Rod Byers: Heard it through the grapevine |

Rod Byers: Heard it through the grapevine

Nevada City Winery Evolution Bottle.
Photo by Rod Byers |

America is the number one wine-consuming nation in the world.

Gone are the days when wine was just for special occasions. As the beverage of choice for many of us, we’re drinking it in increasingly varied situations.

As the ropes around wine have loosened, the rules have changed. Nowhere is this more visible than wine packaging.

Consumers, led increasingly by millennials, are embracing cool packaging that is innovative, functional, and eco-friendly.

Now Nevada City Winery is endorsing the latest package to come along, Evolution wine bottles.

Evolution bottles are made out of aluminum, specifically for the craft beverage industry.

Winery General Manager John Chase is excited.

“We plan to bottle part of the 2015 Sonata, our white blend, in the new bottles.”

Chase pointed out that aluminum bottles offer advantages over glass. They are 90 percent lighter than glass, fully recyclable, unbreakable, chill faster, and provide a better barrier of light, a mortal enemy of wine.

The inside is coated to prevent any reactions. Unlike a typical aluminum can of soda or beer, they are easily resealed with a screw cap.

While Chase doesn’t expect to see wine in aluminum bottles in restaurants, he still thinks there’s a need. “There’s a market out there where the drink of choice is a premium wine, but glass bottles aren’t acceptable,” he explained. “Going camping, hiking, to outdoor events, the beach, or a park, they’re all places where wine is fine but the glass bottle is not.”

Chase expects to have wine ready in time for summer at the lake. If all goes well he wants to bottle other premium wines like Chardonnay and Zinfandel in this new aluminum package to offer an even wider range of wines on the go.

Nevada City Winery Tasting Room is open daily.

Sierra Starr: Let your Franc flag fly

Sierra Starr’s wines just keep getting better and better. Now they are starting to get the recognition that accompanies that.

Earlier this year, their 2012 estate-grown Cabernet Franc won a Double Gold Medal at the prestigious 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition that takes place in New York every spring.

This is the fifth year in a row that Sierra Starr’s Cabernet Franc has earned a Gold Medal or better at commercial wine competitions.

Not to be outdone, the Wine Enthusiast, a national magazine, just awarded it 90 points. The printed review will be published in the upcoming August edition.

“A 90-point score is great affirmation,” explained winemaker Jackson Starr “It’s what everyone is striving for.”

Starr thinks their vineyard, at about 2,400 feet, is perfect for Franc. The elevation and corresponding cooler nights allow the wine to retain the acidity it needs to be fresh and bright while still developing fruit-driven flavors of black cherry and floral overtones.

“Cabernet Franc is one of our flagship varietals,” Starr said. “Now with a 90-Point score and a Double Gold hanging around its neck, it’s really getting attention.”

Franc is not Sierra Starr’s only wine taking home the bling. At the recent El Dorado Competition the 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Petite Sirah both won Double Gold Medals. Their 2012 Inertia, a Bordeaux blend, earned a Gold Medal. The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc won Gold in Alameda.

Both the Franc and Petite Sirah are 100 percent estate grown on the property. That gives the father and son winemaking team, Phil and Jackson Starr, the continuing opportunity to fine-tune their practices in the vineyard to deliver superior results in the winery.

Sierra Starr Tasting Room is open daily in downtown Grass Valley. On June 25, it’s a rare chance to visit the vineyard and winery at their Winery Open House.

Avanguardia Winery: Adventure in every glass

Rob Chrisman, the owner and wine maker at Avanguardia, has been a long-time champion of blended wines produced from unusual, often obscure varieties.

Now, he is introducing his varietal series of Italian wines. The first two to be released, Montepulciano and Corvina, are sporting an elegant new label featuring art by local artist Jill Mahanna.

The 2013 Corvina, (think Valpolicella) garnered a Gold Medal at El Dorado. The 2011 Premiato, (think Barbera) one of the original blends, took Double Gold.

Avanguardia Tasting Room is open daily. The winery is open on weekends.

Naggiar Vineyards: Vine to wine tours

Naggiar Vineyards, located off of Highway 49 in the South County, is a beautiful spot.

The vineyards fold over the hills in well-tended rows while the Mediterranean-style tasting room radiates a delightful Tuscan vibe.

As lovely as it already is, here’s one more reason to visit. Mike Naggiar purchased an eco-friendly, 13-passenger electric shuttle and is offering Vine To Wine vineyard and winery tours.

The informative, 70-minute tour includes stops throughout the vineyard to discuss grape growing, a vineyard cheese and wine tasting, and a winery tour, including barrel tasting.

Vineyard tours are hardly the only entertainment going on at Naggiar. They offer live music every weekend, several major tribute bands throughout the summer, wine and food pairing events, even a comedy show. Find all the details, including buying tickets for the Vine To Wine Tours, at their website.

And when you’re there, don’t forget the wine. It’s really good!

Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer as well as a California State Certified Wine Judge. He is the host of the local television show Wine Talk. You can find information about his Sierra College Wine Classes at and he can be reached at 530-802-7172.

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