Posts Tagged ‘Carneros’

Celebrate Spring this Weekend at 'April in Carneros'! And (of course) a ticket contest! (2 pairs)

Its a glorious time in Wine Country this time of year (well heck all year) but the warm weather has brought on bud break – that glorious time when grapevines awaken and begin their annual journey of growing wine.I can hardly get wine reviews or other stories written with so much going on!

The last few weekends have been here in North Sonoma Wine Road country, time to venture out a bit to an event and a region I always enjoy – Carneros. Carneros is one of Sonoma’s county’s 12 AVAs and unique in that is is both in Napa and Sonoma.

What is April in Carneros?

Twice a year the Carneros wineries hold a gala where they open their doors, bottles and hearts for 2 days of fun wine, food, entertainment and smiles. Wineries range from the Spanish sparkling house Gloria Ferrer, to the dynamic Ceja Family, Rhone pioneers like Cline, to small grower winemakers like Parmalee Hill. (You had me at Grenache Blanc – yes thats a white wine.)

Twenty wineries will be participating including:

Adastra, Anaba Wines, Bonneau Wines, Ceja Vineyards, Cline Cellars, Enkidu Wine, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Homewood Winery, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Keating Wines, Larson Family Winery, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Meadowcroft Wines, Michael Mondavi Family Winery, Parmelee Hill Wines, Richardson Vineyards, Robledo Family Winery , Schug Carneros Estate, Talisman Wines, Tin Barn Vineyards, Ty Caton Vineyards.

Plan Your Weekend!

If you love wine and food, for $35 for one day ($40 at the door) this is the entertainment value of the season, for two its a steal. Even if you can make it both days, you’ll need to plan your day and route. They make it easy with a 4 page Event guide (click here) and a participant map (click here.) Pick a theme – maybe its a food one. (Yucatan catering at Anaba, and Ceja amazing Mexican pairings.) Or make it a Pinot focused morning and a Rhone (Cline, Anaba, Parmalee Hill) afternoon. Hunt out new Zin releases. You’ll find your weekend more enjoying and with a sense of accomplishment. And go for quality stops and experiences instead of a race to see how many you can visit, and chug in one day!

The guide is well done and detailed, do take the time to read it, print out the map, and sketch out your route. Save $5 and buy your tickets online here.

Win Tickets! Two Pairs Being Given Away, Enter Both Ways.

Read carefully – TWO ways to win and yes you can enter both ways!

(1) Post in comments:caner

Have you visited Carneros before? Tell us your favorite participating winery and why.


If you have never visited any, which would be your top choice to visit, and wine(s) to try.

(2) Become an email subscriber (existing ones win too!)

Subscribe to Simple Hedonisms email updates so you never miss an article. Email is secure and never spammed. Important: You MUST complete the registration process to be eligible, which requires you click on a verification link sent to your email. This is usually almost immediate, so if prednisone medicine you don’t see it, check your spam.

Winners will be drawn this Thursday night–  get on it! And don’t forget to take advantage of specials to stock up, buy local, and support your local small artisans! The weather looks to be great load up the cooler to keep your purchases safe and throw a few bottles of water in as well!

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog!

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Holiday in Carneros: Festive Food, Pumpkins, Salsa Music and yes – Wine!

The annual Holiday in Carneros is in full swing this weekend. Simple Hedonisms visited a few of the participating wineries yesterday and we share our experiences here. Tickets are still available at the 22 open wineries today from 10am-4pm. They are an excellent value at $40 for a full day of food, wine, and gorgeous fall vistas over the San Pablo baylands spanning southern Sonoma and Napa county.  The list of winery activities can be found here, and a map of participating wineries is here. We’ll also be posting additional coverage after today’s tastings.

Ceja Vineyards

Pulling up at Ceja Vineyards in Carneros, I heard music and laughter. Inside it was warm and I was welcomed, as always, by family members. The crisp, minerally Ceja Sauvignon Blanc was paired with homemade corn chowder, served steaming with queso fresca and a twist of lime. The hot spice in the chowder was tamed nicely by the SauvBlanc.  Ceja Carneros Pinot Noir is paired with noshes of dark chocolate truffle cake from Truffle Gateau of Sacramento. Worth pursuing!

All the wineries are running special offers for Holiday in Carneros guests, and Ceja’s are exceptional values, for example $50 off the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This brings the Sauvignon Blanc to $11/bottle – a great value for this well-made wine.  I didn’t stay late enough, but Orchestra Borinquen was slated to play in the afternoon. This is a great spot to come inside and warm up to artisan wines, homemade soup, chocolate and salsa music!

Ceja also produces Chardonnay, Carneros Merlot and a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a Rosé and blends. They have a central downtown Napa tasting room open 7 days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).

Adastra Vineyards

Adastra's Historic Barn Tasting Room

Adastra is a 20-acre family vineyard open only twice a year to the public. The tasting room is housed in a quaint historic barn, with old photos on the walls, along with large signs detailing special Holiday in Carneros pricing for wine, wine club, and private tours.  All grapes are estate grown and CCOF certified organic. The name “Adastra,” comes from a phrase beloved of the owner’s father: Per aspera, ad astra … through striving to the stars.

Adastra makes both an oaked and an unoaked Chardonnay. The labels state this rather simply, as shown in the photos.  My palate gravitated to the crisp unoaked Chardonnay, with a breezy, salty baylands tang coming through in the fruit. Paired with a Boucheron goat cheese, it was divine. Another memorable wine I tasted was the 2007 “Proximus” Pinot Noir. Proximus is Adastra’s reserve designation. Select small lots of wine are classified Proximus, Latin for “closer”… to the stars. Pinots are paired with a fabulous Drunken Goat cheese from a village in Spain. The cheese is dunked in wine then aged 2-3 months, giving it a grapey aftertaste that brings out new layers of flavor in the wine. Besides Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winery also produces Merlot and a Red blend.

Departing Adastra, I noticed a group gathered around a pile of pumpkins. A sign said “Take home a pumpkin (or two),” so we did!  It was fun to come home with wine and festive pumpkins for display or holiday cooking.

Although Adastra is not open to the public, they offer a private tour and tasting by appointment. For $20/person, guests tour the historic ranch with the winemaker, and sample 7-9 wines paired with artisan cheeses. Fees are waived with wine purchases. Contact the winery for details and to make an appointment. I’m planning to!

Larson Family Winery

It took Holiday in Carneros to get me to visit Larson, and finally I’m relieved of the guilt I’ve felt at driving by on the highway dozens of times without going in.  Larson is a stand-out with their rustic barn barrel room, great food and wine pairings, and live acoustic music and vocals.  The fun starts when you step in the door and spin the “big wheel.” I won a 40% discount on case purchases for the day!

Live in the Barrel Room at Larson Family Winery

Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and a crisp Gewurztraminer – all Carneros grown – were paired with juicy local oysters BBQ’d and served with a choice of hot sauce with lime and salt, or garlic butter (should have been called buttered garlic).  The estate-grown and produced 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir is a rich garnet with vanilla nose, and bright red fruit in the mouth.  Full-flavored yet only 13.5% alcohol makes this a very versatile Pinot at $29.99 retail.

The piece-de-résistance was a rich cheesecake smothered in Larson’s own “Three Lab Cab Chocolate Cabernet sauce.” Of course, the pairing was with Cabernet Sauvignon – I had the 2005 Sonoma Valley which was full-bodied and flavored with only 13.5% alcohol (really). This Cab in a 1.5 liter bottle is currently on sale at $55. Great wine-making, value and hospitality at Larson!

Larson makes numerous other wines, check the website for information. They are  open for tasting daily 10-5, and they are a family- and pet–friendly winery. In fact, two of the 3 labs were fetching a ball out back when I arrived.

Schug Carneros Estate

I’m really glad I had a chance to return to Schug this year. I found their new vintages really exciting and had a chance to taste some of their Reserve wines too.

The 2008 Pinot Noirs were interesting to taste side-by-side. The Sonoma Coast Pinot was ruby colored, with scents of red stone fruit. It opened into many layers on the palate: briar-patch, nettles, licorice and cherry. At 13.5% alcohol and $24 a very versatile wine. The Carneros Pinot was deep garnet with distinct berries and tasty tobacco-y tannins, for $28.

Reserve Tasting in the Cave at Schug Carneros

In the cave, I tasted 2007 Rouge et Noir made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Ricci vineyard on the cool Napa side of Carneros.  I was provided with a slender flute to taste the bubbly, which was rose-colored, light and toasty. The 2007 Schug Carneros Chardonnay Heritage Reserve was dry, floral and tasted of golden raisins. Paired with Cypress Grove’s Purple Haze goat cheese flavored with lavender and fennel. Yummy!  Another Heritage Reserve wine was the 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir. Paired with the 6-month aged El Trigal Manchego cheese it was stunning.

I recommend Holiday in Carneros guests take advantage of this opportunity to taste the Schug Reserve wines paired with great cheeses. It’s a $10 optional fee and well worth it.

Schug makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot, Merlot and Cab, including some Rosé and Sparkling versions. The tasting room is open daily 10-5.

Plan Your Day!

These are just a few of the wineries participating, to give you a flavor of the event. Each spot on the map offers a unique experience, direct access to the people behind the wines, and dramatic fall vineyard scenery. And it’s all for a good cause, as proceeds help to fund scholarships at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College.  To get the most out of your day, don’t forget to read Simple Hedonisms’ advice on planning for a tasting event outing. If you use Twitter, search on hashtag #HiC10 to see posts and tips in real time today.

This Weekend, Treat Yourself to a ‘Holiday in Carneros’ ; Ticket Giveaway Contest

Carneros is an interesting wine region; it serves as the ‘bridge’ between Napa and Somoma as the only AVA (region) that spans both counties.

Every November, the member wineries hold the “Holiday in Carneros” essentially a multi winery open house where each features a special variety of food and wine pairings, live music, art shows, special tastings (barrel, reserve, library and new release), discounts or special pricing and more. (You can peruse my blog post on last year’s adventure here.

Not only is the event fun and inexpensive, it’s also for a great cause, as proceeds from “Holiday in Carneros” help to fund scholarships at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College.

