Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Here’s what’s up with Pinot Wine Bar

Pinot Wine Bar in the Tower District has been closed for a while now and some of you have been wondering what’s up. The picture at right is the sign that’s posted in the window.

Well, here’s what I know. A while back Juan Leija bought the business from Daniel Renteria, the wine lover who founded it, as Daniel wanted to spend a little more time enjoying his retirement. Leija has said from the beginning that he planned to shut down for a few weeks, do some work inside and reopen under a new name and concept. That’s happening a little sooner than expected, sped along by the transfer of the liquor license. 

“Pinot in and of itself as wine bar is no longer in existence,” Leija says.

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Wine tasting at Meux Home with Grocery Outlet

Here’s an unusual place to host a wine tasting: The Meux Home Museum. The lawn of that gorgeous 1888 Victorian home downtown will be the site of Grocery Outlet’s first of many monthly wine tastings beginning Friday. The event, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., is a fundraiser for the museum and costs $10. No reservations or tickets needed, just make sure you bring your ID no matter how old you are because you won’t get in without it. Grocery Outlet is donating all the wine. 

The event was inspired by Chris Caillier, the local owner/operator of the new Grocery Outlet across the intersection at Tulare and R streets. “I looked at that mansion and said, ‘We need to have a wine tasting there,’” he said. The store is partnering with the West Shaw Grocery Outlet for this event and all the area Grocery Outlet stores will be involved in future monthly wine tastings. They will eventually include food, live music and beer tasting. 

It’s also a way for Grocery Outlet to bring some attention to its wine and beer department. Like many of its products, the stores gets overruns of wine when wineries have too much or change a label, for example. Caillier says the department is a good for way for wine drinkers who want to experiment but not spend a lot of money. Most bottles cost between $4.99 and $6.99 with the occasional $1.99 bottle.

Most of the beer for sale at Grocery Outlet isn’t overstock, but comes directly from the sellers. The stores sell some interesting craft beers, including Tioga-Sequioa beer and Firestone (and I hear Riley’s is often sold at local Grocery Outlets too).

Two-Buck Chuck needs a new nickname


Trader Joe’s is upping the price of its famous “Two-Buck Chuck.” After 11 years of selling the Charles Shaw shiraz or cabernet sauvignon for $1.99, the retailer has upped the price to $2.49 in California as of Jan. 16.

It needs a new nickname.

Some suggestions I’ve heard: Inflation Chuck and Upchuck (though I can’t be the only one who is grossed out by the thought of vomit anywhere near my wine).

Some suggestions from the Twitterverse:

SoapinTrucker: Last Straw Shaw, Save a buck Chuck, Lucky Chuck(y).
jboren4507: Cheap wine for $2.49.
HarmsWayChad: The wine formerly known as 2 buck chuck.

Any more ideas?

Fres-Know: We’ll race you to Chris Meat Market

WATCH THIS: Relay race + Robertito’s = RoboRun [Dead in 60 Years]

BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE: Glee/Clovis kid Chris Colfer turns 21 on Friday [YouTube]

YAY FRESNO: Fresno rapper Fashawn on hip-hop megafest Rock the Bells [RTB]

READ THIS: Guide to budget and family friendly summer fun [The Thinking Blonde]

LOOK AT THIS: Local radio station picks “Hottest Baby’s Mommas” in town [The Beat]

GOOD QUESTION: Can Fresno/Madera be the next booming wine area? [CBS 47]

REVIEW: Fresno Bites takes a bite out of Regina’s Native Cafe [Fresno Bites]

BLOGGINGS: Are the times changin’ in Fresno? [What Fresno Wants]

LISTEN: To free music from local indie supergroup Grand Canopy [The Fresnan]

BLOGGINGS: KickStarter can make your dreams come true. Sorta [Fresno Famous]

DRINK THIS: Unveiling the Strawberry Pie Daiquiri [Fashionably Bombed]

BLOGGINGS A critical look at service in Fresno restaurants [TasteFresno]

Speaking of wine…

The Valley’s upcoming beer-and-wine events are bound to have some award winners. Add these to the list; they’re the medalists of last week’s San Joaquin Valley Wine Competition.

