After Ten years , a State of Art Winery opens in Paso Robles. VINO LAS VEGAS takes you for a pre-view of NINER Estates Winery

It is not often that we can see a winery "born" and be able to follow their progress over the years from literally "the ground up ". VINO LAS pre-view of one of the newest wineries in the central coast before the big public opening. NINER Wine Estates in Paso Robles , California.

After nearly ten years of planning, preparing, and just plain hard work , the newest addition to Paso Robles’ west side wine community will open May 1st to the public.

Construction began for the elegant stone barn tasting room and state-of-the-art gravity flow winery on the Heart Hill property on the west side of Paso Robles on seventy acres of vines surrounding the winery with the first phase beginning in the spring of 2007.

The inaugural vintage was released in January of 2006. Varietals currently include Sauvignon blanc, Barbera Rosato, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, an Italian blend and a proprietary red blend called Fog Catcher.

Dick Niner had the vision of this state of the art facility over many years. He investigated buying several vineyards and wineries, both for himself and other investors and came to realize the potential of Paso Robles as a perfect environment for growing premium grapes and making fine wines.

With growing conditions almost identical to the Napa Valley, ample water in many areas, and desirable soils, Paso Robles presented a unique opportunity for him to finally invest in the wine industry. When the property Bootjack Ranch came on the market in early 2001, Dick jumped at the chance to buy it and two years later brought the Heart Hill property . Combined they represent over 360 acres, of which 125 are now planted to 11 varietals. An additional 85 acres available for future planting.

Niner signed on legendary winemaker Chuck Ortman to advise, consult, and get the first vintage started and then hired Amanda Cramer in 2004 as full-time winemaker.

A native of New Hampshire, in 1997 Amanda Cramer left a teaching post in Washington DC to pursue her interests in wine. Amanda’s background in mathematics and chemistry provided solid preparation for the road ahead.

She enrolled at UC Davis and studied enology and viticulture. She gained hands-on experience as a harvest cellar intern at Far Niente Winery in Oakville while still a student. When asked about her life-changing decision to launch a career in winemaking, she replied , “I fell in love with the very idea of winemaking – the interconnection between agriculture, chemistry and artistry. And the fact that winegrowing regions are the most beautiful places in the world is certainly a plus!”

After Davis, Amanda spent the next three years working at wineries, in three of the world’s most recognized growing regions. She worked harvests at Chimney Rock and Robert Mondavi Wineries in Napa Valley, California; D’Arenberg Wines in McLaren Vale, South Australia; and even at Casa Lapostolle in Santa Cruz, Chile.

In 2002, Amanda returned to California to a post as Assistant Winemaker at the esteemed Paradigm Winery in Oakville. Working under the direction of legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett, her responsibilities included production, cellar and lab duties, as well as vineyard sampling for this 5,000 case, ultra-premium winery. With Barrett’s guidance, Cramer polished her skills on Bordeaux varieties.

Inspired by the quality of the region and an opportunity to work with Central Coast winemaking pioneer Chuck Ortman, Amanda moved to Paso Robles to assume the role of Winemaker at Niner Wine Estates.

“Given the opportunity to help build a winery from the ground up in this attractive region that is on the rise, I simply couldn't’t pass it up” she said. Amanda oversees all winemaking operations and crafts wines that demonstrate the diversity and elegance that many wines Paso Robles provide.

Amanda gave us a tour of this state of the art facility. We have been into many wineries over the years but walking in to Amanda's winery was like walking into a pristine NASA facility.

Starting at the top floor where the picking bins arrive during harvest she explained the process of how this gravity fed facility works. We proceed our way down to the next floors walking by the large stainless steel tanks that shined like mirrors. Next stop was the barrel room where these lovely wines age in French Oak.

Owner Dick Niner took over and showed off the vineyard which provided us a wonderful experience to see row after row of perfectly aligned newly planted vines. Nick also explain that even the water is processed by gravity and filtered every set up the way with natural plant filters.

From our location high in the vineyard we could see our next stop which was their newly finished Hospitality Center and looked forward to sampling some of these great wines and another tour.

The Hospitality Center houses not only the Niner Wine Estates tasting room, but a generous demonstration kitchen and boutique winery as well.

Education is a major tenet of the Niner Wine Estates vision. Rick Toyota told us the winery will begin offering wine and culinary programs as early as this summer and these will be some of the first ever for the Central Coast.

The courses will cover a wide range of subjects in varying formats, from hour-long sessions to more extensive multiple-day programs by the end of the year. Classes will be presented by the Niner Wine Estates’ own in-house wine education staff, lead by Rick as well as visiting chefs and leading experts which are sure to line up to cook in this beautiful kitchen.

By design, the rustically elegant stone barn Hospitality Center is as aesthetically conscious as it is eco-conscious.

