot of vines were located (in the picture above if you look down upon the far hillside, that is the lot where their Pinot Noir comes from out of this Vineyard!) Also, one of the more popular lots out of this vineyard!  Adrian and Micah source all of their wine grapes from various vineyards around the Russian River Valley and up in Humboldt County.  Adrian also pointed out the flat land, where vines are located, and how they easily get flooded during the winter months from rain, etc.  BUT, during that time of the year, the vines are dormant, so the flooding causes very little damage to the vines.

He then walked us further down the vineyard and pointed out to us some of the oldest living Pinot Noir vines out of the Russian River Valley, planted around the 1960’s.


Back in the day, Pinot Noir Vines were planted about 10 feet apart, where today, they are planted about 5-7 feet apart. You could really see the difference when walking side by side in the vineyards:

The distance between vines back in the 1960’s:


And, if you’ve seen vineyards today, you know that distance has definitely decreased over time!

We slowly  headed back up to our cars, took one last peak at the vineyards before driving a few miles down the road to Joseph Jewell Wines Tasting Room in Downtown Forestville!

Downtown Forestville is a cute little Main Street in Sonoma County, that if you blink, could honestly miss it in a blink of an eye, however, new tasting rooms are being added every year, and there’s some great new restaurants coming into the area making it worth a stop on your Wine Tasting Adventures in Sonoma County!

It’s also where the Tasting Room of Joseph Jewell Wines is located: A byway between Downtown Sebastopol and the Russian River Valley.


Adrian’s wife helped design the inside of the tasting room, and I must say, she has an excellent eye in making the tasting room a fun, relaxing place to have fun, and to enjoy some great wine. Art aligns the walls of the tasting room from a local artist in the area.

And then the wines began to come out:


One thing I truly loved about tasting through the Joseph Jewell Wines, was that they both had their Single Varietal Vineyard Wines coming from the vineyards they sourced their grapes from (Appian Way, Starscape, and Hallberg Vineyards) and they also had Pinot Noir blends available coming from all the vineyards.  And since I’m a huge fan of wine blends, this was a huge win for me!

But Joseph Jewell doesn’t just make Pinot Noir, they do happen to make some Chardonnay and Zinfandel, as well.

The evening started out with Chardonnay out of the Starscape Vineyard that we had just came from:


By now, if you haven’t figured it out: Joseph Jewell is the combination of both Adrian and Micah’s middle names!  I found out that night, just how hard, it was to come up with a business name for wine, but, I have to say, the combining of the two middle names was brilliant!


Another unique thing about Joseph Jewell Wines is that they source grapes out of Humboldt County, and make the wine (Pinot Noir) from those grapes.  This is a huge tribute to where Adrian grew up.  They started to do this in 2008, where they found their first vineyard in Humboldt County to source grapes from. That vineyard was Elk Prairie, and they still source from that vineyard today.

The wine I tried out of Humboldt County came from their Alderpoint Vineyard, and was their 2014 vintage.  I just loved the fact that I could try both Humboldt County Pinot Noir and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir right next to each other, and truly taste the difference.  It was a GREAT experience, and one I think many of you would enjoy, as well.

And then we began to taste their Russian River Valley Wines: Starting with the 2012 Russian River Valley blend:


This wine, in particular, was chosen as one of the Top 100 Wines of 2012! And let me tell you, this blend and bottle definitely left a lasting impression on me.  It was one of the favorites of the evening, for me!

BUT: as I said earlier, they also had wines coming straight from their Russian River Vineyards of: Appian Way, Starscape Vineyards, and Hallberg Vineyards for you to try when visiting.  Each one brought a different characteristic to Pinot Noir, and you could taste the difference in what a vineyard can bring to the table.

The Appian Way was the first Joseph Jewell Vineyard they sourced from out of the Russian River Valley! The Starscape Vineyard is their favorite vineyard to work in, and the Hallberg Vineyard is completely Dry Farmed, meaning no irrigation at all, and was definitely a favorite amongst the three single vineyard wines.


Lets talk about their Rubies and Emerald Wines!  These wines are only available to their wine club, which has the perfect name: The Jewell Club.

The Rubies are made from the best 3 Wine Barrels out of every vintage every year.  The Rubies come out of the Russian River Valley Barrels, and the Emeralds come out of the best 3 Humboldt County Barrels.  These wines are definitely some of the most coveted wines by their wine club every year!

This March they will be releasing a Rose of Pinot Noir, just in time for summer!

And for those Zinfandel lovers out there: don’t miss out on their Gris Vineyard Zinfandel.  The vineyard was planted in 1974 where they source their grapes from.  And their 2012 vintage received the Top 100 Wines award from Wine Enthusiast.  They use 100% French Oak on the Zinfandel.


A huge thank you to Adrian Jewell Manspeaker for taking the time to talk with me about Joseph Jewell Wines, and show me one of the vineyards they source their grapes from (Starscape Vineyard). Exactly the vineyard Adrian is standing on in the above photograph.

