Crushing on the Dreaming Tree

Is there anything smoother than Dave Matthews on a warm summer evening? How about wine from Dave Matthews on a warm summer evening? Yep, the musical master is lending his golden touch to wine with the creation of Dreaming Tree Wines.

I found The Dreaming Tree Crush (North Coast red blend, 2009) on sale at Safeway for about $9, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Winemaker Steve Reeder paired up with Matthews to make wine as accessible as music, something everyone can enjoy on any night of the week. As Reeder describes it: “I make wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.” (Dreaming Tree website)

Indeed, the Crush blend is about as drinkable as you’ll ever find – it’s like crushed velvet, as smooth as the real thing without the restrictive weight. Hell, I tasted it with a veggie stir-fry tonight, and I think I’ll pair it with hamburgers tomorrow.

The tannins are present without being oppressive. There are hints of coffee and tobacco (love!) but you won’t feel the need to rinse with water after a swig. Crush is a wine you’d want to take on a picnic and savor while lying in the grass under a big willow tree, listening to the rustle of leaves in the breeze and the trickle of a stream nearby. You might watch the clouds pass overhead while you unwittingly hum “Satellite.”

Your memories of that day will be of the breeze and the clouds and the absence of time, and you’ll remember that delicious red wine that paired as perfectly with your deli sandwich as it did with your chocolate-chip cookies. So you’ll pick up another bottle for the Friday night dinner with friends, and probably another bottle to sip with your partner by the fire pit on your patio.

The wine will become a welcome guest in your home, but never the centerpiece. It’s not meant to steal the show, but its presence would be missed should you forget to invite it.

And The Dreaming Tree has a certain personality trait that ensures it a permanent place in my wine rack: sustainability. This line of three wines – Crush (red blend), Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon – is produced with sustainable practices, from the lightweight glass to the recycled paper for its labels and its sustainable natural corks. And the winery even partnered with The Wilderness Society, working to conserve public lands.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab your most broken-in Levis, round up some friends to meet you at the beach, and bring  a bottle of Crush to complement your spread of artisan cheeses. And enjoy the night.

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Atlantis Casino’s hidden gem: Sommelier Christian

I spend quite a bit of time in Reno, and one of my favorite restaurants there has also become my favorite post-work wine stop. Bistro Napa at the Atlantis casino is phenomenal! The food is delicious and fresh and interesting. But better than that is the wine! Or maybe I should be more specific: the staff’s knowledge of the wine, the variety on the wine list, the atmosphere that’s comfortable for lounging or holding a business meeting, and the love for wine that is immediately apparent. And the very best thing about the wine? Sommelier Christian Okuinghttons.

Christian Okuinghttons

I want to make Christian my wine guru. I could listen to him talk all day about varietals and regions and winemaking styles. He’s the reason I tried malbec – and thank you, Christian, for that great tip! He will gladly pair a wine with your meal or suggest something new to sample. Christian is undoubtedly one of the hotel’s secret weapons, but I found out last night that he’s not the only one the hotel should be proud of.

Last night I met a friend at Bistro Napa for a pre-dinner glass of vino, and I was disappointed to not see Christian mingling among the diners. Hmmm, guess he had the night off. I didn’t give much thought to the bartender as I perused the wine list. I spotted a red blend I’ve never heard of before, but from a winery I know I like. I ordered the Turnbull “Old Bull” blend and remarked that I’d like to know why it was listed in a special section of “Wines for a 21st Century Palate.” What does that even mean?

That bartender, Stephen, immediately launched into a comparison of Old World and New World wines, and what a “21st Century Palate” means to Sommelier Christian and the restaurant. Stephen quickly proved that he was no ordinary bartender, and  it sunk in again why I love that restaurant so much. They hire sommelier students like Stephen and put them on the front lines of customer service. He was a wealth of knowledge and took the time to chat about our selections and the wine list in general. Tip: Take the time to ask questions about your wine, you’ll enjoy it so much more!

The Old Bull was fantastic, by the way. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, sangiovese, syrah, petite sirah, and merlot. It was so smooth with bold, ripe fruit and not a hint of heaviness. I didn’t take note of the year, but the grapes varied just a bit from the 2009 Old Bull that I found online.

The night became a complete success when my friend and I entered the Atlantis Steakhouse and were greeted by Christian! He was working in the steakhouse that night rather than Bistro Napa. All is well that ends well, and the night always ends well when Christian is selecting your wine. Cheers!

Cafe Diablo, the delicious flaming coffee drink at the Atlantis Steakhouse

Turnbull "Old Bull" red blend at Bistro Napa