Posts Tagged ‘dry creek valley’

Two More Routes for the Barrel Tasting, plus North Coast Events for March 9 – 15

We’ve got another big barrel tasting weekend ahead of us. I’ll be able to participate this time and I’m really looking forward to it.

If you haven’t decided which wineries you’ll go to yet, here are a couple of theme-based itineraries.

The So

noma Advocate Tour

Antonio Galloni recently published his Sonoma Report for Wine Advocate. He focused heavily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from producers that don’t happen to be part of the Wine Road Barrel Tasting, such as Paul Hobbs, Kistler and Hirsch. However, six wineries awarded 90+ points are pouring.

Of course, Galloni rated bottled wine. Get a leg up on him by evaluating barrel samples from these wineries yourself. (And don’t forget to give their neighbors a little love buy viagra online cheap us too.)

  • Freestone in Occidental
  • Siduri in Santa Rosa
  • Red Car in Sebastopol
  • La Crema in Windsor
  • Kendall-Jackson in downtown Healdsburg (that’s where they are pouring high-end Cabernet)
  • Stonestreet in Alexander Valley
There was a bit of a fuss about people piling out of limos and partying too hard last weekend. I suspect the issue was blown a bit out of proportion. However, if you want to avoid any risk of running into big bands of revelers, here are a few of the many fine wineries that don’t allow groups,

limos or buses. (Every winery not

allowing groups is identified on the Wine Road’s list of participating wineries.)

  • Bella Vineyards in Healdsburg
  • Claypool Cellars in Sebastopol
  • Freestone in Occidental
  • Fritz in Cloverdale
  • Joseph Swan in Forestville
  • La Crema in Windsor
  • Red Car in Sebastopol
  • Sausal in Alexander Valley
  • Stonestreet in Alexander Valley
  • Vinoteca (6 wineries in one location) in Santa Rosa
Enjoy your barrel tasting. I hope to meet up with you out there.


Lake County

Gregory Graham Winemaker Dinner at the Tallman Hotel — Upper Lake: Saturday, March 10, 6:30pm – 11:00pm
Owner and Winemaker Greg Graham and Marianne Graham will be there to introduce the wines and pairings.

Mendocino County

McFadden’s Second Saturday — Hopland: Saturday March 10, 10:00am – 5:00pm
Enjoy 100% organically grown grape wines paired with a delicious food treat.

Napa Valley

Calistoga Spring Jazz Festival — downtown Calistoga: Saturday, March 10, noon – 6:00pm
Live jazz music, wine and food right downtown in Calistoga.

Merryvale Pinot & Pizza Barrel Tasting — St. Helena: Saturday, March 10, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
An afternoon of wine, food and entertainment featuring current releases, library wines and Tra Vigne pizza.


Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: Friday, March 9, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Bill Vestal plays Americana music.

A Taste of West Sonoma County at Dutton-Goldfield Winery — Sebastopol: Saturday & Sunday, March 10 – 11, 10:am – 4:30pm
A rare tasting of their single-vineyard wines from the Green Valley of Russian River Valley appellation.

34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting — Northern Sonoma: Saturday & Sunday, March 10 – 11, 11:00am – 4:00pm
Your chance to sample wines from the barrel, talk to winemakers and explore the beautiful Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

Clash of the Sommeliers at Farmhouse Restaurant — Forestville: Monday, March 12, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Three sommeliers pairing wines side-by-side for a four course, seasonal menu.

Songwriters In Sonoma at Meadowcroft Wines — Sonoma: Thursday, March 15, 7:00pm – 9:15pm
Dustin Heald, Rich Little and Fred McCarty


This article is by Fred Swan of for Copyright 2012 Fred Swan.

Events for This Weekend and Two Routes for the Wine Road Barrel Tasting

Guest Post by Fred Swan

This weekend’s events look a little sparse on the surface. But one little line item portends barrels of adventure. Hundreds of barrels. Full of wine. canadian viagra

tle=”The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma” href=”″ target=”_blank”>The 34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in Northern Sonoma.