Be sure to stop into their Joseph Jewell Wine Tasting Room in Downtown Forestville and keep an eye out for their event, “Fridays in Forestville” where the Downtown Wineries in Forestville team up with a local Restaurant for a fun night of wine and food on periodical Friday evenings!  More events will pop up down the road.

For more information about Joseph Jewell Wines, and where to purchase their wine, please visit their website.


Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spending a Day at Lundberg Family Farms!

Disclosure: We were invited on a Farm tour of the Sacramento Valley with California Farm Water Coalition.  During our tour, we spent an afternoon at Lundberg Family Farms.  This was my experience.

To be honest, prior to this tour, I never thought much about how rice was grown, or all that was involved in growing rice.  I also had no idea there were different quality of rices, but, looking back on all that rice is used for, throughout the cultures, I realize, it all makes sense now.

Coming from Minnesota, rice was often a part of our meals, and our Minnesota favorite was none other than Wild Rice, so when we stopped off at Lundberg Family Farms in the Sacramento Valley, I was pretty excited to learn more about Rice, see the rice fields, and of course, learn a bit more about Rice Cakes!

A few facts about Lundberg Family Farms:


  1. The Lundberg’s originated from Nebraska (midwest ties! yay!)

They trace their roots back to 1937, when Albert and Frances Lundberg moved to California from Nebraska. Albert had seen the ravages of the Dustbowl that resulted from poor soil management and short-sighted farming techniques. After moving the family to Northern California’s fertile Sacramento Valley, he impressed upon his four sons the need to care for the soil.

2.  Upon moving to California, Albert gave his 4 sons each a farm to maintain.

3. The sons realized that they were better farmers working together, as opposed to on their own so they combined their resources, and truly this is how Lundberg Family Farms was born. It was in the 1960’s when the sons realized they needed to begin selling their unconventional rice methods to the general public.  To this day, Lundberg Family Farms is continually combining their resources and working together as a family.

4.  At Lundberg Family Farms, they don’t grow typical conventional rice. All of their Certified Organic and Eco-Farmed rice is grown with a concern for the environment. They treat the soil, air, and water as important resources, respecting the delicate balances of nature. They are also a complete organic farm!


One of the original tractors that Albert brought with him over from Nebraska.  This tractor sits upon the entrance of Lundberg Family Farms.

Now, about that Rice:


When we first entered Lundberg Family Farms, we were greeted by Bryce Lundberg.  He walked us through the test kitchen, then we were brought into one of their meeting rooms where we got to try their NEW product, “Salted Caramel Rice Cakes,” and let me tell you folks, if you’re looking for a lift me up snack, this rice cake will do just the trick!

After trying the new product, we were brought outside where buckets of rice were in front of us:

Paddy Rice, Hulls, White Rice, Brown Rice, Hulls, and more!  This is where Grant explained to us, the process of rice making, how white rice comes from brown rice,etc.  To sum it up: You start with the grain coming out of the field (see the photo above, the picture on the left is rice straight from the fields!) They bring it in, then get the paddy rice from that.  They then remove the hulls from the paddy rice, leaving the brown rice behind!  And then, they remove the hulls of the brown rice to become white rice.  It was quite informative, and who knew all this happened from one grain of rice coming out of the field!

We were then shuttled into a Golf Cart where Bryce took us by the Rice Fields, showing us all the different varieties of Rice they grew at Lundberg Family Farms:


From Medium Grain to Long Grain to more refined rice.  I never knew there were so many varietals of rice, or, maybe I did, but never thought about it!

We then took a facility tour of their Rice Cake Factory, and Bryce explained to us the process of how Rice Cakes were made.  It would have been awesome if the machines were in action, but because it was the weekend, the machines weren’t running that day!


Bryce Lundberg explaining the Rice Cake making process to us at Lundberg Family Farms.  Can you believe, 4 Rice Cakes are made every minute? And the fact that machines can make the rice cakes so perfectly round, without breaking? Even more impressive, I can barely get a rice cake out of the package without breaking!

After our facility tour, there was still more to be seen as Bryce then lead us out to his Rice Fields, and where the biggest surprise yet was waiting:


They were starting to harvest one of their rice fields (jasmine rice) with their combine! And guess what? Each of us was getting an opportunity to ride in the combine.  How cool is that?  Truly, this was a memory I’d never forget!!

Image may contain: one or more people, sky and outdoor

Thanks to Sara from My Imperfect Kitchen for capturing this moment as I climbed into the Combine!

Not only that, after my combine experience, Bryce looked over at me, as we were in our little golf cart and asked if I wanted to drive us back towards the front of the field? At that point, I was feeling a little more daring, so I said, “sure, why not!”   rice-field-driving

Proof that I was in the driver’s seat, and more proof, the passengers survived: Gary House from cooking-outdoors, and Sara from My Imperfect Kitchen, and Bryce too!

Needless to say, it was one incredible experience and afternoon at Lundberg Family Farms! Truly something I will never forget.

I look forward to sharing some future rice recipe posts with you, and Lundberg Family Farm has made me an everyday consumer because of their graciousness throughout the day! They also reminded me of all  of their amazing products available!

Check out all their products available here.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment