The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Sojourn Cellars pours it on at the new Relm Wine and Beer Bistro

A little bit of wine heaven showed up at the new and fascinating Relm Wine and Beer Bistro in downtown Carlsbad recently. To kick off her events calendar, owner Rene Fleming called on the rockin’ upscale vineyard in Napa/Sonoma, Sojourn Cellars.  Fleming is a wise judge of wine character. She spent critical time gaining knowledge about the business as a sales representative of some great wine names before building a format for Relm. To get into her thinking, you need to know the philosophy of Relm. It’s summed up in the name, which is an abbreviation for:  Relax-Enjoy-Laugh-More. The environment is casual and comfortable with a small-bite twist of culinary delights. Wines are family-owned and capped at 5,000 case production. You can find many names at just 800 cases or less, a clue of quality, handcrafted wine.
Sojourn was in Carlsbad to help celebrate Relm’s Grand Opening and to unveil the new fall releases from their 2008 Pinot Noir  from vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Windsor Oaks in Sonoma, and their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain vineyards in Napa Valley. Hard to imagine, but each wine is its own master with exclusive aromas and taste. 
For my recommendation, I would point to: 
— The 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($42), the epicenter of high quality Pinots with rolling terrain, morning fog, warm afternoons and cool evenings. Pinots in this nest bring crisp structure, balance, smooth classic fruit and lively acid.
— The 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($69), an uplifting Cab close to 2,000 feet with body and complexity that are explosive and saturate the palate. Howell Mountain is the hot, newest buzz from Napa Valley, with the most cooling breezes and lots of sun. If you’re traveling, Sojourn has its tasting salon in downtown Sonoma.  Contact the winery at (707) 938-7212.
Be sure to settle in at Relm for the newest ideas in a classic wine bistro. Hours are:  Sunday through Wednesday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to
11 p.m. See www.thewine
Harvesting the fruits of vineyard labor
The recent heat spike we’ve staggered through has been a god-send for vineyards up and down the state.  2010 has been a particularly peculiar year for growing wine grapes.  Production will be smaller than normal primarily due to a heavy rainy season and the lack of warm, sunny weather in a summer that never got here, until lately.
In the paradise of wine making in California, Napa Valley, Ken Morris of Grgich Hills Estate feels that the quality of the vineyards will bring them in a great harvest. “It’s going to be late this year. It has been cooler but we are now getting hot weather,” he said.  Monterey Wine Country is behind schedule but the word is it allowed a slow, gentler ripening and maturation, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. About 5,000 acres of these two varietals are planted in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.  “Cooler years are always welcomed,” declared Gary Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards. “They extend the growing season and allow slow, steady ripening.” Fortunately the rainy and foggy conditions get blown away and the grapes dry off quicker than most due to the high wind conditions. We’re challenged and its too early to tell but we are hoping 2010 will be a truly great vintage.”
In Paso Robles, Niner Wine Estate, one that I have written about recently watching Amanda Cramer become California Winemaker of the Year, is working hard to position the winery for an unusual harvest.
“We’ve worked hard on uniform ripening within each vine block and to ensure that sugar development doesn’t get way ahead of flavor,” she said. Cramer walks the blocks daily, tasting berries, looking for ripe flavors and mature tannins. “We’ll harvest by hand at night under stadium style lighting so the berries can be crushed and tanked cold. 
Everyone at the wineries waits for the right moment, and winemakers apply their talent and experience to a current harvest that will be challenging. We, the consumers won’t know until our favorite California red wine reaches the tasting rooms and stores, maybe in 2012. That’s the wine business for you. After all, at its roots, it’s  basically farming.
Wine Bytes
— West Steakhouse and Bistro West in Carlsbad present OktoberWest from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 9 celebrating the West Organic Farm in tents next to the restaurants. Casual food and wine tasting, tips for holidays and Chef Eugenio Martignago’s recipes. Cost is $25 per person. Call to RSVP at (760) 448-4510.
— The Gourmet Experience is coming to the Del Mar Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 9 and Oct. 10. It’s a food, luxury and lifestyle event showcasing the best in products and services from cookware to travel. There will be 250 exhibits. Meet celebrity chefs. The cost for one day is $25 in advance, $30 at the door. The cost for the weekend is $40 in advance, $45 at the door. For details and tickets call (858) 578-9463 or visit
— Lorimar Winery in Temecula has its Grape Stomp and Harvest Fest from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 9. Wine, food, and fun entertainment. The Bayou Brothers play for dancing. Price is $60. Call the winery at (951) 240-5177 for details.
— Temecula Creek Inn has a Tale of Two Valleys Wine Dinner, saluting the Rhone Valley and Temecula Valley on Oct. 15. Reception at 6:30, followed by a four-course dinner at 7:15 p.m., prepared by Executive Chef Salvatore Guiliano. Leonesse Cellars will provide the Temecula Valley wines. Cost is $65 each. RSVP at (951) 587-1465.