There have already been excellent articles on this site about the barrel tasting. I don’t want to repeat what has been said. But, the list of more than 120+ wineries makes it hard to know where to start. So, I’ll offer a couple of itineraries for you to consider:

(Editorial note by William, for those of you who listened to me on KRSO tonight and are looking for the Tips & Ticket Contest, see Monday’s Post Here: Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!) )

Route 1: Get it While You Can — Wineries Open This Weekend Only

Saturday, focus on wineries west of Hwy 101. I might start at Moshin. Their Sauvignon Blanc will ease you into tasting. Follow it up with vineyard-designate Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Next, head up Westside Road to De La Montanya. They have five different wines for you to sample, starting with Pinot Noir and closing with a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert wine will lead nicely into lunch. You did pack a lunch, right?

Head north on Westside Drive as it turns into West Dry Creek. Pull in at Quivira. Eat your lunch near their biodynamic gardens. Then enjoy their Mourvedre and Petite Sirah.

From Quivra continue on to A. Rafanelli Winery which will be pouring 2010 Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines are always very good. And they age well.

On the second day do an eastern route. Rodney Strong will have a tasty assortment. Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Dry Creek Zinfandel.

From there, go to Stryker Sonoma. See how the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate differs from the Dry Creek wines you tried on Saturday. The’ll also pour Merlot.

Stay on the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon path by going to Trentadue. They’ll let you try their reserve, the La Storia Cabernet Sauvignon. The La Storia Zinfandel and La Storia Cuvee 32 blend will also be available.

For a taste of a completely different Cabernet Sauvignon AVA, head back across Hwy 101 to Ridge Vineyards. They’ve got a barrel of 2011 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon from the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Ridge is open the 2nd weekend too, but why wait?)


Route 2: Que Syrah — There’s more to Sonoma than Chard, Zin, Pinot and Cab

Formulate an itinerary from among these excellent Syrah producers:

Joseph Swan (Forestville) will be pouring not one but three vineyard-designate Syrah. Give them a try and see how the terroir of the different vineyards shows through in the wines. The winery will also have Zin, Tannat and more.

Vintoteca in Santa Rosa will be featuring six different wineries. Among the wines will be Olson Ogden’s Dry Creek Syrah. Before you dive into that though, try the Pinot Noirs from Bjornstadt and Baker Lane.

Krutz Family Cellars (Santa Rosa) Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stagecoach Vineyards of Napa Valley was one of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines for 2011. They’re opening a barrel of Syrah from that same vineyard, which excels with that variety.

Lauterbach Cellars (Windsor) has acclaimed Syrah fruit, but makes wine in tiny quantities. This is your chance to try some. They’ll have the 2009 Syrah, but will start you off with Pinot Noir and their Syrah Rosé.

Red Car (Sebastopol) is un-bunging their Estate Syrah. But first, enjoy Heaven & Earth and their estate Pinot Noir.

Dutton Estate Winery will be pouring My Father’s Syrah. …I didn’t even know my dad had Syrah! I’m sure it will be good though. They’ve also got Pinot and Chardonnay on tap wine thief.



Lake County

Six Sigma Ranch Pro & Amateur Pruning Competition —Lower Lake: March 3, 10:00am – noon
Learn pruning from the pros and try your hand at it, too!


Napa Valley

Cab Release Weekend at Velo Vino — St. Helena: March 3 – 4, 11:00am – 6:00pm
A special Vertical tasting of our 2006, 2007 and 2008 kit’s killer cab.

Charles Krug Winery Celebrates Charles Krug’s 187th Birthday — St. Helena: March 3, 6:00pm – 9:30pm
Imagine the light the birthday candles will put out! There’ll be appetizers and three-course wine dinner.


Sonoma County

34th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting – Northern Sonoma: March 2 – 4, 11:00am – 4:00pm
144 wineries open their doors this weekend, many will be offering futures. Advance ticket sales are over, but you can buy tickets at the door.

Inspiration Vineyards Winemaker Dinner — Santa Rosa: March 2, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
There are still a few seats available for this dinner and the menu looks great!

Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: March 2, 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Unwind after work, or barrel tasting, to rock and reggae played by Oscar Caleron.

Hanzell Vineyards Winemaker Dinner at Santé — Sonoma: March 8, 6:30pm
Join Hanzell winemaker Michael McNeill for a delicious four-course dinner paired with past and current vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


A Quick Plug:

The Wine Advocate will soon be releasing Antonio Galloni’s report on Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You can learn levitra viagra online more about him and what he looks for wines by reading my in-depth interview with him. It’s being published in daily doses this week at

Enjoy your weekend!


Valentine's Day Weekend Wine Events Update

Everybody wants to be your Valentine! Wineries, wine bars and restaurants are pulling out all the stops. And all the chocolate! Even if you don’t have a romance to kindle, you can cuddle up with a glass of wine and y

our sweet tooth this weekend.

My previous post included a whole box of chocolate and wine events. And even some without cacao. But then I got a Kiss-o-Gram with even more events for this weekend!

All events listed below are in chronological order by region. Some events require advance reservations or ticketing, so it’s best to click through for any event you’d like to attend. The headline links for each event will take you to the calendar at where you’ll find further details on that event. And event organizers sometimes change details at the last minute, so it’s always a good idea to contact the host prior to showing up at their doorstep. For events in other regions, also check the calendar or my weekly NorCal event articles.

Mendocino County

Saturday, February 11

Valentine’s Wine & Chocolate Sampling at Milano Family Winery — Hopland: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Bring your Valentine and tickle your taste buds with heavenly creations by the ladies of Milano Family Winery.

Parducci’s Valentines Day ‘Death by Chocolate’ Event — Ukiah: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Parducci Wine Cellars presents a romantic day of music, sensuous wines, and exquisite chocolates to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Napa Valley

On-Going Events

Saturday February 11 – Tuesday, February 14
Chocolate and Wine at Cornerstone Cellars — Yountville:
10:00am – 6:00pm
Bring your sweetie to Cornerstone Cellars and indulge them in a wine flight paired with 3 chocolates hand crafted by Brent and Anette at Anette’s Chocolates, Napa Valley.

Saturday February 11 – Monday, February 20
The Ultimate Decadent Tasting at Trefethen Family Vineyards — Napa
10:00am – 4:30pm
Enjoy special selections of Trefethen wines paired with handmade confections produced by one of Napa’s finest chocolatiers.
Daily Events

Sunday, February 12

Cooking up Sweet Passion: Amy Reiley, Author of Romancing the Stove at Peju — Rutherford: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Learn to make hand rolled chocolate truffles from Amy Reiley’s new cookbook Romancing the Stove while sipping Peju wines.

Sonoma County

Friday, February 10

An Evening with Merry Edwards at Paradise Ridge Winery — Santa Rosa: 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Come spend a great evening celebrating Merry Edwards stellar career at a benefit for the Sonoma County Wine Library.

Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: 7pm
Music by Michael Hantman plus belly dancing by Kimberly Andora.

Saturday, February 11

Special Valentines Day Vertical Tasting at John Tyler Wines — Healdsburg: 11:ooam – 5:00pm
2004-2006 Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines in a mini vertical tasting paired with Brix Chocolates.

Wine & Chocolate at Amista Vineyards — Healdsburg: noon – 3pm
Join canadian healthcare viagra sales us at Amista Vineyards for award-winning wines paired with specialty chocolates from Sebastopol chocolatier Peters Chocolates.

5th Annual Amphoradisiac Winemaker’s Dinner at Amphora — Healdsburg: 5:30pm – 10:00pm
A multi-course gourmet dinner with fabulous wine pairings, white tablecloths, candlelight and roses.


Event organizers and publicists get your events published here. Post your events in the calendar at Posting events there requires a one-time registration (easy, peasy), but is totally free of charge. And it only takes a couple of minutes. I’ll soon post a guide at with tips on how to make event posts as effective as possible.