Advance tickets are only $35, a ridiculous value for one or  two days of food, wine, and entertainment.

Participating wineries include: Adastra Wines, Anaba Wines, Bonneau Wines, Ceja Vineyards, Cline Cellars, Enkidu Wines, Etude Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Homewood Winery, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Keating Wines, Larson Family Winery, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Meadowcroft Wines, Michael Mondavi Family Winery, Parmalee-Hill Wines, Robledo Family Winery, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Talisman Wines, Tin Barn Vineyards, Truchard Vineyards and Ty Caton Vineyards.

The (four page) list of winery activities can be found here, and a map of participating wineries is here.

My usual list of tips apply:

  • Plan. – take a few minutes to peruse the page of offerings. Visit old faves, work in some new ones.
  • Buy. Support these artisans with your purchases. Many will have special sales. If you are have flown in, this is an especially great time to stock up and ship these gems you may not be able to find at home. For visitors, this is also a good time to consider the Wine Club, to keep a regular supply of your favorite winery releases coming.
  • Taste Responsibly. Don’t hesitate to dump wine you don’t want, use a spit cup, and consume plenty of food and water.
  • Have Fun! Remember if it gets busy; A ‘bad’ day in Wine Country (I think this actually doesn’t exist) is always better than a good day at work. There will be peak times, be patient, smile, and enjoy Sonoma’s leisurely pace.

If you can only go one day, and prefer a slower pace, Sunday is generally lower key.

Whats the Contest for Free Tickets Already

It’s simple; Answer these 3 very easy questions, in a comment post. They won’t be published, so that others can’t see. Make sure you leave an email address  if you’d like to be contacted to win!  We’ll draw from the responses with correct answers Friday evening.

1.  Name one of the member wineries that makes sparkling wine. (bubbles!)

2. From the Activity list: Type/Style Wines does Anaba make?

3. What food pairing is Tin Barn offering?

Sonoma Valley Events for Nov 5-7

Welcome to this  week’s events in Sonoma Valley. (Calendar information courtesy of Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers.) Please note this is Sonoma VALLEY,  not the entire county. See the bottom of the blog for websites for more events throughout Sonoma and the Wine Road.

Thursday, November 18: Reception 6:30 pm Dinner at 7:00 pm
Sante at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Chef Andrew Cain in good company with many of the Valley’s finest wineries invite you to a meritage of winemaker dinners at Santé this harvest season. Recipient of a prestigious Michelin Star as well as the AAA Four Diamond award, Santé is the only restaurant in the Sonoma Valley to receive these accolades. Only the freshest local produce, meats, poultry and seafood are used to create elegantly simple dishes that let the natural flavors of the food speak for themselves. Reservations are currently being accepted to these inspired exquisitely paired dining adventures. 707 939 2467. Prices vary. For reservations please phone 707-939-2415.

Thursday, November 18: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
1325 Broadway, Sonoma

Steve Van Horne of Bartholomew Park Winery. Relax with us in Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar as we host guest winemakers or proprietors discussing their wines. It’s as easy as rubbing elbows with the big shots and joining in some educational wine talk.

Friday, November 19: 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

Hosted by Cindy Friedman, CWP Savor the pleasure of glorious cheese paired with our distinctive Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wines. Local Sonoma County artisan cheeses share center stage with some of the best from Spain and other regions of California. Cost is $30 per person. Call Cindy Friedman at 933-1951 and

Saturday, November 20 – Sunday, November 21: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Participating Wineries

This “passport” event includes special offerings at 20 Carneros wineries. Purchase a logo wine glass at any participating winery and enjoy music, barrel tasting and great food at all wineries, for both days! Here is your chance to visit some of the smaller wineries that are never open to the public, as well as gain access to the “inner sanctum” of the bigger wineries. Great deals abound on rare and exciting wines, as well as the first chance at “newly released” wines of the year. “Passport” logo glass $40 per person. No reservations needed. For more information contact 800-909-4352

Wineries include: Adastra Wines, Anaba Wines, Bonneau Wines, Ceja Vineyards, Cline Cellars, Enkidu Wines, Etude Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Homewood Winery, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Keating Wines, Larson Family Winery, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Meadowcroft Wines, Michael Mondavi Family Winery, Parmalee-Hill Wines, Robledo Family Winery, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Talisman Wines, Tin Barn Vineyards, Truchard Vineyards and Ty Caton Vineyards.

Other Resources

Simple Hedonisms does a Carneros ‘Hands On Harvest’

While I most often write about wine and wine events, personally its viticulture and harvest that I geek out the most on. Unfortunately I don’t write a lot about either, usually from time constraints, something I hope to evolve into.

Last year I was fortunate enough to get a multitude of experiences; planting my own small hobby syrah vineyard; volunteer harvest work in every step of  harvest and wine making, (save bottling) with great people like C. Donatiello, Hobo Wine Company, and Mounts Family Winery. I also did a home ‘garagista’ project with an ‘naked’ chardonnay, and a sangiovese barolo clone. With luck I will fit some of these in this season, it was easier last season while on sabbatical.

