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The Carneros Wine Alliance held their annual Spring Barrel Tasting on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. Below are my tasting highlights from the event, and just before that is a brief history of the region, written by Catherine Bugue, Director of Education at the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

I’m tellin’ ya, folks. I’m a big Carneros Chardonnay and Pinot fan and this year didn’t disappoint. The 2013s and the 2014s showed very well–the 2013s were especially juicy and delicious, while the 2014s were a bit more austere, and gave a stellar performance. The 2015 barrel samples were fun. They were barrel samples, ya know? And for those interested, we do dive deep into Carneros in our American Wine Studies course (did you know that the Carneros AVA lies within both Napa and Sonoma AVAs?) Okay. On with it! – Jonathan Cristaldi



In 1840, Jacob Lease and Nicholas Higuera were granted Napa Carneros land by General Vallejo. Seeing dollar signs, they sold off divisions of the property. Lease, however, planted the first vineyards on his remaining 18,000 acres at Rancho Huichica.In

In 1848 Higuera sold land to Nathan Coombs who went on to establish the town of Napa.

In the 1850s, Lease sold William Winter much of his land, and by the 1870s, the Winter Winery was established. This would become the Talcoa Vineyards in 1881, owned by James Simonton, who was the first vintner to experiment with phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

Just before Repeal, John Garetto bought what is now Bouchaine Vineyards, and in the 1930s Andre Tchelistcheff and Louis Martini took an interest in the area. Garetto would later sell to the Beringer Brothers who used the winery for 30 years.

Louis Martini proved to be ahead of his times, and in 1942, bought 200 acres and experimented with cool-weather varietals–but Bouchaine Vineyards is the oldest continually operating winery in Carneros. Vines were first planted here in the mid-1800s by Boone (also known as Boon) Fly. Sound like a good name for a restaurant, doesn’t it? – Catherine Bugue




Jonathan Cristaldi is the Editor-in-Chief of Prior to joining the academy, he was the Deputy Editor of two of the largest wine and spirits trade publications in the U.S.: Tasting Panel Magazine and The SOMM Journal. In addition to his work with the Academy, he remains a Contributing Editor to those print publications, and regularly contributes to, and First We Feast. Cristaldi’s work has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Liquid LA, Thrillist, Tasting Table, Time Out LA and Psychology Today. In 2009, living in New York City, he founded The club’s activities were featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal. Cristaldi has appeared on the Cooking Channel and HGTV. He was also named a “Wine Prophet” by Time Out New York. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is enrolled in the WSET Diploma studies program.
Catherine Bugue is the Director of Education for Napa Valley Wine Academy. Finding herself grinning from ear to ear cleaning out wine tanks as she volunteered at wineries back East, Catherine packed up and left New York City for Napa ten years ago. She worked at Cain Vineyard & Winery on Spring Mountain before melding her prior publishing career with her love of wine at Karen MacNeil & Company. Catherine co-authored an edition of the Wine Lovers Calendar with Ms. MacNeil whose book, The Wine Bible, is one of the best-selling wine books in the U.S. Catherine earned her WSET Diploma in 2010. She sits on the Napa Valley Vintners and St Helena Star Tasting Panel and is a wine columnist for the Napa Valley Register and the St Helena Star. Catherine has taught individual wine classes at Napa Valley College, JV Wine & Spirits, and with Napa Valley Wine Academy. Previously, she handled international wine accounts for Balzac Communications & Marketing, having promoted such regions as Navarra, Rueda, Collio, Franciacorta and Chianti Classico. Catherine also travels each year with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux U.S. Tour and every other year she visits her in-laws in France, taking that opportunity to discover some of the country’s diverse wine roads.

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