Cheers to 25 years

IMG_6062I don’t know about you, but thinking of what was happening 25 years ago really strains my brain! The year was 1992 when the El Dorado Winery Association tried a relatively new concept of introducing wine consumers to our small, family wineries with a Passport event. You need to remember that most wineries only celebrated an Open House sometime during the year as their major marketing event.

So even to consider a new event back then was a fresh and invigorating idea, worthy of considerable recognition.

But 25 years is a long time. I think back to the first Passport and Mark Foster was our winemaker. Long-timers will remember that Mark took over the winemaking from my dad in 1985, and helped forge Madroña’s style (with Hugh Chappelle, winemaker from 1993-1999) into the wines I make today.

That first Passport weekend was an incredibly diverse event where each winery took its own take on what to do. There were vineyard tours, winemaking courses, and at Madroña we decided to go with the theme of “Food and Wine Pairing” as our wines were (and still are) food-oriented wines.

As it turned out, our decision to find an idea that highlighted our wines has developed into a continual goal of finding the unique and sometimes unorthodox food-wine marriages. In addition, this idea ultimately has become the most sustainable and interesting format as we see other wineries adopt it as well.

For 25 years, we endeavored to push peoples’ limits, and we’ve learned a few things in this history.

  1. Homemade Raviolis done in my mom’s kitchen (our first Passport experience paired with Zinfandel and Cab Franc) was an incredible choice. Not only did it set the standard for food/wine pairing and quality, but it was the only year that our family could have made enough raviolis to please the masses.
  2. Thai food and Thai-inspired dishes are exciting on the palate and provide amazing pairing experiences. For 5+ years, we worked with Sam and Piag from Thai Style Restaurant in Cameron Park (now Thai Basil) with different curries, larb, satays, and anything that teased the palate. Still one of the best pairings was Pnang Beef (red curry) with Cabernet Franc.
  3. Never serve eggplant! One year we made an amazing Caribbean Eggplant Stew with coconut milk. The flavor profile was spectacular and showcased our Riesling. But alas, many people won’t even try a dish if there is eggplant in it. Note to the future…call it Aubergine!
  4. Finding great cheese pairings isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes time, effort and a lot of tasting!
  5. Serving perfectly made rice to 600 people a day is very difficult. If you need a “carrier” for your dish, use pearl couscous. It tastes great and can be made very quickly as people are coming!
  6. Back when we were one of the only wineries in the state making Ports and Late Harvest Zinfandels, we worked with Bill and Shari Clawson and their amazing truffles. Tasting after tasting of completely different truffles was “hard work,” but someone had to do it. Still the best was our Late Harvest Zinfandel (which we no longer produce) paired with their raspberry truffle!
  7. Skyping from France during Passport (with a monitor so people could ask us about our trip) was an interesting experience. And even though Switzerland is very advanced, their internet service then was poor at best!
  8. And lastly, from Pork Adobo to a Beef and Beet Stew, Riesling pairs with anything! Truly, we’ve done over 100 different dishes for Passport these last 25 years, and it would be safe to say that Riesling would have been an excellent pairing with at least 75 of them!

I try to look at where we were then (1992) and where we are now. George H.W. Bush was president, gas was $1.05/gallon, Trans World Airlines declared bankruptcy, and “Wayne’s World” was released. As for Madroña, the Bush family (not the President) owned the winery, had 35 acres of vineyards, seven different varieties of grapes, and we purchased the Pleasant Valley Property (250 acres).

Now, the presidents have changed, gas is all over the board ($2.65 today), TWA can only be found in old movies, and Wayne’s World is a classic. As for Madroña, the Bush family still owns the winery, we still have the original 35 acres of vineyards (and nine varieties), we still own the Pleasant Valley Property (Sumu Kaw Vineyards—Dave and Sheila Bush, Enyé Vineyards—Paul and Maggie Bush), and we’re up to 85 acres of organically grown vineyards with 29 different varieties.

Times have changed some and the wine business is a bit different, but a couple of things have retained their consistency over the last 25 years…and that would be the Passport Weekends and Madroña Vineyards. We hope to see you up here!

Recipes from this year’s Passport pairings:


Recipe – Riesling – Kari Gai

2014 Riesling: Peach, pear and honeysuckle with vibrant acidity
Pairing: This Riesling soothes the hint of curry spice while melding into the richness of the sauce. Spectacular!

Olive Tapenade – paired with the 2014 Zinfandel, Hillside Collection – Zinfandel – Chopped Olive Spread

Sauteed Mushrooms in Malbec Reduction Sauce – paired with the 2013 Malbec, Signature Collection  – Malbec – Eggs in Malbec

Walnut Cake – Paired with the 2009 New-World Port – Port – Black Walnut Cake

Through the Years with Mary Dedrick’s and the fabulous pairings – Mary Dedrick Through the Years



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2 Responses to Cheers to 25 years

  1. Jorge Lehr says:

    I remember the first passport weekend vividly! It was a great event, and Terri and I continued to go for some years after, but then it started to get to crowded when it became so popular…. 😦 I also remember the days/afternoons I would spend with Mark, AND Hugh learning about wines/enology, and cruising the vineyards with them to get a sampling of the grape(s)… So many things have changed since then, and I am still happy to be a part of the Madrona family after almost 31 years…. Cheers to all the Bush family, and winemakers, over the last 31 years for many happy memories…
    Jorge L.


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