I am thrilled to be spending the next 36 hours with a small group of Wine Writers to attend the private Gloria Ferrer ‘Hands on Harvest.’ Also in our company is a select group of Bay Area Hospitality, Press, Restaurant attendees.

It’s a ‘Hand’s On’ event, but like everything Gloria Ferrer, it’s first class all the way.

Class Begins

We kick off tonight with a special 1990–1997 Royal Cuvée Vertical Tasting,  led by VP Of Wine making Director Bob Iantosca, followed by a reception and dinner.

Tuesday morning we start bright and early with 6:30 a.m. departure. At 7:00 am we go into harvest training led  VP of Vineyard Operations Manager Mike Crumly, who will cover topics like how grapes are grown for wine,  berry sampling, and then some actual harvesting of grapes. (I was part of a gringo picking crew last year in Dry Creek that was lapped by the experts!)

The weather will be chilly, so we then warm our stomachs with a traditional Mexican breakfast, followed by a sustainability  tour, including  Indian middens and Miwok burial site, riparian corridors, bluebird boxes, and ecological history

Before we jump into an 11 a.m. session on soil studies and vineyard practices, we are treated to Hog Island Oysters and bubbly…nourishment for the brain and soul!

After our class, its back to Gloria Ferrer for a food and wine pairing luncheon. (I may need to fit the gym in after all this.)

At 2 pm we tour winery operations and discuss wine making practices.

We conclude our day with an exciting Industry round table discussion on the latest wine trends, led by VP of Business Development, David Brown.

As best I am able with cell coverage and free hands, I’ll be supplying a stream of Facebook and Twitter tips, updates and pics, so you can enjoy virtually.

Thank you in advance, Gloria Ferrer and my about to be Hands On Harvest-eers!


Simple Hedonisms suggests: “Cool off this summer with some naked chardonnay … and expand your palate” (psst! It’s under $20)

What’s your perspective on Chardonnay? Love it? Avoid it? Or do you regularly try new wines and winemaking styles? If you shun Chardonnay as I did for many years, you may identify as an ABC drinker – “Anything But Chardonnay”. Simple Hedonisms has used this term to describe the backlash against overly oaked “butter bombs” popularly known as “California-style” Chardonnay. Whatever your motivation may be to explore, your understanding and appreciation is sure to benefit from trying new wines and styles.

Food Friendly
If you enjoy a crisp, palette-cleansing white wine with your asian spicy dishes, rich or “stinky” cheeses, oysters or seafood – don’t pass up the “new” Chardonnays made without oak aging or malolactic (ML) fermentation. You won’t recognize these wines as Chardonnay if you’ve only been exposed to the heavy oak and butter style. Think of them more like a new white varietal, and a possible alternative to dry whites such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. You may be pleasantly surprised. And, if you are like me, you may begin to recognize an intense varietal character that you can distinctly identify as Chardonnay.

Chardonnay Grapes, Kopriva Vineyards

Kopriva is a family-owned single-vineyard producer of unoaked, no ‘ML” Chardonnay in the Carneros region of Sonoma county. I first wrote about their wine in my blog, VitaeVinoNote: If you’re in the Sonoma area, meet the winemaker and taste Kopriva Chardonnay at Big 3 Wine Bar, 6pm Friday July 16.

The Carneros Region
One of the charms of Carneros is the growers and smaller producers hidden down country lanes, who grace the landscape with their vineyards. Some of the acreage has been in cool climate fruit or grape crops for decades. Despite being one of Sonoma County’s most southerly appellations, Carneros is one of the coolest. It borders San Pablo Bay, and is subject to marine air movement between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean (a phenomena known as the Petaluma Wind Gap). Carneros AVA is home to 75 growers, 22 wineries, and over 7500 vineyard acres. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes flourish in its’ cool climate, resulting in a concentrated fruit said to represent a “true expression of the varietal.”

So what does that mean in plain English? Also known as “un-wooded”, “stainless” or “naked” — unoaked Chardonnay reveals what the grape itself tastes like minus the oak and butter effects. At 13.5% alcohol, Kopriva’s Chardonnay doesn’t overpower food. Yet its bright acid and crisp minerality can cut through the richest cheesy pasta, the spiciest entree or oiliest fish dish.

Kopriva Unoaked Chardonnay, Carneros Sonoma CA

Hadley Larson in the Kopriva Vineyards

Last week Simple Hedonisms visited the Kopriva vineyard at Cassidy Ranch, and was greeted warmly by Hadley Larson. She and wine-maker partner Myles McMonigle live on the property and perform all duties from running tractor, harvesting and hauling grapes, to marketing and delivering local orders. Myles studied geology and enology and has worked for MacRostie, Domaine Carneros and B.R. Cohn wineries. He is currently Enologist at Groth Vineyards in Napa. His parents purchased the property about 10 years ago. Myles’ father was influenced by an early friendship with the Benziger family (of Benziger, Imagery, and Tribute label fame). At Cassidy Ranch, they maintain the vines using sustainable practices, including minimal tilling of the land to preserve minerals and moisture and allow native cover crops – which return nitrogen to the soil — to thrive. Thus the rustic look of what they call their “shabby chic” vineyard.

