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The folksy, fun sounds of the band and sunlight peeking through the large trees in Pioneer Park provided the perfect backdrop for attendees of the third annual Calistoga Wine Experience, put on by local trade nonprofit Calistoga Winegrowers.

About 40 Calistoga wineries brought their finest crisp whites, summer rosés and rich red wines for guests to smaple Saturday evening. More than 200 attendees enjoyed wine, music, and appetizers such as shrimp and cocktail sauce, chicken skewers and sliders, prepared by chef Rick Warkel, owner of the Calistoga Kitchen catering and former restaurant where Lovina’s is now. 

Wines were the focus and highlight of the evening. Some wineries brought unique offerings such as Clos Pegase that arrived with a 9-liter bottle, called a Salmanazar, which is the equivalent of a case of wine, and had an image of a painting, “Study of Foliage” by British artist Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) on the bottle. From the Hommage reserve series, the line of wines Clos Pegase offers as a tribute to various artists, Jona Mendoza-Fabiani, estate manager of Clos Pegase, offered attendees the giant bottle of 2003 Clos Pegase Hommage Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lenny Tolstunov of Calistoga said he came to the Wine Experience this year because he had a great experience last year. He said he liked all the wines he tried, but there were a few standouts including Jax, Romeo and Barlow.

The warm evening had participants looking for some cooler-temperature wines such as Canard Vineyards Rosé, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel. The plush and refreshing 2017 wine is called “Coucher de Soleil” Estate Rosé, which Marc Capobianoco from San Francisco said name was perfect, not referring to the English translation of “sunset,” but reciting a line from the song “Lady Marmalade,” a Patti LaBelle song made famous in 1974.

Capobianco said he wasn’t in town for Sunday’s Harvest Table, Calistoga’s popular outdoor dining experience that seats about 800 people at a 1,000-foot-long table down the middle of a closed-to-traffic Lincoln Avenue. He said he came to Calistoga just for the Wine Experience event, which he found online.

Calistoga Winegrowers is a nonprofit trade group made up of wineries and grape growers who promote and preserve the Calistoga AVA (American Viticultural Area), which is known for producing high-quality grapes and wines. Located at the top of Napa Valley, Calistoga’s AVA has the largest diurnal swing of any of the valley’s AVAs.

The cool nighttime temperatures allow the grapes to rest and develop acidity after spending the day sunning in the region’s high summertime temperatures. Best known for the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the AVA, Calistoga has the largest acreage of Charbono, a medium bodied food-friendly grape. Zinfandel from producers such as Storybook Mountain Vineyards have drawn acclaim from reviewers as well.

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