Organized by the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association, the 6th annual competition highlights wines produced in California’s warm-weather regions. Here are the winners:

Best of Show:
Peirano Estate, The Heritage Collection, Petite Sirah, Lodi, Estate Grown, 2008

Gold Award Winners:
Cardella Winery, Fattoria Cardella, Ruby Cabernet, Fresno County, Fundus Vineyard, 2008
Pierano Estate, The Heritage Collection, Petite Sirah, Lodi, Estate Grown, 2008

Silver Award Winners:
Cardella Winery, Fattoria Cardella, Barbera, Fresno County, Fundus Vineyard, 2008
Cardella Winery, Fattoria Cardella, Sangiovese, Fresno County, Fundus Vineyard, 2008
Gnekow Family Winery, YN, California Red Wine
Idle Hour Winery, Tempranillo, Clarksburg, Heringer Vineyard, 2007
Peirano Estate, The Heritage Collection, Tempranillo, Lodi, Estate Grown, 2007
Peirano Estate, The Heritage Collection, Viognier, Lodi, Estate Grown, 2008
Peirano Estate, The Other – White Blend, Lodi, 2007
Peltier Station Winery, Hybrid, Pinot Noir, Lodi, 2008
Silkwood Wines, Chardonnay, California, 2008
Wend-Tyler Winery, Chardonnay, Stanislaus County, 2008

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Don’t just drink wine. Help make it.


Here’s one of the great things about living in the Valley: During harvest season, you can help a winery pick wine grapes, and watch it crush them.

Sure, you can do this in other wine growing areas, but why drive so far? Here are a couple of local wineries that welcome volunteers — and feed you after the harvest.

  • Birdstone Winery, 7:30 a.m. through early afternoon, Sunday. Picking starts at 7:30 a.m. Lunch and wine are served at 11:30 a.m. Folks who want to watch winemaker Tony Kirk crush the grapes can stick around, says Birdstone co-owner Kim Kirk says. If you want to join them, call (559) 970-2060.
  • Cedar View Winery, 8 a.m. through early afternoon, Sept. 25. The event begins at 8 a.m. with grape picking and crushing. A barbecue lunch with wine follows. Feel free to bring a change of clothes, the owners say. After your time in the field, you may want to freshen up before lunch. To attend: Call (559) 787-9412.

[photo: Cedar View Winery's vineyards, 2004. Credit: Eric Paul Zamora, The Fresno Bee.]

A month of wine deals


Drink up, wine lovers. But take a designated driver with you to Cracked Pepper Bistro, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary by slashing 40% off wine bottles — for the entire month of June.

Chef/owner Vatche Moukhtarian says he bought a lot of wine and needs to share it quickly. “A lot of wineries are offering great deals just for people to try their wines,” he says. “We can pass these deals on to our customers.”

Up to 20 bottles will be on sale every day, Moukhtarian says. Some of his current favorites are Jack Creek Cellars 2008 Chardonnay ($54), Jack Creek Cellars 2007 York Mountain estate pinot noir ($68), and Ramos Torres 2007 Lucas Vineyard Zinfandel ($42). (These are original prices, without the discount.)

If you’d rather donate the savings from the wine to charity, Cracked Pepper also offers that option. Here’s how it works: Pay full price for your bottle, and 40% will go to Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Poverello House.

Drink wine. Lots of it.

Here are a couple of deals and events from the local wine scene:

  • My column today describes the potential closure of Water 2 Wine in Clovis. If the owners can’t find someone to buy the custom winery, it will close at the end of the month. All wine is 20% off.
  • And here’s an early heads-up for Fresno State’s annual Vino Italiano! wine tasting, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m next Thursday.

    You can taste and buy Fresno State Winery’s 2008 Muscat Canelli, 2006 Zinfandel, 2008 Pinot Gris, 2006 and 2008 Sangiovese and 2008 Barbera. Eats are appetizers from Sam’s Italian Deli & Market, tastings of Fresno State’s olive oil, and servings of Fresno State’s ice cream.