The New Unoaked Style
Kopriva started making their unoaked Chardonnay 5 years ago, joining a handful of producers such as Mer Soleil with their “Silver” Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, and Toad Hollow Vineyards of Healdsburg. It was challenging in those days to overcome the stereotypes of California style. Some restaurant and retail buyers didn’t believe they were tasting Chardonnay. Kopriva resorted to introducing their wine by likening it to Chablis.

About 2-1/2 years ago Kopriva’s task became a little easier as recognition grew for the unoaked style. Acclaim for producers Kim Crawford of New Zealand and Toad Hollow helped build awareness. Coverage in Food & Wine magazine of the new style chardonnay and its suitability for food pairing continues the momentum. There is now a thriving community of unoaked chardonnay drinkers centered around a delightfully irreverent blog dedicated to the style at The labor of love for these bloggers has resulted in reviews of 68 wines from 10 regions and countries. Readers regularly suggest new wines to taste, which the bloggers promptly seek out. As well, a few wine competitions are introducing unoaked Chardonnay as a category — the Sonoma County Fair is one.

Get Naked
The vineyards aren’t open to the public, but you can taste Kopriva at Big 3 Wine Bar at Fairmount Sonoma Mission Inn. Big 3 focuses exclusively on Sonoma wines — by the taste, glass and bottle. Several, like Kopriva, are not available elsewhere for tasting. A few retail and restaurant outlets, mostly in the SF Bay Area, carry Kopriva (see the website for a list). In and around Carneros, the wine is available at Whole Foods Market in Marin, Napa and Sonoma.

If you’d like to explore this new style further, another Carneros example is Roche Winery’s “Stainless Steel Chardonnay” ($15.99 suggested retail) available at their tasting room on the Sonoma Square. Kunde Estate in Kenwood produces “Chardonnay Nu,” or what they call their “naked” chardonnay — available for tasting at the winery ($15.99 at Bottle Barn). Using grapes from Lodi, CA, an award-winning producer of Chardonnay in the unoaked style is Passaggio ($11.99 on their website or at Valley Wine Shack in Sonoma). Simple Hedonisms writes periodically on this emerging style – search for “unoaked Chardonnay” to find out more.

At under $20, these wines fit the budget — and the menu as well.

Kopriva Chardonnay


Color: Pale metallic straw, mirror clear

Aroma: Citrus, hint of lactic, with a splash of dry straw

In the Mouth: The appeal of this wine is in it’s tactile complexity – fruity at the front, mouth-filling at mid-palette, with a crisp flourishing acid finish at the back. Leaving the wine in contact with its yeast lees (wine sediment) for 4 months gives this chardonnay its pleasurable mouth feel.

Flavors: Grapefruit, pineapple, and hints of other fruits ranging from tangy to tropical, in concert with mineral notes.

Price: Retail $14-19. Wholesale: $120/ case. (media sample)

Vintages: 2008 currently, 2009 launches in Fall 2010.

Acres planted: 12
Case Quantity: 299
Harvest: September 11, 2008
Alcohol: 13.52%
Average Chemistry: 3.31 pH, .576g TA
Residual Sugar: 0.033
Fermentation: 100% Stainless steel
Aging: 4 months sur lie
Malolactic Fermentation: 0%

Follow Kopriva Website, Facebook, Twitter

This Weekend Events in Wine Country

Wine Country events are starting to ramp up again, to the point where I need to clone myself to be able to attend all the ones I want.

The Simple Hedonisms Calendar is a great source for events I scour from multiple sources.

Events can be downloaded right to your calendar for Google, Outlook, or other .ics based calendar, and synced to your Smartphone. In the next week or so, will be launchinhg an improved version, custom written by Healdsburg local Kenny Lowe.

This Weekend’s Highlights:

April in Carneros 2010

April 17 and 18, 10am until 4pm—is an exciting winery open house event featuring more than 20 wineries in Carneros.  Each will open its doors and invite visitors to join in on a variety of activities.  Wineries may offer food and wine pairings, live music, art or craft shows, special tastings (barrel, reserve, library, new release), discounts or special pricing, and more.
Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 the day of event and are valid both days of the event.  Tickets also include $5 in “Carneros Cash” per ticket which can be applied to any purchase at all participating wineries.

With your ticket, you’ll receive an April in Carneros logo glass and access to all the fun!  (Some activities at some wineries may have additional fees, but all participating wineries have generous offerings for April in Carneros participants at no cost above the price of admission.)  Proceeds from Holiday in Carneros fund scholarships at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College.

Some of the wineries participating are Adastra Wines, Anaba, Bonneau Wines, Bouchaine Vineyards, Ceja Vineyards, Enkidu Wines, Etude Wines, Homewood Winery, Kamen Estate Wines, Larson Family Winery, Larson Family @ Cornerstone, Mantra @ Grange Sonoma, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Tin Barn Vineyards, and Ty Caton Vineyards.

More details at:

French PIG- the Butcher & the Cook, Kelley Young Wines

This Special Edition of French PIG is a full day hands-on workshop in the wine country home of Kathleen Kelley & Jim Young. In addition to the convivial and relaxed setting, the day-long workshop including lunch, concludes with PINK: a pork & rose’ tasting dinner featuring Kathleen’s Rose, a Bordeaux-style rose true to our Southwest roots.


