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Each year, we send over 50 team members to California for seven days to enjoy an intensive and immersive experience in California visiting the premier wineries in the industry.

My name is Cyrus Hazzard. I’ll be your guide over the next few days as we visit over 25 wineries and taste more than 400 wines (and a few beers too!).

Bob Williamson, owner of Ideology with our team

Bob Williamson, owner of Ideology (center)

Our first day in California introduced a new experience for us; on previous trips we had never taken a day in San Francisco, plus we included a brewery tour — an exciting addition!  Everyone landed around noon and headed to the hotel to get settled in. First up on our agenda, a few producers we couldn’t get to visit in-person were gracious enough to come to us for a tasting in our hotel. Testarossa, Dono dal Cielo and Ideology Cellars were on hand to share their wines and knowledge with the team. The wines didn’t disappoint, and neither did the owners, all of whom were on hand to personally share their stories and knowledge.

Testarossa Winery was pouring two of their chardonnays and two pinot noirs, one of each are exclusives at Total Wine & More. The Cuvée 107 chardonnay is an excellent value along with the Cuvée 107 pinot noir. The wine for me that stole the show was their chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands, it displayed the perfect balance of fruit flavor and oak, this is one to definitely check out.

Ideology Cellars was pouring their two chardonnays and several big reds, all of which never disappoint. Owner Bob Williamson has done an excellent job with this year’s lineup across the board. I’d be remiss in not mentioning Dono dal Cielo’s rich and delicious zinfandel. It’s amazing!

Anchor Steam beerAfter enjoying this first tasting, we embarked on a tour of San Francisco by bus and then to the big event of the day, a tour and tasting at Anchor Brewing and Distillery!  We were allowed to start our tasting with any beer in the lineup we wanted, paired with sausage fresh off the barbeque. We then split up into two groups, one starting with the brewery and the other at the distillery.

Our team, having a blast in the Anchor spirits aging room

Having a blast in the Anchor spirits aging room!

Something I didn’t know about Anchor was that they make some amazing spirits. They will be releasing Hophead vodka soon, it’s super smooth – and if you love IPA’s, this spirit is for you! Anchor’s staff is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the products they make. A little known fact about Anchor Distilling is that they have partnered with the venerable Berry Bros. & Rudd in the UK (they bottle some of my favorite spirits) to bring their incredible rums, Cognacs and whiskies to the U.S. market. For an amazing sipping rum, you should check out the Berry Bros. & Rudd Guadalupe 12 year.

Anchor Steam and teamThe historic Anchor Steam brewery is amazing. They created one of the original steam beers and they were the only remaining steam brewery after Prohibition. Our team got to observe the whole brewing process from start to finish with the experts that do it every day.  One of the day’s highlights was learning about hops, the brewers at Anchor Steam use only whole-dried – which is unusual these days.

To learn more about our friends at Anchor Steam Brewery, check out some of the videos we have on YouTube, they tell a bit of their story. A huge thank you to the team at Anchor!

Off to bed, gotta get on west coast time …
Until tomorrow,