    The cost is $15, or $10 for Fresno State students, staff, faculty and alumni with Fresno State ID. Admission includes seven tasting tickets; more are available. For Fresno State Wine Club members, admission is $5, which includes a tour of the winery at 5 p.m. Everyone will be carded, so bring ID.

    The event will take place here. Need more info? Go here.

To do tonight: Drink wine


A few weeks ago, I told you about Old Doc’s class in pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s a reminder that the tasting takes place 7 p.m. tonight at the Cedar and Nees store. Call (559) 224-3627 to reserve a spot.

Also, there is a tasting of Fresno State Winery’s 2009 Nouveau wines from 5:30 to 8 p.m. tonight. The tasting includes the wines, hors d’oeuvres and a cooking demonstration by Fredrick Clabaugh, executive chef of the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.

These Nouveau wines are created in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau, the extremely young French wines released every year on the third Thursday of November. Drink them soon, for these wines are closer to juice than the complex, layered flavors of older wines.

The tasting costs $15. (Fresno State students and alumni pay $10. Fresno State Wine Club members pay $5.) It will take place in Fresno State’s Enology Building, 2360 E. Barstow Ave. Guests must be at least 21 years old.

Parking permits are available at any parking dispenser on campus. Enter coupon code 16080002. For more information, call (559) 278-4867 or go here.

What to eat this weekend and beyond

In today’s column, I’ve already told you about the Fall Wine Cornucopia, Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church’s annual food bazaar, and a menudo cook-off at the Kings County Fairgrounds this weekend.

Here are three other food events you may want to check out:

Trelio restaurant in Old Town Clovis — Saturday


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The Beehive Asks: Where are you drinking wine?

My story today points out the variety of wine events during the fall season — from grape stomping at Chappell Winery & Vineyard in Mariposa to movie nights at La Belle Winery in Terra Bella.

With so many events this fall, I couldn’t list them all in the story. So, I want to know: Where are you drinking wine? Drop your answers in the comments below.

Or, if you’re hosting a wine event, add your details in the comments.

If you need more ideas, check out the map of Valley wineries that ran with the story.

And here are links to wine trails, as well as wineries that aren’t part of a wine trail:

Wine Trails
Fresno County Wine Journey
Blossom Trail Wineries
Madera Wine Trail

Individual Wineries
Butterfly Creek Winery, Mariposa
Chappell Winery & Vineyard, Mariposa
Mount Bullion Vineyards, Mariposa
Silver Fox Vineyards, Mariposa
Water 2 Wine, Clovis
La Belle Winery, Terra Bella
Bella La Vina Farms, Terra Bella
Caravantes Vineyards, Terra Bella
Cacciatore Fine Wines & Olive Oil Corp., Pixley

Art chosen for Wine Cornucopia poster

Saturday night at the Fall Wine Cornucopia Art Competition at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum the poster art was chosen for the Oct. 25 Fall Wine Cornucopia, the annual wine festival at Chukchansi Park.

Eighteen pieces of art were entered into Saturday’s competition, where local artists were asked to create works around two themes: the cornucopia and “A Sip of the San Joaquin.”

The winning artist was Andrea Cooper, the Bee’s former art director. A big Beehive shout out to Andi for her beautiful watercolor.


It will be interesting to see how the wine association turns the art into a poster to market the event.

Make $10,000 a Month


By now, lots of wine lovers know that Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg is offering a dream job as a wine country lifestyle correspondent.

The six-month job goes something like this: Drink lots of wine, then Twitter about it. Drink more wine, then blog about it. Drink yet more wine, and post videos of yourself, glass in hand, on YouTube.

Oh, yeah, you’ll have other duties, such as checking out picnic spots throughout Sonoma County and chatting up visitors in Murphy-Goode’s tasting room.

Did I mention that you get paid $10,000 a month for this lifestyle? And housing is included?

There’s lots of competition for the job, but so far, I’m not that impressed. Check out the applicants’ videos and ask yourself: Do any of these pitchmen (and women) compel you to buy wine?

If you know you could do a better job, submit your applications and videos by June 5.

In the end, it may be the search itself that gets the most splash for Murphy-Goode. It’s a great publicity stunt — especially in a tight economy.