Pope Valley Vintners Tasting

Come Visit Napa’s Last Frontier!

The Pope Valley Winery will be hosting a collection of the finest wineries, vineyards and labels of the Pope Valley region. Along with these amazing wines, there will be olive oil tastings, cheese and fruit platters, a bocce ball tournament, and live music from vocal guitarist Johnny Smith. And all event profits will be donated to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It will be a day of great wine and music for a great cause! $20/person

Spring Passport Day – Wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains

The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association invites you to take part in our Spring Passport Program.  Over fifty Santa Cruz Mountains wineries – from Ahlgren to Zayante – will open their doors to Passport Program participants on Saturday, April 17th, 2010 between 11 am and 5 pm.  Passports, which cost just $40 per person, provide entry into participating wineries, including many that are not normally open to the public at any other time.  Passport holders will be invited to tour the facilities, meet the winemakers, and sample the fruits of their labors – including special wines poured only for participants in the Passport Program! Passports are valid until all wineries have been visited. The passport never expires!
The Passport Program will be repeated on the 3rd Saturday of January, April, July & November each year. This allows guests to visit the vineyards at every season in the growing cycle.  This Spring, on April 17th, begin a new adventure to experience the greatness of the wines produced in this appellation, spend a wonderful day at the wineries in the company of winemakers’ and bring home some great wine to treasure and share with friends for any special occasion!

More information at:

37th Annual Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? The Festival began as a celebration of the opening of the Salmon fishing season. Boats are decorated and parade out of the harbor on Sunday morning, gathering outside the jetties to receive blessings of the fleet by a local clergyman. A flower wreath is cast on the waters to honor those who have lost their lives in this dangerous occupation.
The festival is packed with music, food and entertainment.
Join great wineries like  Stryker Sonoma to be pouring some fantastic wines in the wine tent, and having a whale of a good time!

More info at:

Celebrate Earth Day With Green Valley

Sunday, April 18, 2010
12pm to 4pm

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Where better to celebrate than Green Valley … at a wine tasting … at beautiful Iron Horse? The eight participating wineries are DeLoach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, Marimar Estate, Orogeny and Sequana Vineyards.
Serving California Osetra Caviar (sustainably farmed, of course) at the VIP Sparkling reception. At the main event, Hog Island oysters, shucked by founder and avid surfer John Finger, grilled fish prepared by surfer-chef Kory Stewart from Americano at Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, a fish taco truck manned by Iron Horse alum Christopher Greenwald of Bay Laurel Catering, the delicious breads from surfer-baker Jed Wallach of Wildflour Bread in Freestone and local, seasonal vegetables and salads (it is Earth Day, after all) prepared by Iron Horse Winery fisher-chef Ruben Gomez.

More info at:

Slow Food Russian River Mixer

The Spring Mixer is a regional event for all Slow Food members and friends in and around Sonoma County.  Rosso Pizzeria will provide the pizza and salad, and you provide the wine or other beverages and desserts.

This is an opportunity to eat and drink with friends and welcome the change of seasons.
To help us keep this a low-cost and low-impact event, please bring the following items:
*  Wine and/or a dessert for yourself or to share
*  Your own plate, utensils, glass and linens

Parking is very limited, so carpooling is mandatory.    Valhalla Gardens, 245 Ferguson Rd. Sebastopol, CA 95472

707-696-2952 or

Have a great weekend, and if you see me at one of these, come say hi!


Fun times at Holiday in Carneros

The weekend of Nov. 21-22 was the Holiday in Carneros event, with over 20 wineries participating.  The event is sponsored by Hospitality de Los Carneros (“HDLC”), which is a collective of Napa and Sonoma wineries located within the Carneros Appellation.Wine, Song, Love

I don’t make it down to ‘the Valley’ – a/k/a Sonoma Valley, as much as I’d like to, so I was glad that this weekend didn’t have a lot of events to compete with Holiday in Carneros.  I had previously stumbled upon the similar “April in Carneros” event last year, and had a good time, so I was really looking forward to going back.

Taking my own advice from my post on the Wine Road Wine and Food Affair, I took the time to do some planning.  The HDLC website helped by providing a well marked map, and a handy list of who was offering what. I was a bit surprised to see some number of Carneros wineries did not participate, especially the many of the ‘tin warehouse’ wineries on 8th Street. (Lets see some Appellation Solidarity.) But, there were more than enough wineries to visit for the day. Printing out the Map and the Event details, I laid out a plan that took me to mostly wineries I had not visited before, and had varietals, and descriptions that interested me.

Having just returned back home after being in Portland all week (again), I decided to rest up on Saturday, and make a full day of it on Sunday. This turned out to be prudent, as several wineries reported that the crowds were lighter on Sunday, which allowed more quality time to interact with winemakers. I also followed my own advise about carrying a spit cup, and brought my own.  For the most part, toting around a spit cup not only helped my tasting, but it also occasionally impacted what I was served.  At one winery, a less experienced pourer gave me a funny look, in others I was offered tastes of wines not on the “menu.”


