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May 26th, 2015

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STARS of California 2015 on

A big thank you to for promoting STARS of California 2015 this Wednesday, May 20th at The Peninsula Beverly Hills!

Get your tickets here.


Wine Tasting at the Stars of California
Wine Tasting at the Stars of California
Photo by Dave Kotinsky

“Some of the most notable California wineries will be sharing their wines with hundreds ofwine enthusiasts in Beverly Hills. The Peninsula Hotel and wineLA are once again hosting the STARS of California Wine Festival on Wednesday, May 20. Among the elite list of wineries showcasing their wines are Westerly Wine, Kosta Browne Winery, Keller Estate Winery, Cordon Wine, Refugio Ranch Vineyard, Argot Cellars, Oakville Ranch Vineyards,L’Aventure Winery, Clos Solene Wines, Beekeeper Cellars, Robert Biale Vineyards, Gentleman Farmer Wines, Saxon Brown Wines, LAW Estate Wines, just to name a few.

In addition to this spectacular wine tasting accompanied by an elegant assortment of tray-passed hors d’oeuvres, there will be a silent auction, with auction items ranging from $100 to $2,000. One hundred percent of silent auction proceeds will benefit the TJ Martell Foundation.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. for regular admission. Advanced tickets may be purchased for $95 per person online or at the door for $125. There are a limited number of VIP 6:15 p.m. admission tickets (includes full dinner buffet and private tasting with Kosta Browne) available for $150 per person (advanced ticket sale) or $200 at the door. This event is limited to 150 guests and similar to wineLA’s past wine events, is expected to sell out so tickets at the door may not be available.

For more information about STARS of California Wine or to purchase tickets, call wineLA at 310-451-7600 or visit wineLA or The Peninsula Hotel is located at 9882 South Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills, CA.”

Click here to see full article on

Ian Provides Pursuitist Epicurean with the Top 10 Wines To Give (And To Keep)

Pursuitist Epicurean: Ian Blackburn, Wine Guru

Top 10 Wines To Give (And To Keep)

Move over, vodka , rum, and beer.  Wine is now the world’s number-one most popular alcoholic beverage.  But things get complicated when it comes to choosing what type of wine to drink, gift, or store in cellars to enjoy in a few years.  So we turned to wine guru Ian Blackburn of LearnAboutWine – the leading source for wine education and events in Southern California — to school us on the selection process, and to make his essential wines recommendations.

“As a wine professional, I rarely receive wine as a gift except from the very few in my inner circle that feel confident to purchase something special,” says Blackburn, a Master of Wine student and teacher whose classes and tastings have served to demystify wine for nearly 20 years since the launch of LearnAboutWine ( .  “I’m famous, however, for purchasing gifts for others and for finding the treasures that I hold dear — and purchasing a few gifts for myself.”

Since Blackburn has taught more than 50,000 students in just his core class, “Wine Camp: An Introduction to Wine,” we asked to copy his notes for a cheat-sheet shopping list of his Top 10 finds. “Being a student of wine and a teacher, I enjoy wines at all price points and quality levels,” he says. “Here are the wines that I tend to get excited about.”

  1. Lail Vineyards “Georgia” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 2011 or 2012 ($120)

Ian Blackwood: “Phillip Melka on winemaking and Robin Lail Vineyard Owner, what a team of personality and perfection. This is the newest edition, the latest trend to emerge out of Napa Valley – ultra-premium Sauvignon Blanc. Melka, who cut his teeth on the category in Bordeaux, is bringing his daft touch to this variety that now sees new life in the $100+ club.  “Georgia” benefits from high tear selection from low yield vineyards, hand stirring in expensive wood, time, age and careful ‘Melka’ craftsmanship.”

  1. EPOCH, Estate Blend 2011 ($50)

“There are few wines in the world that pack as much immediate hedonistic pleasure as a bottle of wine from Paso Robles. This is an estate to familiarize yourself with, and they have a surprising life expectancy. I would enjoy any of the top end productions from these quality estates: Denner, L’Aventure, LAW Estate, STANGER, and The Farm.”

Epoch Estate Winery

Epoch Estate Winery

  1. Elio Grasso Gavarini Vigna Chiniera, Barolo DOCG 2010 ($80+)

“The 2010 wines are exciting, ripe, expansive and collectable, but will require some patience to enjoy more than just a taste. The 2010 vintage brings levels of ripeness, richness, and concentration that can be exploited by the modern wineries and are sometimes downcast by the loyal traditionalist.  Other 2010’s to seek out include Giuseppe Mascarello, Domenico Clerico, Vietti, Roberto Voerzio, Elio Altare, and Giacomo Conterno.”

  1. Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary 2004 ($50)

“Dessert wines are such a fantastic gift, and people rarely purchase them for themselves.  A great bottle of dessert wine is truly the punctuation mark of any great gathering. Other recommended producers include Royal Tokaji, Oremus, and Disznoko.” 

  1. Hamilton Russell Vineyards Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pinot Noir, Walker Bay, South Africa 2012 ($40)

“Having traveled the wine world, this is one of the greatest wine estates on the planet. Consistent and elevating quality every year, Hamilton Russell is a great alternative to Burgundy and can be enjoyed near term or be cellared for a decade.”

Hamilton Russell Vineyards, South Africa

Hamilton Russell Vineyards, South Africa

  1. Weingut St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany 2012 ($25)

“Wines from the Mosel use to be in price parity with the great wines of Bordeaux.  Today, the wines are underpriced, but over-deliver. St. Urbans-Hof is consistently one of my favorite producers, providing polished wines of great concentration and persistence.  Other recommendations: Joh. Jos. Prum, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, and Zilliken.”

