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The soul of Indian Soil Carefully Crafted into our Boutique wines
PennLive.com Paul Vigna | pvigna@pennlive.com The open house is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.

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Cassel Vineyards' expansion has doubled the size of the main building, allowing more space for production and storage.

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Cassel Vineyards of Hershey  will show off a couple of additions this weekend during an all-day open house.

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When I first got into Santa Barbara wines about 15 years ago, a chance visit to Koehler Winery led me to sign up for its wine club, no doubt to get some deal on what I was buying that day. I can’t remember if that was first of what would eventually be many club memberships, but I do know that it was the first one I quit. Even as a fledgling connoisseur, I could tell the wines weren’t great; nor was there much of a backstory to share while drinking them. The brand just didn’t buzz.

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He had “no desire to leave Bruno and Kris,” but couldn’t help responding to a blind job posting out of curiosity. Peter Koehler really liked the honesty of his cover letter, in which Murphy explained that his “prime directive is to make the best wine possible. We can get wrapped up in dogma and principles, but the goal should be to make world-class wine,” he explained. Four hours later, he had a new job.   Murphy hit it off with Vineyard Manager Felipe Hernandez, who helped plant the property’s earliest grapes in 1972, when it was owned by Love Boat producer Doug Cramer. Koehler, originally from Germany and wealthy from selling automobile parts, took over the property and its beautiful contemporary Mediterranean mansion, complete with stark white pool statuary, in 1996.

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You could say that Oregon is a pinot noir bridge. The state's most celebrated and successful wine style could generally be classified as somewhere between the heady, earthy pinot noirs of Burgundy — the grape's ancestral home in France — and the fruity, jammy pinots of California.

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Oregon itself, as a winemaking place, is suspended out there, too, proudly distanced from the more-established locales, independent and self-assured. That identity was not forged overnight. As with many places in the United States, grape-growing and winemaking in Oregon reach to the 19th century. But every state or specific region with a critical mass of wine production has a modern, readjusted date that indicates when things began to get serious, and commercial, and ... better.

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For Oregon it was the 1960s, when a Californian planted riesling, pinot noir and other varieties in the Umpqua Valley, and then a few years later another Californian planted pinot noir in the Willamette Valley, which would become the state's largest and most-important region. That second pioneer was the late David Lett, known to this day as the man who kicked off Oregon's run with pinot noir, earning him the nickname "Papa Pinot." He had guessed that the long, cool growing season of Oregon would be well suited to pinot noir, and now, 50 years on, it's clear that his hunch was on the money.

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You could say that Oregon is a pinot noir bridge. The state's most celebrated and successful wine style could generally be classified as somewhere between the heady, earthy pinot noirs of Burgundy — the grape's ancestral home in France — and the fruity, jammy pinots of California.

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Oregon itself, as a winemaking place, is suspended out there, too, proudly distanced from the more-established locales, independent and self-assured. That identity was not forged overnight. As with many places in the United States, grape-growing and winemaking in Oregon reach to the 19th century. But every state or specific region with a critical mass of wine production has a modern, readjusted date that indicates when things began to get serious, and commercial, and ... better.

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For Oregon it was the 1960s, when a Californian planted riesling, pinot noir and other varieties in the Umpqua Valley, and then a few years later another Californian planted pinot noir in the Willamette Valley, which would become the state's largest and most-important region. That second pioneer was the late David Lett, known to this day as the man who kicked off Oregon's run with pinot noir, earning him the nickname "Papa Pinot." He had guessed that the long, cool growing season of Oregon would be well suited to pinot noir, and now, 50 years on, it's clear that his hunch was on the money.

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Famous wineries, as well as those that call to be uncovered and discovered by lucky tasters, will be pouring their wines at the Calistoga AVA’s inaugural Calistoga Wine Experience on Sept. 10 in Pioneer Park featuring Tuscany-style food and gypsy-jazz live music.

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Most of the wineries pouring at the event are not open to the public, making this event a unique opportunity to taste boutique wines that might be found only at a restaurant or retailer. Many vintners and winemakers will be personally pouring their wines, sharing stories of their wines and how their wineries came to be.

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Winery owners such as Jim Knighton, a biotechnology executive who set out only to find a tiny Napa Valley home with no maintenance or vineyards for weekend getaways from San Francisco, will be there to tell you how he wound up owning a property with no home and acres of vines and then starting his own winery, Knighton Family Vineyards .

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