After a good start of a mimosa and pumpkin Belgian waffles, I made the trek down to the Valley. My check-in point was at Roshambo, which I chose simply because it was close to Gloria Ferrer. (Gloria Ferrer did not participate in Holiday in Carneros, but I had a wine club pickup there.) I hadn’t had Roshambo wines in a few years (in fact, they were still in Dry Creek Valley last visit), so I figured it was about time. Plus, I had driven by Cornerstone Place many times, and never stopped in. Glad I did, as I had a nice visit with Steve Morvai, the G.M. who has been with them quite awhile. Steve was pouring a Sauvignon Blanc, their ‘Justice’ Syrah, the ‘Rock’ blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Syrah, and a Grenache. I liked them all, but the Grenache really caught my attention, as less common varietals often do. There was a huge case sale on it, so guess what I walked out with.

Cornerstone looked like a cool place, but my mission to hit 8 wineries in 4.5 hours didn’t leave me a ton of time. I did stop to scarf down 2 pieces of pizza from Kashaya’s Pizza – straight from their cool brick oven on wheels. Pizza was being served complimentary as part of the event for the 3 wineries pouring there. Santa Rosa based, I’d recommend Kashaya to any winery wanting food for an event.


Dogs like Wine Country too!For those of you that think Social Media doesn’t draw traffic, think again. I didn’t really know Anaba, and it wasn’t on my initial list.  However that morning, I Tweeted about the wineries where I WAS planning to stop, and got a note back from Anaba with a sad face and ”No Anaba?”  As a result of Anaba noticing, and replying to my tweet, I began to read up on it.  Learning that Anaba was a “new winery” with”Rhone and Burgundian style wines,” I appended my itinerary. I was glad I did. The facility is comfortable and non-pretentious. Everyone was friendly. And GREAT Rhone whites.

Side note for you red wine only drinkers –I was one of you once — branch out! Especially try some of the more full-bodied Rhone whites like Viognier, Roussanne,  and Marsanne. I observed a lot of people skipping the whites, and remembered doing the same thing myself once, but I was glad I didn’t skip these. ‘Coriol’ is a blend of the above 3, plus Grenache Blanc, with a wonderful, floral nose, and a good mouthfeel. Their Viognier was even better, and I bought a bottle. I also enjoyed their Sonoma Coast Pinot, and Coriol red, a Rhone blend of  Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, and Petire Sirah. (The latter being an ‘adopted’ Rhone varietal.) If you like desert wines, Anaba also makes a late harvest Viognier, and red and white ports.

The tasting room staff was young, but very attentive and knowledgeable. I’d have liked to learn a bit more about the genesis of the winery, and the owners/family were supposedly lurking in the back.  They should take a lesson from the Ceja’s and work the visitors; stories sell wine!

IMG_0280Ty Caton, Parmalee Hill – Eighth Street Wineries

Next, I h eaded over to Eighth Street, where 3 more wineries were pouring. I have had Ty’s wine’s before from my club at Cellars of Sonoma, and I am a fan of their Malbec. Nice people and good wines, but between the country music and the slightly hard sell on sale priced wines, I didn’t linger.

Had visited Tin Barn before, so I skipped it and dropped in on Parmalee-Hill. After wine geeking over all the cool production equipment, I also enjoyed their wines, especially their Grenache Blanc and Marsanne/Roussanne blend  I found white Rhone varietals at several Carneros spots and I wondered: why don’t we have more of these in northern Sonoma County?

IMG_0281Would have liked to stop at Three Sticks and MacRostie, but they were not officially participating, so I kept rolling.

Robert Stemmler Winery

Next stop was down Ramal Road at Robert Stemmler Winery. The drive down a remote winding road, made me feel like I was driving around my beloved Russian River. From best I can tell, the winery isn’t normally open for tasting, but has a good following based on the crowd. This is a Burgundian style producer, that day pouring a Carneros chardonnay, and Carneros and Russian River Pinot Noir. There was only one small table for pouring, so space was a bit tight. I really liked their wines, and thought their Carneros Pinot was the best of the appellation I tasted that day.

Unfortunately between the crowds, and a rather obnoxious ‘taster’ who fired off 100 questions, trying to present she knew a lot about wine, stymied me from detailed chat. (The barrage annoyed me enough to wander off and pet the local horses – the lady gave away what I suspected – she knew nothing about wines except buzz words, when she starting asking, going over the entire wine list “is this wine racked? and this one? and this one?” ‘Racking” is the process of transferring wine from one container to another to get it off sediment, and improve clarity. ALL wines are RACKED; granted Pinot is sometimes less so, but it is. Next time ask if grapes need sun, too. Snarky mode off.) I came back to buy a few bottles after she left, but large crowd came in, so I decided to move on. Will come back in April.


IMG_0282I have had Etude Pinot a few times, and they have a big following, so decided to make  my first visit. Service was friendly, though 3/4 of the pouring staff knew very little about wine. It was also odd to me that a winery known for Pinot was pouring only one, but that is perhaps related to their high price and very low yield vines. One thing that did catch my attention – they have migrated their Chardonnay to the new glass stopper tops I have been hearing about. FAR more elegant than a screw cap, and seals nicely. Consider me a big fan, I’d love to see more wineries use this style closure.

