at Yosemite National Park

November 19-21, 2003

Dave and I decided to try something new this year and attended the Yosemite Vintner's Holidays. They offer eight different two- or three-day sessions, which include wine seminars with winemakers, a reception, and a gala dinner with food and wine pairings expertly executed by the Ahwahnee chefs. We chose Session IV which included Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards and Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard and Paraduxx by Duckhorn Winery. We think we picked the absolute best session. The wine was exceptional, and the winemakers/presenters were down-to-earth and imparted a true love and joy for their craft/obsession.

Wednesday started off with a seminar by Terry Adams of Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, makers of Chardonnay exclusively. His seminar, titled "A Twist on Tradition" was a discussion of the advantages of using screwcap closures. He had very good arguments for going screwcap (particularly to prevent cork taint.) He shared with us three vintages of their Founder's Reserve Chardonnay - 1999 Le Pierre (one glass poured from a traditional cork-finished bottle, the other from the screwcap), 2000 Le Pierre and 2001 Cutrer, which I liked the best. Following Terry was Paul Draper from Ridge Vineyards and Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where we were treated to their delicious 2000 Monte Bello Chardonnay, followed by their Bordeaux-style blends: 2000 Santa Cruz Mountains, 1999 Santa Cruz Mountains, and 1999 Monte Bello ($120 a bottle.) The sessions were moderated by Christopher Cook, wine critic, journalist and judge. The first day finished with a "Meet the Winemakers" reception, where a 1997 Paraduxx was poured, along with the Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc from Tablas Creek, the Sonoma-Cutrer Russion River Ranches, and a Ridge Zinfandel. All were fabulous!

Pix below: 1-3: wine seminar (look for Dave in picture 3), 4-5: "Meet the Winemakers" reception
(click on any picture for a larger one)

Thursday we had an entertaining session with Tablas Creek's Jason Haas, where we had the opportunity to blend our own Rhone wine using Mourvedre, Counoise, Syrah and Grenache. Then we finished by meeting the new Paraduxx program manager, winemaker Bill Nancarrow from New Zealand. Thursday ended with a five-course dinner in the beautiful Ahwahnee dining room, with each course paired with one of the winemaker's fantastic wines. It was a truly memorable meal. We had the good fortune of sitting with Terry Adams from Sonoma-Cutrer, and his lovely girlfriend Carey, who also works at the winery (and is in the process of re-doing their website.)

Pix below: 1-2: the Gala dinner Thursday night, 3: moderator Christopher Cook, 4: the seminar room with all the seminar tables removed!, 5-6 the Ahwahnee Dining Room

Besides wine, of course, there was the beautiful scenery of Yosemite to enjoy. Dave and I took long walks each morning from our Manzanita Lodge room at Yosemite Lodge, at the base of the Yosemite Falls, along the Valley Floor to enjoy views of Half Dome, North Dome, the Royal Arches, Sentinel Rock, and many others.

The Ahwahnee Hotel and grounds:

More pictures from the valley:

This was a fantastic event. The staff was the best I have ever experienced. I recommend this event to anyone who loves wine, good food, and a chance to enjoy both in the beautiful scenery of Yosemite.