Premier Vineyard Tours with Gina Gregory!

Gina Gregory | Premier Vineyard Tours

Established in 2009, Premier Vineyard Tours offers bi-annual exclusive tours to Tuscany and Piedmont, Italy.  Gina Gregory developed the concept of tour while managing Portalis Wine Shop and Bar in 2007.  With local distributor connections she was blessed to immerse herself into the world of wine and wine making.  Once working at Portalis, she realized that the many people were craving more than the typical in and out hustle of a wine tour, but the true essence of what and why we fall in love with this culture.

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The culture of wine is about community.  And as Gina developed relationships with guests here in the States- sharing stories about their trips to Italy vs her adventures- she surmised that their experiences could be greatly enhanced by the local touch of small producers and cooperatives.  They may not possess marketing gurus, wine directors, tasting room manager and tour guides… but they do possess the love of wine making and the creation thereof.  So onward to adventures we go…

Keeping with the concept of community, locals and vineyards, Gina, her business partner Kimberly Chilcutt, and her husband have been offering tours for the last six plus years.  Intimate, informative and selective.  Producers range from small to large however all of them are family owned.  Gina spent a great deal of time and research selecting restaurants, wineries and even routes to ensure that her tour guests would have a remarkable memory.  Not the rush into a wine tasting, rush out to a van, rush to this and that.

When she began, tours were primarily Tuscany (Italy) as it is a mecca for wine tourism and that was where a lot of her research had been focused.  Piedmont, though the hub of transportation between Austria, France and Eastern Europe, was not as well developed.  Focus is on locals, community and wine… but tourism?  Yes! Piedmont was not as well established for accommodations as Tuscany, but Gina took the challenge with her local contacts and has been offering tours to Piedmont as well.  Now she is proud to announce that they will be purchasing a home in Piedmont her own accommodations after renovations to a local farmhouse in the Asti and Alba regions.

Gina’s concept of embracing the culture of wine- community- and offering it to her guests is beginning to flourish.  Well nurtured and thought out, the tours are crafted to experience the community not the tourism.  After she establishes her plans, she will be interested in expanding beyond Piedmont and Tuscany, however- not without much research and making the connections with her locals!

We are honored to share Gina’s story, as it reflects our own philosophy- the culture of wine is about community.  Embrace it!

For more information and tours
For more stories about Gina
Image credit:  Red Box Pictures

New Tasting Series: Battle of the _____________:

BATTLE OF THE_boxing gloves_email
Compare the subtleties of a specific type of wine!  It’s a classic geeky wine tasting which we will be pleased to run through the end of the year. Join us every Thursday from 5-7pm for a blind tasting and wine 102!

Here’s this week’s tasting details (+ the archives from previous tastings in this series):

Claude Nouveau_grapes_pinot noir_v2_square

Who’s your Daddy? Primitivo vs Zinfandel

California’s mystery grape Zinfandel is none other than Crljenak Kastelankski- originally from Croatia. Primitivo is also another clone of Crljenak Kastelankski. There is a difference when it is grown and cultivated in different regions as well as the vine vigor and cluster size.


Primitivo – Apulgio, Southern Italy (or the heel of the boot) is where one finds Primitivo. It ripens earlier than Zinfandel, which can result in lower-alcohol wines. Flavor profile is blackberries, violets and pepper. Primitivo from Italy tends to have zero to minimal oak (rarely ever new oak use).

Zinfandel– California regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo are identified separately. It is the 3rd leading wine grape varietal in California. Flavor profile exhibits jammy fruits such as blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs. High sugar content can lead to very high alcohol content, with levels of 15% abv. and higher quite common. If left unchecked these wines can taste hot or have volatile acidity. Typically has some level of oak process.

Beer_WA_No-Li_Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout Beer_North Coast Brewing_Russian Imperial Stout

Stout:  Old World vs New World

By roasting malts and barley one produces a dark beer.  Stouts were a generic term for the strongest (stoutest) of porters- 7-8% ABV.  There are several different styles of Stouts, yet the Dry Irish is the standard.

Old World vs New World

Inspired from English & Irish Stouts, the American Stout has lots of innovation and originality.  Not tied down by tradition methods one could find barrel aging, coffee and chocolate additives, or even excessive hop.  Typically balanced, easy drinking with an average (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

Dry Irish Stout is most classic with a lighter body, lower carbonation and typically a nitro system for creamy texture.  Bitter at times from roasted barely.

