9th Annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine - Wines and Spirits of the Lexus Grand Tasting

Guy Fieri (Hunt & Ryde Wines) and his winemaker Guy Davis (Davis Family Vineyards)

In an earlier blog we took you on our culinary adventure at the 2016 Pebble Beach Food and Wine. Now it is time to enhance our knowledge (and possibly yours) to the joy of wine and spirits as explained by some of the industry masters and renowned winemakers we had the pleasure of meeting.

There were over 200 wineries represented this past April 2nd and 3rd in the Lexus Grand Tasting Tent; some from as far away as Argentina (Recuerdo Wines), France (Champagne Taittinger), Italy (Arnaldo Caprai), and South Australia (Mollydooker Wines). And some from our own backyard of Monterey County (Bernardus Winery, Carccioli Cellars, Carmel Road, Figge Cellars, Parsonage, Pisoni Vineyards, and Scheid Vineyards).

Some of the names were familiar to us neophyte sommeliers such as Beringer Vineyards (Napa Valley), Champagne Krug (France), Louis M. Martiti (Sonoma) and Gallo. 

But we were excited to see that there were many more that were yet to be discovered.

So grab your glass

and follow along on our two day adventure as we sample some of the incredible wines and spirits represented at this year's Pebble Beach Food & Wine Lexus Grand Tasting event.

As we first entered La Marca had the honor of being at the front of “the red carpet.” How could we resist?
While pouring a splash of this Italian Prosecco, the rep remarked “The fresh sparkling taste you are enjoying is the result of the Glera grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy.” Good to know! And the mini's are perfect for picnics!
With so many wine stations in front of us, it was clear we needed a plan. First up, watching how far more experienced tasters approached the day.  We learned quickly that if we were going to last the full day we needed to learn the fine art of spitting. Sheepishly we asked one of the wine reps, 
“Is it really okay to spit?”

“Why do you think we have these buckets here,” the nice man at Kunin Wines said while demonstrating the art. “And if you are worried about the group bucket as you are getting your spit down, just grab a little paper cup so you can be a little more discrete."

Armed with a paper cup and a new skill set we are ready to tilt (the glass), swirl, sniff, sip, and spit our way through the Lexus Grand Tasting. 


2014 Kunin Chenin Blanc, “Natural”. Made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes from the Jurassic Park Vineyard in Santa Ynez, this crisp and smooth wine has no yeast or sulfur. It wasn’t even filtered, just crushed, pressed and put into barrels for 16 months. Do we have to spit? Hmmm, maybe not just this once.


Alison Frichtl, Associate Winemaker for Hall Wine shared her knowledge with us. "Our winery is based in St. Helena and owned by Craig and Kathryn Hall. The Halls purchased the historic St. Helena Bergfeld Winery in 2003 and in 2013 completed restoration of the winery. They were California's first LEED Gold Certified winery."

Alison continued, "Today we are pouring the 2014 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which is a medium bodied wine, perfect for lighter fare. But Hall is also known for their Cabs and Pinots so we are also pouring the 91 point 2012 Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon." 


Steve Clifton, winemaker and owner of Palmina Wine produced the first Palmina wine in 1995 in the basement of his home. Today he was pouring a 2014 Malvasia Bianca and 2012 Barbera.

The Malvasia grape is historically grown in the Mediterranean region, but this 2013 release is from the Larner Vineyard in Ballard Canyon where according to Clifton the climate is quite similar to its Friuli-Venezia roots in Italy. He asked us to swirl our wine glass and then smell the aroma. "Smell the lychee, passion fruit and orange blossoms."

To our untrained nose the only aroma vaguely recognizable was orange. What did come through was the clean and fresh taste of the wine. Spitting is becoming overrated, but still necessary. And we are learning there is much more to wine tasting. In fact it is an art and a vocation.


“By night we are sommeliers and by day we are making wine,” John Lancaster informed us as he poured a taste of his 2012 Skylark Syrah, from Rodgers Creek Vineyard in Sonoma. Robert Perkins and John Lancaster are co-proprietor’s of Skylark Wine Company. For the past eleven years John has been the Wine Director at the James Beard award winning Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco.

Practicing our new wine tasting skill, we tilted the glass to observe the color of the Syrah against a white background – color, red. Swirled the wine in a delicate circle and took a sniff – aroma, wine. “Smell the bacon fat and dark fruit,” Robert remarked. No, but it tastes really good. Does that count?

After failing two smell tests we decided to check out the Winemakers Studio Experience set up at the Wente Vineyards booth.

Family owned and run since 1883, the Wente Vineyard estate winery is in the Livermore Valley. But the wine we would taste today, Wente Riva Ranch 2014 Chardonnay, is made right here in Monterey County in the Arroyo Seco AVA. - Smelled like vanilla and tasted divine.

At the Wente Winemakers Studio Experience one could test their ability to pick out specific aromas in wine. First pump the atomizer to release the aroma in question. Next smell this through the funnel. The smell should match one of the visual clues on the table. How hard could it be?

This man quickly identified six out of six correctly.

Our score?  One out of six - the only recognizable scent was lemon. Sommelier material we are not. Back to wine tasting.

Next stop France. Language barrier - Oui! Would that stop us from our tasting mission? No! (pronounced with a very classy French accent).

"Do you drink pink?" Oui

Château d’ Esclans Garrus 2012 Rosé,

Le Grand Courtâge Grande Cuvee Rosé Brut,

and Champagne Château de Bligny Le Rosé – 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, and 15% Côteaux Champenois Rouge - we love pink.