Ceja VineyardsIMG_0285

IMG_0288I thought it best to end the day on a safe note, removing the element of surprise with a winery I know delivers – Ceja. I could write (and should) an article just on Ceja, although they hardly need my help. This family of Latino growers, turned Winemaker, ‘gets it.’ They provide an amazing customer experience, work to make wine simple and enjoyable, paired with food, reasonable price points, invest in marketing, and  have embraced multiple avenues of customer touch points and Social Media, from blogging to Twitter, Facebook and more. Multiple generations of the family take on roles, and at their beautiful facility (not the downtown tasting room) you can’t go 10 feet without a Ceja warmly engaging you. As always, the experience included good food, live music, and great wine, comfortably staged around the property. I like all of their wines, but I am fond of their Vino de Casa, Red Blend, an unsual blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Cabernet,  priced at a very affordable $20.

A great ending to a great day in Carneros.

I look forward to the April event, cheers!

(ps, this Friday and Saturday is ANOTHER passport event in Sonoma Valley – come back for my Thursday post for more details!)

Wine Country Weekend Events – Nov 20-22, 2009

Harvest is behind us, next week is one of celebration, hopefully some relaxation, and indulging in Simple Hedonisms – why not kick the week off with some Wine Country Festivities.

Holiday in Carneros
November 21 and 22, 2009

carnerosMy top pick for the weekend: The 22nd annual Holiday in Carneros is November 21st and 22nd from 10 am until 4 pm. It is an exciting winery open house event featuring more than 20 wineries in Carneros. Each will open its doors and invite visitors to join in on a variety of activities. Wineries will feature food and wine pairings, live music, art or craft shows, special tastings (barrel, reserve, library, new release), discounts or special pricing, family activities and more.

Admission is only $40.00 per person and is valid for both days of the event.  Purchase tickets by clicking here, or simply pay your “admission” at any participating winery on either day of the event. You’ll receive a Holiday in Carneros logo glass and access to all the fun! (Some activities at some wineries may have additional fees, but all participating wineries have generous offerings for Holiday in Carneros participants at no cost above the price of admission.) Proceeds from Holiday in Carneros fund scholarships at Santa Rosa Junior College and Napa Valley College.

Wineries expected to participate are Adastra, Anaba, Bonneau Wines, Ceja Vineyards, Cline Cellars, Cuvaison, Enkidu Wines, Etude Wines, Folio Winemakers’ Studio, Jacuzzi Family Winery, Larson Family Winery, Larson Family @ Cornerstone, Mantra @ Grange Sonoma, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Parmalee-Hill Wines, Robledo Family Winery, Roshambo, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Talisman Wines, Tin Barn Vineyards, Truchard Vineyards and Ty Caton Vineyards.

White Barn Winter Fair 3-Day Event, St. Helena

Local Artists will present their wares at the White Barn Winter Fare:

The White Barn has decided to revive an old tradition and to once again hold its beloved White Barn Winter Fair. A variety of talented local artisans and craftsmen will join together at the White Barn Winter Fair to benefit the Arts Council Napa Valley.

The event will feature a wide selection of unique handmade crafts and one-of-a-kind creations. Visitors will find everything from the unusual to the unique sure to fit every taste and budget. Shoppers may purchase beautiful handmade jewelry, cards, fine art originals and prints, wooden cutting boards, hand blown glass ware, holiday floral designs, textiles, ceramics, artisan food, potions, striking recycled items, and so much more!

Preview Night, Friday November 20th will run from 5-8pm and include wine, a winter soup, dessert and light music. Friday’s suggested donation $10-15 directly benefits the Arts Council Napa Valley. Preview attendees will have the opportunity to purchase fine goods in advance of the general public while they enjoy a festive evening.

Just in time for holiday gift shopping, decorating and entertaining, you won’t want to miss this wonderful event! Visit the Fair on Saturday and Sunday November 21 & 22 from 10am to 5pm. Free admission and plenty of free parking.

November 20:5-8pm – Wine Reception Benefit / $10-15 suggested donation
November 21 & 22:10am-5pm

Holiday Hors d’oeuvres Party – Sbragia Family Vineyards – Dry Creek/Geyserville

Celebrate the holidays with Sbragia Family Vineyards at their 2nd Annual Holiday Hors d’oeuvres Party.  Taste great food paired beautifully with Sbragia wines, while listening to music by Dave Badilla.  Take home the recipes so you can be ready to create great appetizers for your own party.  Space is limited, RSVP today!

Willamette Valley Vineyards Wine Center Grand Opening

Now that I spend 1/2 my time in the Portland area, why not make mention of the occasional event there!

Join in celebrating the Grand Opening of the Willamette Valley Vineyards Wine Center!

Complimentary tasting and admission for: Grand Opening November 21st and 22nd from 10am to 7pm and Thanksgiving Weekend November 27th, 28th and 29th

Willamette Valley Vineyards Wine Center, 300 NE Third Street, McMinnville, OR 97128 503.883.9012

We have much to celebrate – Cheers!

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