Imperial — Russian Imperial is the original term, coined for the export to Catherine II of Russia.  ABV is 9% or higher.
Baltic — another style or Imperial, however cool fermented (lager).  Found in the Baltic regions, especially Poland.
Oyster —  with the actual use of oysters, yes.  Traditionally, oysters were standard plates in public houses and taverns.
Chocolate — No, sorry, typically no chocolate additive here.  However, the malt is toasted until it presents a chocolately flavor and color.  There are a few brew houses that add chocolate flavoring, but it is not the common practice.
Oatmeal- with a maximum of 30% oats it lends to a bitter taste.
Irish or Dry — The standard for stout with a dryer taste.  Guinness is a prime example.
Milk — Residual sugar (lactose) that is not fermentable by beer yeast.  Sweet, rich and supposedly nutritious.



BATTLE OF THE_Riesling Rivarly

Riesling Rivalry: Germany vs Alsace

Join us to test the senses! Experience the difference between the Vosges Mountain slopes and the steep and slate covered vineyards of Mosel. Tasting runs from 5 to 7pm.

Mountain styles | Acidity levels | Fruit Differences

Mosel’s Slate Slopes — A cool continental climate, super steep vineyard slopes (between 45-60° grades are typical), a heavy influence from the visible chunks of blue-gray slate covering the soil and typically a condensed growing-season that can be a little short on sun, make up the unique terroir of the northerly Mosel River Valley. The South facing slopes tend to be the most desirable vineyard locations, as they garner higher doses of sunshine. The Mosel River itself represents a critical component of the area’s terroir, as the river is responsible for both reflecting and retaining the sun’s heat to the vines as well as providing a buffer to early frosts via the river fog

Vosges Mountains— Because of predominantly westerly winds, the Vosges mountains tend to shelter Alsace from rain and maritime influence, and the region is therefore rather dry and sunny. The long, dry growing seasons allow grapes to ripen fully. These grapes are filled with sugar and aromatics; when they are made into dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer wines, the wines retain lovely fragrance, delicious spice and moderate alcohol levels.


BATTLE OF THE_Garnacha vs Grenache

Thursday October 29th, 2015:  BATTLE OF THE…
Garnacha vs Grenache: Spain vs France | Southern Rhone and Castilla y Leon
Was it grown in the Meseta of Spain or the under the strain of the pebbles of Southern Rhone?  Garnacha (Spain) and Grenache (France) are the same varietal- yet delightfuly differnet depending on where it is cultivated.  Tasting runs from 5-7pm.

Meseta-–  Higher acidity.  Extracted fruit.
About 40% of Spain’s land mass is made up of a high central plateau (Meseta).  It includes Castilla-León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Aragón and La Rioja.  High elevation means cool nights, so ripe grapes retain enough acidity for fresh flavor.

Southern Rhone– Soft full fruit.  Higher alcohol.
Pebbles- The galets have the beneficial property of absorbing the heat of the day and radiating it out at night, thus reducing the chances of frost at ground level during the colder winter months.  While advantageous for north facing vineyards, those facing the south often have cleared them away, the night time heat radiating from the stones risking over ripening the grapes.  The wines from these soils are deep, muscular and high in alcohol.


BATTLE OF THE_rt v lft bank

Thursday, October 15:  BATTLE OF THE:
Right vs Left | Bordeaux Soils and Varietals

Is it all about the soil and the varietal?  Let’s taste the difference between the varietals of the Left Bank vs the Right Bank of Bordeaux! Tasting runs from 5-7pm!

Varietals and Growing Conditions
Right Bank Bordeaux— Clay and Limestone.  Merlot is the king of the Right Bank, perfectly adapted to the clay and limestone terroir of Saint Emilion and to the gravel and clay of Pomerol.  Here it is blended with Cabernet Franc and infrequently with Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Merlot produces fleshy, silky and aromatic red wines, often earlier drinking than those of the Left Bank.

Left Bank Bordeaux— Gravel.  On the Left Bank, the gravel soil is particularly conducive to the development of Cabernet Sauvignon, which provides structured red wines with very firm tannins and a long aging capacity. It is associated with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, sometimes Petit Verdot, rarely Malbec.


BATTLE OF THE_coast v central
Thursday, Oct 8: BATTLE OF THE:
Coastal vs Central | California Climates
Take one varietal and match it up to different areas of the same AVA (region/state).  Find out the impact of maritime influences vs continental!  5pm- 7pm!