Designer Anne Fortini’s tasteful interiors reflect and accentuate the beauty of the winery’s surroundings, while Mr. Niner, Ms. Cramer and architect Tim Woodle have designed Niner Wine Estates to be the first winery on the Central Coast to meet LEED certification standards through the U.S. Green Building Council, with final certification to be awarded in a matter of months.

Constructed and positioned to emphasize the allure of Paso Robles wine country, the Hospitality Center’s expansive windows frame a view of “Heart Hill,” the iconic heart-shaped design of oak trees once owned by brothers Claude and Clyde Booker.

Niner Wine Estates is the vision of Dick Niner, who believes that a blend of exceptional people, vineyards, tools, and ideas is the key to creating world-class wines and providing a one-of-a-kind experience in the heart of Paso Robles wine country.

Since its founding in 2001, Niner Wine Estates’ list of award-winning wines has grown to include Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian varietals, including their flagship Bordeaux blend, “Fog Catcher.” This independent, family-owned company is truly dedicated to making exceptional wines by combining the best of traditional winemaking methods as it employs cutting-edge technologies.

In the LEED-certified winery, winemaker Amanda Cramer will continue to use estate-grown fruit from the Bootjack Ranch and Heart Hill Vineyard into wines that express their true varietal correctness with every sip. We look forward to visiting NINER as often as we can to watch this one of a kind project in the Central Coast grow into prominence.

Join VINO LAS VEGAS as they get a pre-view of this state of the art facility from owner Dick Niner and Winemaker Amanda Cramer

Three Palazzo Mixologists earn the coveted title of EFFEN® Vodka Mixologist

We have visited the Fusion Bar in the Palazzo on several occasions and have always been impressed with the artistry of their Mixologists.

Recently they earned the recognition that they deserved.
The Art of Design presented by EFFEN® Vodka is a unique series of events in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, and Milwaukee. In each city, premier local mixologists design the ultimate EFFEN® Vodka martini.
Guests have the opportunity to view the works of local artists, sample the freshly designed cocktails and vote for the most provocative premium martini.

On Thursday, April 22nd the competition took place in Las Vegas where THREE mixologists at Fusion Mixology Bar inside The Palazzo took home the coveted title of EFFEN® Vodka Mixologist: Emilio Turibico took first place and Wendy Verdel and Greg Black tied for second place. The competition was set up Iron Chef style where the mixologists, in two-man teams, had to select five ingredients from a selection of 50 items plus the liquor. Each mixologist was then given a limited amount of time to create the cocktail. The winning cocktails were:

Emilio Turibico:


2oz Effen Vodka

1.5 oz Pineapple juice

2 Cactus Piece muddled

Wendy Verdel:

Effen Sweet Heat

One quarter slice of peeled cucumber

One quarter slice of jalapeño with seeds

Eight Raspberries

· 1 ounce fresh Sweet Lemon Sour

· 2 ounces of Effen Vodka

Muddle first four ingredients, add vodka and shake hard. Double Strain in Martini Glass.

Garnish with a long cucumber peel and raspberries.

Greg Black:

Effen Good Time

5-7 Blueberries, Blackberries

.5 oz egg whites

.5oz Cointreau

1 oz Effin Blk Cherry

2 oz "Fresh Sour mix"

Muddle, Shake and Strain...

Photo credit: IS Photography/

Our Congratulations to these three talented mixologists and the Palazzo !

Sake Fever gives guests a Sake and Culinary education at the Palms pool in Las Vegas

VINO LAS VEGAS attended the first Sake Fever a few years ago and could not wait for it to return. Recently Sake Fever returned in a big way with 150 Premium Sakes and brewmaters to the Palms Pool and Bungalows.

Sake is a whole way of life and anyone who enjoys Sake should learn about how its made and what the " language " of Sake as well.

Sake or saké (pronouned /ˈsɑːkeɪ/ in English is a alholic Japanese beverage made from rice.

This beverage is called sake in English, but in Japanese, sake (酒) or o-sake (お酒) refers to alcoholic drinks in general. The Japanese term for this specific beverage is Nihonshu (日本酒), meaning "Japanese sake"

Sake is also referred to in English as rice wine. However, unlike true wine, in which alcohol is produced by fermenting the sugar naturally present in fruit, sake is made through a brewing process more like that of beer. To make beer or sake, the sugar needed to produce alcohol must first be converted from starch.

Sake is produced by the multiple parallel fermentation of rice. The rice is polished to remove the protein and oils from the exterior of the rice grains, leaving behind starch. A more thorough milling leads to fewer congeners and generally a more desirable product.

Newly polished rice is allowed to "rest" until it absorbs enough moisture from the air not to crack when immersed in water. After this resting period, the rice is washed clean of the rice powder produced during milling and is steeped in water. The length of the soak depends on the degree to which the rice was polished, from several hours or even overnight for an ordinary milling to just minutes for highly polished rice.