Speaking of "drinking pink" we stopped by the Carmel Road booth to try Drew Barrymore's new Rosé - we inquired as to when Ms. Barrymore might be stopping by. It turns out
we "missed her by THAT much," as Maxwell Smart would say. No matter, her wine was there and it was delicious.

Ms. Barrymore picked Carmel Road Winery of Monterey County to partner with and produce her Barrymore Pinot Grigio and Rosé of Pinot Noir. We support this and plan on drinking more Barrymore Rosé!

As a side note, Carmel Road is the newest tasting room added to the Carmel Wine Walk - check out our review of the Wine Walk here

Guy and Judy Davis founded Davis Family Vineyards in the center of the Russian River Valley in 1997.

"When we purchased the property 21 years ago," Guy explained, "it had been abandoned for 20 years. It was completely overgrown. 22 acres of zin were planted in 1896. But the 100 year old vines were covered by 15 feet of brush. I didn't think it was salvageable...It took 3 years for them to produce fruit. Now we have 2.8 acres of 120 year old vines that produce some really special Zinfandel."

The Davis Family Vineyard business has grown over the years, besides their own estate vineyard, the family farms grapes from four other vineyards all in the Russian River Valley. A family affair, the Davis' oldest son Cole is Cellermaster and their youngest Cooper is studying at the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University.

Our favorite, the 2014 Cuvée Luke (named after Guy and Judy's eldest grandchild), is made with three types of grapes Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. This vintage won the Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 

Chef Guy Fieri enjoyed Guy Davis' wines so much, he decided to moonlight in the wine business.

In 2012 Fieri purchased a vineyard of Pinot Noir grapes in Sonoma County and asked Guy Davis to help him convert his vineyard to organic (as the Davis Family Vineyard is).

Enjoying this partnership, Chef Guy Fieri asked Guy Davis to be his winemaker.

The perfect match and 100% involved (according to Guy Davis), Fieri began the Hunt and Ryde label (named after his two sons). At the Lexus Grand Tasting, Guy was pouring his 2013 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Only 275 cases of this gem were produced. So good it was probably sold out by the end of the day. There is always next years vintage!


Our next stop was at MacRostie where we met winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen. Founded in 1978 by Steve MacRostie, this winery sources their grapes from a number of legendary wine growing families on the Sonoma Coast. 

But the grapes from the wine Heidi poured today came from Steve’s own Wildcat Mountain Vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. "Close to the bay, the vineyard is windy, foggy, and cool which results in exceptional wines," Heidi remarked.

This MacRostie 2013 Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay is a showstopper.

Not satisfied with reviewing the wine alone we couldn't resist checking out a few of the more interesting spirits that were also being shown.

From its beginnings in Spreyside, Scotland in 1824, Macallan has grown from a small local enterprise to be one of the world's most awarded single malt Scotch Whiskeys. While some American whiskey advertised as single malt is produced from malted rye, Scotch Whiskey regulations require (among other things) that malt be produced from barley.

But Macallan credits their oak casks as being the most important ingredient in their single malt. One taste of their deliciously smooth 12 year old Macallan Scotch Whiskey makes us agree that whatever they are doing, they are doing it right.


Ron Zacapa Rum was established in 1976 to celebrate the centenary of the city of Zacapa, Guatemala. Most rum currently on the market is made from molasses, a byproduct of refining sugarcane into sugar with a typical sugar content of around 50%. Ron Zacapa Rum, however, is made from the first press of the sugarcane, known as virgin honey, and has a sugar content of over 70%. Sweet!

To show off their wares the Zacapa booth was mixing up a Signature Old Fashioned comprised of Zacapa Rum, simple syrup, angostura bitters, chocolate bitters, and grapefruit with a dark chocolate garnish.

The ingredients were then mixed and infused with smoke from Hickory wood chips under a specially constructed glass dome .

Visually appealing and absolutely delicious.


 Next up was the Hendrick's Booth; certainly one of the more entertaining stops of the day

Hendrick's Gin is produced by William Grant & Sons in Girvan, Scotland. The account of its creation (according to the barkeeper mixing the punch) is one mans "Triumph of the Unusual," and his discovery of an "Odd Symphony of Botanicals."

For those of us outside Hendrick's "Society of the Unusual," the story goes like this, Mr. Grant's great grandson Charles Gordon purchased two unusual stills in 1955 with no particular idea of what to do with them. The Carter-Head still from 1886 and the Bennet still from 1860.

In 1999, while experimenting with distilled spirits, adding the usual juniper berry, and firing up both stills, Gordon decided to add some unusual ingredients. Deliciousness resulted and Hendrick's Gin was born. What are those key ingredients? The infusion of select cucumbers and Bulgarian Rosa Damascena.


This is only a small sampling of the many incredible wines and spirits that were offered during the two Lexus Grand Tasting events. The experience has given us a new found appreciation for the art of wine tasting and the science of creating good wine, Champagne, and spirits. It has also encouraged us to expand our horizons maybe a wee bit.

Until next time - Happy Adventures!!!!!


For an interactive map and guided walking tour covering many of our other tours please be sure to download the GPSmyCity App from the iTunes store. The App covers an extensive library of articles and walking tours from over 470 cities worldwide, and now features articles from Adventures of a Home Town Tourist covering Carmel and Monterey (with more cities on the way).

Photography by LA Momboisse and RM Momboisse unless listed below:

Label for Kunin Chenin Blanc from Kunin Web Site

Bottle of Hall Chenin Blac from Hall Web Site

Bottle of Davis Family Vineyard Wine from Web Site

Bottle of MacRostie 2013 Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay from Web Site