Technically most of California is a Mediterranean climate however there are sub regions that are more continental.  Continental is very warm temperatures during the day that drop drastically at night.  Washington and Argentina are a prime example of continental climates, however, Lodi AVA of Central Valley California areas are also similar (not Central COAST California).  Mediterrean climates have long growing season with very little temperature variation and precipitation.  Maritime climates are in between the two with obvious bodies of water that mitigate weather.  Like Mediterrean, long growing seasons, yet there is always precipitation and distinct season (like continental climates).  New Zealand is a classic maritime climate.
How does this impact wine?
– Hot climates that have cool nights have rich dark fruit (juicier) with richer body yet higher acid levels.  Doesn’t have to be acidic, but the finish is impacted.
– Mediterranean are moderate climates which have medium fruit, with medium body and moderate acidity.
– Maritime climates have medium to mild fruit with a medium to light body and medium to higher acidity level.
Bonus:  what’s the varietal?

Thursday, Oct 1: BATTLE OF THE FUNK:
Oregon vs France | Pinot Noir
Forest floor and coastal Willamette funk or deep dug soils of French terroir? Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape in the vineyard. It picks up a lot of character- can you tell the difference? Test your senses!  In its home, it has had many centuries of intense care, presumably leading to the use of clones that are exactly matched to their soils and micro-climates. France: limestone and topsoil is mostly a varying mixture of limestone, clay, and flint; Manure, rich soil, tart cherries, cranberries. Oregon: volcanic and sedimentary soil, overlaid with any combo of granite, silt, loam and clay. Flavors: Mushrooms and forest floors; Cherry cola and pomegranate

Brettanomyces- lives on the skins of fruit, fruit flies, wine barrels
4-ethylphenol: Band-aids, barnyard, horse stable, antiseptic
4-ethylguaiacol: Bacon, spice, cloves, smoky
isovaleric acid: Sweaty saddle, cheese, rancidity

.BATTLE OF THE_mtn vs lake
Mountain vs Lake |  Pinot Grigio
Temperature and Cooling Factors — what’s the effect on wine?  Micro-climates have a huge impact. TerroIr gives off immutable characteristics; however, we are talking about the structure of the area and the impacts thereof. Sea breezes tend to leave traces of briny qualitites.

Mountains- proximity to sun or shade, cooling factors (higher altitudes heat fast, cool quick), impact cloud formations and precipitation.  Overall- a cooler growing area.  So wines tend to be crisp with subtle fruit nuances
Lakes- mediate temperatures by maintaining warmth from the summer, and cooling through the summer; protecting vines from frost at budding time.  So overall- a warmer growing area.  Therefore, wines show ripe fruit, warm body and subtle acidity.
Image credit: 

Image credit: 

Thursday, Sep 17: no tasting as it’s wine club pickup

BATTLE OF THE_grapeft straw
Thursday, Sep 10: BATTLE OF THE:
Grapefruit vs Straw |  Sauvignon Blanc
CITRUS!  But what kind?  And can you taste grass, straw, green peppers or just grapefruit?  We are super excited about this new tasting. Hope you can join!

Ripeness Challenge 
Cooler climate and Less Ripe:  Lime, Green Apple, Green Bell Pepper, Gooseberry, Basil, Jalapeño, Fresh Cut Grass
Warmer Climate and Ripe:  Asian Pear, Kiwi, Passionfruit, Guava, White Peach, Nectarine, Dried Summer Grass, Tarragon, Lovage, Celery, Lemongrass
Other fun flavors:  Box of Chalk, Wet Concrete (Stainless) and Vanilla, Pie Crust, Dill, Coconut, Butter, Nutmeg, Cream (oak)
More fun


Thursday September 3rd:  BATTLE OF THE:
Oak vs Steel | Chardonnay Challenge! 
BUTTER- OAK- FRUIT- MALO WHAT?  The face off of steel vs oak.  Can you tell the difference?  Find out Thursday September 3rd 5pm-7pm!
Oak- French oak (vanilla, baking spices), American oak (coconut, sunscreen oil, caramel, butter), soft on the palate
Steel- Fruit (tree fruits, Meyer lemon, pineapple, tropical fruits) and higher acidity
SIDE NOTE:  Malolactic fermentation is the process of stripping lactic acid by applying malolactic.  This removes the angular acid notes and replaces it with the creamy soft butter texture that plops on your palette.