Ready, set, WINE! | SierraSun.com

Ready, set, WINE!

Erin Everett
Special to the Sun

Courtesy photo/Sierra SunChris Matheny, co-owner of M2 Vintners, Inc., creators of artisan wines, takes care with his prized cases of wine. M2 Vintners returns to the Tahoe Women's Services 19th Annual Chocolate Festival this year, to be held on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Wine and chocolate ” that’s the ticket.

Tahoe Women’s Services 19th Annual Chocolate Festival is right around the corner so prepare your taste buds for fantastic treats. The festival, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center from 7 to 10 p.m., will once again bring together the exquisite tastes of chocolate and wine.

Tickets are available for $40 in advance and $50 at the door. But be prepared and buy early ” this event sells out. To order tickets with a credit card call (775) 298-0010 or visit the Web site at http://www.tahoewomenservices.org. Otherwise, visit one of the many ticket sale outlets throughout the community.

Tastings of fantastic wines will be provided this year by 11 great wineries: M2 Vintners, Inc.; Truckee River Winery; Fawnridge Winery; Tin House Winery; Ehrhardt Estates; Four Vines; Sierra Vista Winery and Vineyard; Irish Winery; Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards; Amador Cellars; and Chamber and Chambers.

Tahoe Women’s Services is pleased to have five returning wineries and six new wineries pouring at this year’s Chocolate Festival. Below, please find highlighted the five wineries who are returning to support Tahoe Women’s Services Chocolate Festival for their second year. Great wine, decadent chocolate, and fantastic silent auction items make the Chocolate Festival the best way to support a great cause.

Coming back for a second year to support Tahoe Women’s Services, M2 Vintners, Inc. is a small winery located in Lodi, Calif., which was founded in 2004 by Chris Matheny and Layne Montgomery to create artisan wines. Because they are a winery without vineyards, M2 is able to produce its fantastic wines by sourcing out the best grapes from each region and handcrafting each wine. They have been known to buy Clone Six Cabernet grapes from Rutherford in the Napa Valley and Old Vine Zinfandels from a vineyard in Lodi which has 91-year-old vines. Their philosophy is “to allow the fruit to express itself while making a balanced wine that is approachable and age-worthy.”

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M2 plans to bring an assortment of 2005 wines to the Chocolate Festival such as Napa Valley Cabernet, a Petite Sirah, as well as a Red Wine Trio Blend.

Chris Matheny says that M2 is thrilled to return to the Chocolate Festival this year remarking that “last year was a wonderful event for us.”

Our local winery, Truckee River, is happy to be returning to the Chocolate Festival this year to support Tahoe Women’s Services. Truckee River Winery is the only winery in the Truckee/Tahoe City area and is proud to be the “highest and the coldest vineyard in the world.” It is a small winery that produces 1,000 cases a year: Because of its size, Truckee River Winery is able to handcraft each wine with special attention to detail. All of their wines are produced locally in Truckee. We can look forward to tasting two wines from Truckee River, a 2004 Pinot Noir and a 2004 Zinfandel. According to the Web site Truckee River’s Pinot Noir is a very delicate Pinot with complexity, depth, and soft tannins. It is a “wine with rich berry accents, flavors of cola, floral undertones, and a hint of spice.”

Their Zinfandel is “bold with deep dark purple color and intense flavors of raspberry, cassis and cloves wrapped in soft oak and tannins.” Owner Russ Jones feels that the Chocolate Festival is a great event because of the cause. He asked, “Everyone wants to support Tahoe Women’s Services, don’t they?”

Stewart and Stephanie Perry, owners of Fawnridge Winery, moved to Auburn in 1989 after living in North Lake Tahoe for 15 years. In 2000, Stewart and Stephanie Perry decided to pursue their love of wine and open a vineyard on their property in Auburn. In 2002, the Perrys planted their first grapes, Barbera and Syrah. Two years later they started building their winery in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, just north of Auburn. Now, nine of Fawnridge’s wines have been entered into various competitions, receiving seven medals.

Stephanie Perry emphasized that Fawnridge is a small boutique winery run by her and her husband producing ultra-premium wines. They plan to bring four varietals to the Chocolate Festival ” a 2005 Chardonnay, a 2001 Syrah, a 2002 Merlot and a non-vintage Port which has received a medal in every competition entered. The Syrah has a creamy texture and a soft, balanced finish which makes it great with food or by itself. An American favorite, the Merlot, has spicy flavors of plum, blackberry and black cherry. Having lived here in North Lake Tahoe for 15 years the Perrys are familiar with the area and various social service organizations. Steward used to be a social worker in Placer County and the social service sector is still near and dear to the Perrys. They are looking forward to returning to the Chocolate Festival and invite everyone to come and visit their winery.

A small family-owned and operated winery, Tin House winery concentrates on three varietals: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah ” all of which capture the unique essence of California’s Central Coast. Tin House owners Susan and Greg Franks participate in every aspect of the winemaking process, from selection to production. According to their Web site, their son, Alec Franks, and his wife, Stacy Franks, who is Tin House’s enologist, handcraft each vintage. Their wines have consistently won Bronze, Silver, Gold or Double Gold in every competition in which they have been entered.

Susan Franks admits that because they are such a small winery, producing about 1,000 cases a year, they are extremely choosey as to where they pour their wines, typically choosing only one or two events. Susan Franks explains that they are returning to support the Tahoe Women’s Services Chocolate Festival because it is a “worthwhile cause.”

Rich in history, the Ehrhardt Estates Winery has been growing wine grapes since the 1960s. In 2002 the Herzog Company established Ehrhardt Estates Winery. Catherine Baranek explains that Ehrhardt Estates is proud to produce “well balanced wines that are enjoyable as they are.”

Ehrhardt Estates is a small boutique winery producing about 3,500 cases of wine annually. Because they are located close to Sonoma, the vineyards enjoy cool evenings with rare days over 100 degrees. Their first varietal produced was Chenin Blanc which has been joined by Petite Sirah and a Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.

Currently, Ehrhardt Estates is bottling an Old Vine Merlot.

Another new release is the 2004 Petite Sirah which is 100 percent estate grown. According to the Ehrhardt Web site, the wine has “full berry flavors that are spiced with pepper and hints of leather.” One of their sweeter wines is the 2005 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc called “Marie.” This wine has flavors of honey, pineapple and orange. Their Chenin Blanc 2004 is an award-winning wine, winning 98 points, Best of Class in Region, and Best of Region at the 2004 California State Fair Wine Competition. In addition, it won a gold medal at the 2005 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Baranek is excited to return to the Chocolate Festival because she “appreciates the work” done by Tahoe Women’s Services.

Having known people directly affected by sexual assault, she understands how necessary services like those provided by TWS are.

What can make this night filled with wine and chocolate even more enticing?

Knowing that all of the proceeds of this fantastic festival benefit Tahoe Women’s Services, the only agency in the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee communities which provides services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and to children who have been abused or neglected. Services include a 24-hour Community Help Line, safe shelter, individual and group counseling, court and hospital accompaniment, assistance with temporary restraining and protective order, and emergency food and transportation. Tahoe Women’s Services also provides educational presentations to children, teens, and adults about domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. For more information on Tahoe Women’s Services, visit the Web site at http://www.tahoewomenservices.org or call (775) 298-0010.

For more information on any of the wineries please visit their Web sites at: http://www.m2wines.com, http://www.truckeeriverwinery.com, http://www.fawnridgewine.com, http://www.ehrhardtestateswinery.com, http://www.tinhousewinery.com.