After soaking, the rice is boiled in a large pot or it is steamed on a conveyor belt. The degree of cooking must be carefully controlled; overcooked rice will ferment too quickly for flavors to develop well and undercooked rice will only ferment on the outside. The steamed rice is then cooled and divided for different uses.

Some of the steamed rice is taken to a culture room and inoculated with kōji mold (麹, Aspergillus oryzae). The mold-laden rice is itself known as kōji and is cultivated until the growth of the fungus reaches the desired level.

When the kōji is ready, the next step is to create the starter mash, known as shubo (酒母), or colloquially, moto (酛). Kōji rice, water, and yeast are mixed together, and in the modern method, lactic acid is added to inhibit unwanted bacteria (in slower traditional methods, lactic acid occurs naturally). Next, freshly steamed rice is added and the yeast is cultivated over 10 to 15 days.

After fermentation, sake is pressed to separate the liquid from the solids. With some sake, a small amount of distilled alcohol, called brewer’s alcohol (醸造アルコール), is added before pressing in order to extract flavors and aromas that would otherwise stay in the solids. With cheap sake, a large amount of brewer’s alcohol might be added to increase the volume of sake produced. Next, the remaining lees (a fine sediment) are removed, and the sake is carbon filtered and pasteurized. The sake is allowed to rest and mature and then it is usually diluted with water to lower the alcohol content from around 20% to 15% or so, before finally being bottled.

The three types of special designation sake
  • Honjōzō-shu (本醸造酒), in which a slight amount of brewer's alcohol is added to the sake before pressing, in order to extract extra flavors and aromas from the mash. This term was created in the late 1960s to distinguish it, a premium sake, from cheaply made liquors to which large amounts of distilled alcohol were added simply to increase volume. Sake with this designation must be made with no more than 116 liters of pure alcohol added for every 1,000 kilograms of rice.

  • Junmai-shu (純米酒), "pure rice sake," made from only rice, water and kōji, with no brewer's alcohol or other additives. Before 2004, the Japanese government mandated that junmai-shu must be made from rice polished down to 70% or less of its original weight, but that restriction has been removed.
  • Ginjō-shu (吟醸酒), made from rice polished to 60% or less of its original weight. Sake made from rice polished to 50% or lower is called daiginjō-shu (大吟醸酒).

The term junmai can be added to ginjō or daiginjō, resulting in junmai ginjō and junmai daiginjō. However, as distilled alcohol is added in small amounts to ginjō and daiginjō to heighten the aroma, not to increase volume, a junmai daiginjō is not necessarily a better product than a daiginjō made with brewer's alcohol.

In Japan sake is served chilled, at room temperature, or heated, depending on the preference of the drinker, the quality of the sake, and the season.

Typically, hot sake is a winter drink, and high-grade sake is not drunk hot, because the flavors and aromas will be lost. This masking of flavor is the reason that low-quality sake is often served hot.

Sake is usually drunk from small cups called choko and poured into the choko from ceramic flasks called tokkuri. Saucer-like cups called sakazuki are also used, most commonly at weddings and other ceremonial occasions. Recently, footed glasses made specifically for premium sake have also come into use.

Another traditional cup is the masu, a box usually made of hinoki or sugi, which was originally used for measuring rice. In some Japanese restaurants, as a show of generosity, the server may put a glass inside the masu or put the masu on a saucer and pour until sake overflows and fills both containers.

Aside from being served straight, sake can be used as a mixer for cocktails, such as tamagozake, saketinis, nogasake, or the sake bomb.

Tōji (杜氏) is the job title of the sake brewer. It is a highly respected job in the Japanese society, with tōji being regarded like musicians or painters. The title of tōji was historically passed on from father to son; today new tōji are either veteran brewery workers or are trained at universities. While modern breweries with refrigeration and cooling tanks operate year-round, most old-fashioned sake breweries are seasonal, operating only in the cool winter months. During the summer and fall most tōji work elsewhere, and are commonly found on farms, only periodically returning to the brewery to supervise storage conditions or bottling operations

We have been asked about storage and ageability of Sake. In general, it is best to keep sake refrigerated in a cool or dark room, as prolonged exposure to heat or direct light will lead to spoilage. Sake stored at room temperature is best consumed within a few months after purchase.

After opening the bottle of sake, it is best consumed within 2 or 3 hours.[ It is possible to store in the refrigerator, but it is recommended to finish the sake within 2 days.

