Celebrity Wine FAQ – Brooke Burke-Charvet Wants to Know About CA Vintages

Brooke Burke-Charvet
Brooke Burke-Charvet

Dancing With the Stars is a major guilty pleasure here at The Old Homestead, and there’s little we love more than settling into our easy chairs with our glass of wine, our phones and some popcorn, and critiquing along with Len, Bruno and Carrie Ann. So we decided that with the show starting the semi-finals for this season on Monday (Nov. 18), it’s time for another Celebrity Wine FAQ.

We’ve got DWTS co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet today. She told us that she and her husband, David Charvet, are building a cellar.

“We’re very passionate about wine. My husband is French,” Burke-Charvet said. “He’s a wine snob, whereas I’m more open to California wines. He likes the big French Bordeaux.”

They do have a goodly collection currently.

“The problem is, we drink so much wine, we’re having a really hard time buying smart and saving and collecting,” she said. “You know, ideally, you can buy a $30 or $40 bottle now and in 10 years, you’re drinking a fabulous wine.”

Ah, yes. The joy of collecting and saving wine. Collecting is a fun thing to do if you’ve got the right storage conditions, which can vary for types of wines. Generally you want a container or room where you can keep the temperature consistently cool. That’s why people like basements or literally, cellars, to store their wine. And as Burke-Charvet noted, if you buy wine when it’s first released, and lay it down in your cellar (which may be a 40-bottle fridge or a whole basement) for 10 years or so, you can have a truly transcendent experience.

But then there’s also the issue of vintage – as Burke-Charvet noted, lots of folks are excited about the California cabernets from 1992 to 1997. Are they worth it? We have no idea. Wine Enthusiast magazine has a vintage chart here that can help you decide if your particular wines are ready to drink, but there are no guarantees.

Also, truth be told, when it comes to California wines, vintage is not quite the same issue it is in France, where the weather varies a lot more from year to year. In France, it’s not that unusual to have really good years and not so good years for wines. In California, there’s a lot of consistency from year to year, so you don’t get “great years” in the same way as France. That doesn’t mean we don’t get great wines. It’s just that with California wines, it’s more about how old they are than which year is better than another. So a good vintage chart can help you avoid breaking into that gorgeous super-expensive cab before it’s ready.

And here’s to another great competition this season.

Halter Ranch – Growing the Good Stuff

Courtesy Halter Ranch
Courtesy Halter Ranch

Every so often, it doesn’t hurt to remember that wine is, ultimately, an agricultural product and that you get grapes by farming them.  Fortunately, when Mitch Wyss came in to grow grapes for Halter Ranch Winery owner Hansjorg Wyss, he came in as a farmer.  However, one with not much experience growing wine grapes.

“It was a real trial by fire,” said Leslie Wyss, Mitch’s wife.  But Mitch is still there and it’s not because of a family connection.  He and Hansjorg are not related.  Leslie explained that Mitch is of Swiss ancestry and Hansjorg is Swiss.

“It’s not an uncommon name there,” Leslie explained.

She said that they are farming 250 acres, but their production is actually rather small, about 5,000 cases.  The wine, itself, is made by winemaker Bill Sheffer.  Leslie said that one of the reasons the grapes are so good is the soil, which is rich in limestone, not unlike some of France’s most renowned grape-growing regions in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.

Courtesy Halter Ranch
Courtesy Halter Ranch

“We’re growing Bordeaux varietals and Rhone varietals that are really nice,” Leslie said.  “But I think we’ll mostly be Rhone.”

The main Bordeaux varietals, of course, are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc, with syrah being the best known of the varieties of grapes grown in the Rhone Valley.

Halter Ranch is located on the west side of Paso Robles, on Adelaida Road.  You can find their website here.

Eden Canyon 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

edencanyoncabOf the flight of several wines that Elaine Villamin was pouring when we stumbled onto her at one of our local wine stores, Red Carpet Wines in Glendale, CA, this one was easily the best of the flight.  It’s made from 100 percent estate grown cabernet.  That is, Villamin made the wine from grapes her father grew on his property – and the care they took shows.
It has a deep ruby color, in fact, it’s almost black.  There is some grassiness in the nose – which a classic trait found in cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in the cooler regions of Bordeaux, France.  Best of all, the wine is extremely well balanced – no acid or fruit leaping out of the glass. Just the rich flavor of a classic red wine.  It’s good by itself or better with a hunk of red meat and/or something good and garlicky.  It’s a perfect wine to celebrate the good things in life, like some good cheese and bread.  Or the fact that it’s Friday night and you’re still alive and employed.

Eden Canyon – Small and Interesting


It was just a fluke that we happened upon Elaine Villamin, of Eden Canyon Vineyards, when we stopped in at Red Carpet Wine in Glendale, California.  We were trying to kill time before our dinner reservation and had no intention of doing any tasting.  But Villamin was not only there with a nice selection of her winery’s offerings, she spent some significant time with us, telling us her story.

In 1996, her father, Danny Villemin, suddenly decided to grow grapes on his 10 acres near San Luis Obispo.  He wasn’t even a wine drinker, but being the kind of guy he is, that didn’t stop him.  Neither did the August 2006 wildfire that burnt down the vineyard.  edencanyonfire

Well, you know how you can use the process of crushing grapes to make wine as a metaphor for coming out a better person after suffering a crushing blow?  Well, the Eden Canyon is another one.  Elaine told us that all that ash from the fire has actually made a better vineyard.  Indeed, even winemaker Kenneth Volk was buying their grapes.

“That’s how my dad got started,” Elaine said.

Eventually, both she and her dad studied viticulture at one of the U.C. Davis programs, and Elaine went on to enroll in the L’ecole de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France.

“It’s like a boot camp,” she said.

She’s now the wine maker, although her father still gets plenty of input.

You can get Eden Canyon wines through Red Carpet Wine (redcarpetwine.com) or through the Eden Canyon Website (edencanyon.com).  They’re also on FaceBook