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Wine 2015 Picks

Sustainable Style

In 2008, Nancy Lang and Brandon Chase traveled to Portugal on holiday. While there, they were introduced to the marvels of cork—not just as a wine bottle closure, but also as a durable, beautiful material for a wide variety of products. Upon returning home to the North Bay, the pair decided to close their wholesale business in the housewares industryand focus instead on bringing what they’d found to Wine Country.
Corx, based in Sonoma, imports a variety of luxury items made from cork, including handbags, jewelry and accessories, directly from small producers in Portugal. “When the bark of the cork oak tree is harvested, it’s sliced thin and adhered to a fabric base to make handbags and accessories such as iPhone covers; the same material is used to make the jewelry,” explains Lang.
Products are available in many winery tasting rooms as well as a handful of Wine Country spas; they’re as durable as leather, easy to care for and green (Portugal’s cork forests are protected and harvested in a sustainable way).


In 2010, Walt Averill was trying to come up with innovative packaging for Rua, the Napa Valley wine he and his wife, Márie Murphy, had established. He envisioned a reusable capsule made from the same silicone as the bungs that seal aging wine into oak barrels. That idea quickly became Capabunga, a Windsor-based company that now makes not only the original version, but also Capabubbles (which turns a sparkling wine bottle into a screwcap that keeps the bubbles bubbling for a week) and GlassWhere (silicone glass identifiers that don’t slip or clink). The Capas seal tight, so bottle can be stored horizontally without worry. Products are customizable with logos, phrases or graphics and are available at many North Bay wineries as well as online.

Something for the Tea Totalers

Novato-based Republic of Tea has teamed with Sonoma County’s WholeVine products to create Sonoma Tea, refreshing iced tea blends made from fine wine grape skins. The collection showcases three varietals: Sonoma Chardonnay, Sonoma Rosé and Sonoma Cabernet. Additionally, the Mulled Zin Hot Tea (available for the holidays) is the perfect warm beverage for cold winter days.
All the iced teas are refreshing and surprising takes on their wine counterparts. You can taste the variety, but the flavor emphasis is on the fruits and spices inherent in each. The Cabernet, for example, is light and reminiscent of Sangria: we taste honey, ginger and dark berries, along with a Cab-like tannic element. The Chardonnay delivers tropical fruit and a hint of richness, while our favorite, the Rosé, is pure strawberry bliss with a lovely floral finish.
Caffeine-, alcohol- and calorie-free, Sonoma Teas are a great way to enjoy the flavors of Wine Country without the overindulgence.

No Snobs Allowed

Before Andy Hyman got a job leading wine tasting tours in Napa and Sonoma counties, he had only a casual knowledge of wine, “just enough to know a handful of famous wineries and to bring an average bottle of wine to a friend’s house for dinner.” So his learning curve was, by necessity, steep. As he learned more about the winemaking process and wine tasting experience, he found he enjoyed sharing his newfound knowledge—and that many on his tours appreciated his “snob-free” explanations.
Fast forward a few years, and Hyman has released Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion, a plainspoken tutorial for those who feel intimidated by wine industry terms and techniques. The book contains easy-to-understand definitions of common words and phrases, a step-by-step guide to wine tasting, a brief description of the vineyard growing cycle and winemaking process, as well as some fun facts, myths and misconceptions. He also includes suggested food pairings, an abbreviated history of the North Bay wine region and an explanation of how to read a wine label.
A visit to a winery shouldn’t be intimidating, and Hyman’s book goes a long way toward making it less so.


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