This is because once premium sake is opened, it begins to oxidize which affects the taste. If the sake is kept in the refrigerator for more than 3 days, it will lose its "best" flavor. However, this does not mean it should be disposed of if not consumed. Generally, sake can keep very well and still taste just fine after weeks in the fridge. How long a sake will remain drinkable depends on the actual product itself, and whether it is sealed with a wine vacuum top

Sake Fever provided its guests great opportunity to learn about Sake from the Tōji themselves. But the easiest way to know Sake is to learn the Four Basic Components .

RICE : Sake rice is not your regular rice. It is about 3 times more expensive and there are about 60 different types used. But the best of all Sake rice is "Yamada Nishiki".

WATER : Water is 80% of the final product. Sake is made from Rice and requires the essential ingredient of water. This important element is the "Terroir" in Sake because each areas water is slightly different.

KOJI : Koji is a mold spore that is propagated with a special batch of cooked rice . Its enzymes convert STARCH info fermentable SUGARS . Without KOJI this Rice based drink will be like "HORCHATA" which is Cinnamon Rice Milk without Alcohol .

LOVE : This is the Brewers secret where they add their own special touch or love to make their Sake their own. They do this by using different rice , water , koji and different techniques of polishing the rice.

The term "premium sake " is not has hard to find as you may think.

\Ginjo Sake Equals Premium Sake
The term "Ginjo" is synonomous with premium sake, the type of sake exported by eSake's brewers. Ginjo is not a brand name. It is a style (a grade, category, class) of sake. Ginjo sake is to regular sake what single malt scotch is to regular scotch, or what 100 % agave tequila is to regular tequila. Only 8% to 9% of all sake brewed is Ginjo grade. If you see the term "Ginjo" anywhere on the label, it means the sake you're about to drink is better than 90% of all sake out there.

A better way to see the different levels of Sake is our "very own " Sake bottle.

Premium versus Non-Premium Sake
Only the highest grades of sake are exported
to the USA by the brewers introduced at eSake.

Bottle Chart - Premium vs. Non-Premium Sake

In addition to speaking with these Brewmasters from Japan , guests were able to sample great dishes from wonderfull dining venues such as Little Budda , Naked Fish Sushi & Grill , Island Sushi & Grill , Hyakumi , Shibuya and Japonais

Premium Sakes , a very inviting pool and great dishes provied guests of the 2nd Sake Fever and reason to look forward to Sake Fever # 3 , hopefully next year.

UNLVino's Bubble-Licious bubbles over at the Garden of the Gods Oasis at Casears Palace in Las Vegas

Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada celebrated the 36th Annual UNLVino® in partnership with the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. This Las Vegas tradition is a great opportunity for wine enthusiasts and winemakers to meet and enjoy the latest releases, the best vintages, and the finest varietals in support of scholarship.

UNLVino was created by Larry Ruvo, Senior Managing Director of Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada and Jerry Vallen, founding Dean of the Hotel College in 1974. To date, UNLVino® has raised millions, making this one of the largest endowments for scholarship and student activities at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and possibly the most unique educational fund raiser in the world.

Chef François Payard
Received the Dom Perignon Award of Excellence at
Bubble-Licious at the Garden of the Gods Pool

rançois Payard became a award winning pastry chef by playfully reinventing the concept of dessert. It is not a stretch to say that he has chocolate running through his veins—the third generation pâtissier grew up in his grandfather’s renowned pastry shop on the French Riveria before working with the likes of Jacques Torres, Daniel Boulud and Sirio Maccione. Payard’s talent has garnered recognition from The James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit, the International Pastry Competition Committee-Beaver Creek and the French Government. In 1997 he opened Payard Pâtisserie and Bistro in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and delighted diners with his signature treats as well as modern French dishes. The restaurant received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for its exceptional wine list.

Each year guests and Honorees alike are treated with a 21 cork
Dom Perigon salute and then enjoy a sip or more of the very famous and delicious Champagne.

It really does not get any better than strolling around the classy Garden of the Gods Oasis pool as the sun was setting enjoying some very big names in Champagne.

Speaking about Champagne , VINO LAS VEGAS found a very special diamond amongst all of these Champagne Treasures. Vintage Sparking wines and Champagnes are always great to try. The 2003 Domaine Ste Michelle LUXE 2003 was a nice treat.

In addition to Champagnes , Sparkling wines and great cocktails , guests enjoyed delicious treats from Chef François Payard and his amazing staff of culinary Artists
These very decadent treats paired Champagne really got the evening started and kept the guests happy for hours.

Bubble-Licious attracts , politicians , students , tourists , locals and even a few celebrities have been known to stop in on this great event. Each year UNLVino's Bubble-Licious gets better and better. We cant wait to see what the 37th Annual event has waiting for us next year.

Bledsoe Family Winery Opens Its Walla Walla Winery At The Box Factory Location.

Not long-ago Drew Bledsoe was throwing touchdowns in the NFL. Shortly after his retirement in 2007,  they planted their first vineyard. ...

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