9th Annual West Institute Wine Reception and Dinner

On Thursday, July 16, 2015 Mike and Mav once again hosted the Institute team, its volunteers, a favorite faculty member with a wine connection of his own and a few special guests at The Hilltop Winery for another great evening of fun and fellowship after a great week at Loyola Marymount University.

Our friend Edgardo, a specialist when it comes to making pizzas, was making everyone smile with his creations and we added a new twist this year and brought Casa Nostra into the fold.

Brian Baker from Chateau Montelena Winery and Institute faculty member brought a selection of aged Chardonnay’s to The Hilltop Winery and gave us a special presentation/education on the finer points of Chardonnay and how to rate them based on growing seasons and profiles of other white wines from around the world.

The Hilltop Winery’s sommelier, Mike Wojo, matched those bottles of Chardonnay with white Burgundy's and one Sonoma Coast selection from his cellar.  Let the comparisons begin!

Conducted Tasting

  • 2006 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley
  • 2006 Les Corbins Meursault

  • 2010 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley
  • 2010 Julien ColloVray, Saint-Veran

  • 2011 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Aubert Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

In addition to the initial conducted tasting above, we had the opportunity to also try the following list of wines throughout the evening.


  • 2011 Conte della Vipera (two bottles)
  • 2013 Brander Sauvignon Gris, Santa Ynez Valley


  • 1989 Chateau Lynch Bages
  • 1991 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 1991 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley
  • 1991 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 1993 Pommard Burgundy
  • 2005 Alto Moncayo Garnacha
  • 2008 Altos De La Hoya
  • 2008 Frazier Memento Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2008 Lewelling Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2008 Ramey Claret, Napa Valley
  • 2008 Saggi, Columbia Valley
  • 2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Cerasuolo di Vittoria (two bottles)

The California sun is getting ready to set, pictures need to be taken and the wine is flowing, what else does one need?

We live a charmed life and I appreciate the largess of Mike and Mav as they open their home and wine cellar for the Institute team to enjoy!

For pictures of the evening go HERE.

My Week on The Hilltop

It’s July 10, 2015 and I just arrived to enjoy a week at The Hilltop Winery with Sommelier Mike and Chef de Cuisine Mav.

They are the best hosts on the West Coast for wine/food lovers.

And if you like/love wine, there’s no better place to go than The Hilltop Winery.

The following wines were consumed over the course of the past week and were thoroughly enjoyed, not just by me, but by guests and family alike.


  • 2011 Aubert Chardonnay (two bottles)
  • 2011 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Conte della Vipera
  • 2012 Groundwork Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
  • 2013 Cotes du Coast Rhone Blend, Central Coast, Santa Maria
  • 2013 Liquid Farm Chardonnay, Four, Santa Rita Hills
  • 2013 Liquid Farm Chardonnay, La Hermana, Santa Maria
  • 2013 Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa County


  • 1992 Hedges Red Mountain Reserve, Columbia Valley
  • 1995 Pietre Rosse, Dalla Valle Vineyards
  • 2000 Downing Family Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2003 Aventure Estate Cuvee, Paso Robles
  • 2007 Kelley Creek Merlot, Alexander Valley
  • 2007 Renegade Wine Company, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
  • 2009 Ramey Claret, Napa Valley
  • 2010 Salus Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Cerasuolo of Vittori Classico
  • 2011 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Foley Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills


  • Pedro Ximenez Robles

By the way, don’t forget to visit the 9th Annual West Institute Wine Reception and Dinner party HERE for the incredible evening we had on Thursday, July 16th, with Institute staff, volunteers, staff and special guests who enjoyed an incredible evening of wine, food and fellowship.

A couple pictures of the empty bottles can be found HERE.

The Canadian Invasion: Round 3

On Saturday, February 7, 2015 The Hilltop Winery hosted 23 wine enthusiasts from Canada and the United States.

The Hilltop Winery always enjoys hosting this annual event before the Grammy's not just for the great wine and food but also for the fellowship of our WPO friends from Canada.

We kicked off the evening with a quick taste of the Collard-Picard Champagne with Hibiscus liquor, a Chardonnay from Hunnicutt Wines or the Cabernet Sauvignon in Magnum also from Hunnicutt Wines.  Then we made our way to the cellar for a special tasting of Italian wines.

After our initial toast, Sommelier Mike Wojo pulled a special selection of Italian wines from 1982 to 2001 for comparison and slipped in two younger American Italian wines just to shake it up.

After the official Italian wine tasting, we moved on to a select group of reds that were just out of this world (see list below).  This is also where we went back to taste a late entrant, a 2012 Morlet Chardonnay Magnum brought to the party by our local YPO friend Brad.

Monrose Catering Company out of Malibu, CA, once again provided the food.  Thank you Richard and your staff for a wonderful evening of treats.  And let’s not forget our pizza chef de cuisine Edgardo.  His pizzas are the best!

Enough about the food, let’s get on to the wines.


  • Collard-Picard, Cuvee Dom. Picard Grand Cru (2 Magnums)


  • 2012 Hunnicutt Chardonnay (2 bottles)
  • 2012 Morlet Chardonnay (Magnum)

Italian Conducted Tasting

Wines from Italy
  • 1982 Marchesi di Barolo
  • 1988 Marchesi di Barolo
  • 2000 Pieve Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montachino
  • 2000 Trunotto Barbaresco
  • 2000 Gaja- Larghe Costa Russi
  • 2000 Sassicaia, Tenuta San Guido
  • 2000 Brunello di Montalcino, Castel Giocondo
  • 2001 Siro Pacenti Brunnello di Montacino
  • 2001 Fratelli Revello Barolo
  • 2001 Paolo Scavino Barolo
  • 2001 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino

Wines from America
  • 2007 Col Solare, Columbia Valley
  • 2011 Saggi, Columbia Valley


  • 1998 Domaine du Saillou Chateauneuf du Pape
  • 2007 Hunnicutt Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (Magnum)
  • 2007 Kolbalt Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
  • 2008 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
  • 2010 Justice Fantesca Red Wine, Napa Valley


  • 1977 Fonseca's Vintage Port

So as the say, all good things must come to an end and as we bid farewell to our Canadian and local YPO/WPO friends, we look forward to seeing you again.

In the meantime, feel free to go HERE for pictures to remember our evening together.