Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lunch and Learn with Round Pond Winery

I had the pleasure of lunch with Miles McDonald, one of the owners of Round Pond Vineyards recently at the always-delicious Local Three restaurant. He and his delightful sales director Diane Cline hosted a group of food bloggers, wine buyers and restaurant folks for a show and tell of Round Pond wines, oils, and vinegar.

It's no secret that I love Round Pond wines. I was lucky enough to have been given a personal tour with Miles a couple of years ago when I was in San Francisco for the International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference. The winery is just breathtaking; the organic gardens, the kitchens and the tasting rooms are beyond wonderful. As always on a good tour with a knowledgeable guide, I learned more about how wine is made and why some wines taste so good.

(If you’d like to see some stunning photography as well as a fun story of my last visit to Round Pond, take a look at the link to the wonderful blog from friend and rock-star-photographer Tina Case.)

The story of Round Pond is as interesting as its many wines. What started as a Sunday breakfast location for his father, Miles and his three sisters ended up as the Round Pond winery, gardens, tasting room and olive oil mill.

Tractor Shed Red was the first Cabernet Sauvignon from the Round Pound farm’s grapes. Miles said his  Dad made it so he could taste the result of his hard work in the vineyard. Others agreed that it tasted great, and today over 25,000 bottles are enjoyed by happy wine drinkers.

Beginning with 20 rows of vines in 1986, the first grapes from the property were sold to Mike Grgich in 1986. Fast-forward 20 years and in 2002, in a quest to grow better grapes for the (20 plus) wineries buying their grapes, Round Pond began making wine. In 2007, the gorgeous tasting room opened, and they haven’t stopped making luscious wine yet.

But, don’t think this is one of the mega monolithic wineries dotting the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Round Pond could make 100, 000 cases but make 25,000 cases. Although they make a number of wines, from the incredible reserves to propriety and Rutherford wines, (I love them all), my two favorites are the Sauvignon Blanc and the Kith and Kin Cabernet Sauvignon.

Green apples, peaches, and citrus are three descriptors that immediately come to mind when thinking about the luscious taste of 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. The harvest was unique; picking the grapes three different times a week apart, with each harvest the flavors of the grapes getting riper and juicier. The multiple passes created complexity, aging in stainless creates the wines crisp and clean flavors. The 2013 vintage is the only American Sav Blanc listed on Wine Spectators Top 100 list. I think the 2014 is destined for laurels as well.

Kith and Kin retails for only about $40, and if you are looking for a quintessential California Cabernet Sauvignon, it delivers. When Wine Spectator recognized their Rutherford Cab six years consecutively as over 90 points, that same Cab was included in last year's round up of “brick house” Napa Cabs. And, Round Pond was the least expensive of the group!

Although I could see the olive trees around the property, my previous trip did not include the olive oil mill, tasting of the delicious vinegar or syrup sold on the farm. To our delight, Miles had brought a great selection, allowing us to sample and review.

Milling of the olives is a propriety practice at the farm, combining traditional stone mill techniques with state-of-the-art technology. One of only two olive mills in Napa, their bottling is done in small lots only, ensuring each customer of getting only the best quality oil from the hand-harvested olives.

Their process works well, reflected in the spicy, zesty, pungent oils that I tried at lunch. How fun to be able to taste and compare the differences and how the olives from different countries reflected their heritage.

My favorites and some of the most unusual were the blood orange and Meyer lemon olive oils. Rich with the authentic flavor of the fruits, intensely fragrant, adding the entire rind while crushing the olives makes them unique and incredibly intense. Thinking about finishing a white fish from the grill with one of these oils made me want to grab a bottle and run to the kitchen!

Both the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and the Sangiovese/Petit Verdot blend of vinegars we tasted were piquant and perfect. The bottles start with red wine from the winery. They add a "mother" to transform the wine to vinegar and use the artisanal Orleans method of aging in oak barrels for ten months. This time-consuming process creates small lots of vinegar that are flavorful enough to stand on their own or partner with olive oil.

If I’ve piqued your interest in the wonderful wines, oils and vinegars of Round Pond, its time to plan a trip! Until then, you can check out their wines, order and indulge in the mouthwatering oils, vinegars and syrups at  And don’t miss The Feed by Round Pond with yummy recipes, behind the scenes scoop and special offers. You can sign up at The Feed by Round Pond