  1. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2004 ($140)

“In Champagne, the competitive forces are at work in a very big way. The wine quality continues to increase, as do the prices, and yet demand is outpacing supply. Comtes de Champagne is as refined and polished a wine as there is, and I enjoy the nuance of the 2004 with hints of chalk, stone, pear, elegant perfume, the very mouse and attack. Other preferred producers:  Pierre Peters, Billecart-Salmon, and Vilmart. Other preferred producers:  Pierre Peters, Billecart-Salmon, and Vilmart.”  



  1. Mauritson Wines, Jacks Cabin Vineyard, Zinfandel, Rockpile 2012 ($45)

“Yes, not a typo:  Zinfandel.  As a Zinfandel producer, I love to taste the exciting efforts of huge set of producers that continue to focus on quality improvements and bring new life to this category. It’s a bit of a hit and miss, however, so you really need to be in touch with the producers of merit and support their higher tier efforts whenever possible. Other Zinfandels to pursue: Bedrock, Beekeeper, Biale, Turley, Ridge, Passalacqua, Gamba, Carol Shelton, and Limerick Lane.”


  1. Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien, France 2003 ($200)

“If someone were to say ‘Ian, pick a bottle of wine you think about most from the past year,’ it would be this one.  At 11 years of age, it is spectacular. The 2003 is a very dramatic, yet nuanced wine that can be enjoyed with your nose alone. Its richness is seductive, and I can still taste it several months later. I’m looking for more of this particular treasure.”

  1. Chateau Rayas, Chateauneuf du Pape, Reserve 1985 ($1,095)

“Ok, ok, it’s almost impossible to find and it’s one of the greatest wines ever made that only the privileged few get to know about.   At more than $1000 a bottle, it will probably be the gift I buy myself this coming year… but I will share it with as many people as possible.  It is ‘the wine’ that opened my mind, and blew it all over the wine cellar. If you have to have a number one, it better mean something.”

Chateau Rayas, Tours, France

Chateau Rayas, Tours, France

L.A. Magazine recommends STARS of Napa 2015!

A big thank you to L.A. Magazine for recommending our March 26, 2015- STARS of Napa Valley 2015 Event at Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach!
We were featured in both their February and March E-blasts!

We had a great time hosting the event and hoped everybody who attended did as well.

Click here to read their other February E-Blasts.

Click here to read their other March E-Blasts.


STARS of Napa Valley on Los Angeles Magazine

Stars of Napa Valley Fest Brings 40 Wineries to Manhattan Beach

Famous vineyards join on-the-rise producers to showcase what’s next in the industry

Drinking, Wine Add a comment

Ian Blackburn, the founder of WineLA (formerly Learn About Wine) has partnered with Manhattan Beach boutique hotel Shade to bring 40 different wineries from Napa Valley together for the first Stars of Napa Valley wine festival on Thursday.

 “We have an incredible mix of top producers and up-and-coming producers,” Blackburn says. “Winemakers and significant influencers will be on-hand pouring, and consumers will have a chance to rub elbows with these trendsetters—so if you want to know ‘what’s next,’ this is the tasting to find out.”

Heavy hitters like Lail Vineyards and Kenzo Estate—“two producers who have revolutionized Napa Sauvignon Blanc,” Blackburn says—will be pouring, along with winemakers you might not have heard of like Metaphora Wines and Modus Operandi Cellars.

A silent auction will also take place, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Manhattan Beach Middle School.

General-admission tickets are available for $125 in advance, $150 at the door, and get you in at 7 p.m. A $175 VIP option gives you early admission (6:30 p.m.) and includes special wines and passed appetizers, a gift bag, and access to a panel tasting where rare wines from older vintages will be available to taste.

redarrowStars of Napa Valley at Shade, 1221 N. Valley Dr., Manhattan Beach, March 26 from 7 p.m (6:30 p.m. for VIP tickets) to 9:30 p.m.


- See more at:

STARS of Napa featured on LA Times’ Daily Dish




The weather may seem like summer, but, really, it’s still spring. Vines are breaking bud and wine events are busting out too. Here are a few coming up in the next weeks.



The new “Zinposium,” two Zinfandel-focused seminars are already sold out, which means early signups for other events are a good idea. Point your browser to the Zinfandel Weekend website and plug in the day or the name of a winery to get a list of activities planned. Ancient Peaks winery, for example, is serving their Zin with Santa Maria barbecue tri-tip sandwiches on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. On Sunday Castoro Cellars will have a 9 a.m. yoga class followed by an organic brunch and their own sparkling wine ($30). Caucus Cellars will be doing Zinfandel and blue cheese pairings all weekend. And so it goes — through 140 wineries.


Starting April 1, SLO Wine in San Luis Obispo celebrates 25 years with Roll Out the Barrels, a monthlong series of events in wine country there.

If you’re headed north anytime before May 3, check out the activities planned by Join in a tasting to learn about different types of French oak. Accompany a winemaker on a ranch hike or enjoy a lunch of vegetables and wines grown on a wine estate. Some events are free, others have a charge. Pairing local oysters with Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc sounds like fun: That happens the afternoon of April 11 ($2 per oyster). Scroll through the month to find winemaker dinners, farm-to-fork dinners, vertical tastings, barrel tastings and other fun things to do.

Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times


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LAW Facts

Bordeaux was classified in 1855 based on price and originally had only 4 first growths.  In 1973 Chateau Mouton Rothschild was elevated to the First Growth status, a very controversial classification but one that helped establish the largest production zone in the world.

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