Disclaimer: The events I’ll call attention to here are those that I’ve become aware of and which offer something beyond the standard winery tasting room experience. Neither I nor William are compensated by any of the event organizers in any way. The listings are for the benefit of the community. Event details are subject to change without notice.

This article is by Fred Swan for Simple Hedonisms. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week – Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

I am overdue to write about Quivira. In the same vein as my review of Tablas Creek a few months ago, I am negligent in not reviewing Quivira. Certainly they are a winery I always recommend to Rhone lovers, as well as visitors to Dry Creek Valley.  (I should note they also make Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.) There is lots to like  about this winery and their wines.

I joined Quivira’s wine club on my first visit some years ago, and they have always taken excellent care of me, first as a consumer, and then as I migrated into wine writing and geeking. They are also a staunch advocate of the Rhone Rangers and GM, Director of Marketing Nancy Bailey has been very supportive in our new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter about to emerge.

My once large stable of personal wine clubs has dwindled, thanks in part to the expense of the new farm, (grenache) vineyard, and the new wine label, and departure from my non wine job. Add to the fact my cellar is out of control with >1000 bottles, and the fact that as an , recognized member of Media after two years, samples and industry discounts are normal. (And always greatly appreciated, writing is a labor of love.) Quivira has remained in my ‘Queue’ , both due to their quality of wines & dedication to Rhone varieties, as well as the personal attention they give their members.  (Thanks Stephanie!)

Quivira also has an excellent wine club, with a feature I love. The first 30 days of a new release to wine club, Queue members benefit from the “30 for 30” re-order opportunity:

Taste your wine club shipment, re-order within 30 days, and get 30% off – that’s on par with Industry pricing.  They also have excellent future pricing every year for Wine Road Barrel tasting, which I take advantage of to buy a case of Mourvedre.

The hospitality and marketing team seems to be better than ever, and winemaker Hugh Chappelle, who came over from Pinot producer Lynmar, seems to have found an excellent home, of mutual respect and appreciation,  allowing him to express the creativity that exists in all talented artisans, winemakers included. Hugh is a great addition to the Quivira family.

In addition to having a strong Rhone program,  Quivira is a committed member of the certified  Biodynamic community, with  gorgeous gardens,  chickens, cows and more. The property and tasting room is worth a visit, and their Farm to Table dinners are not to be missed. After spending several days earlier this year at the Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp, I have a new appreciation for the commitment to the process and our planet.

 Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

Its appropriate that I picked a Grenache this week, albeit it more by chance, as I actually reviewed the wine last week. Recently, I wrote that Sept 23rd is Grenache Day. Quivira is one of the wineries attending my tasting, and will be pouring the 2009 Grenache.


To The Eye: Clear lively medium red

On The Nose:  Cranberry, red berries,  grenache red hard candy

(love that!), spice

In the Mouth: Classic Grenache profile  in the mouth; expressive but balanced red fruit, good structure but not as tannic (yay!) as several previous vintages, thanks to a more forgiving season. Supple tannins, nice acidity. Would pair well with many foods, ranging from Grilled fare and burgers, to leaner cuts of meat and lamb. A wine with both body and elegance.

Learn to train your palate you don’t need to have your taste buds crushed by excessive oak and tannins to be ‘good.’ This vintage is an excellent training ground for the wine lover looking to broaden past Cabernet, and perhaps not yet in love with Pinot Noir. (You will be one day though. )

Recommendation.  Buy and drink now, or cellar for a few years. 92 points.  Retail $26 online. Media Sample – although I purchased several bottles via my Queue Club shipments.

Wine Geek Info:

  • APPELLATION Dry Creek Valley (Wine Creek Ranch Vineyard)
  • VARIETAL MIX 92% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, 2% Syrah
  • FERMENTATION Open top fermentors, native yeast
  • AGING A mixture of small French and eastern European oak as well as traditional 600-gallon foudre casks, 10% new
  • ALCOHOL 14.8%
  • PRODUCTION 961 cases

Related Articles:

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

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Wine of the Week – Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Fumé Blanc

A fair share of my Wine of the Week selections are chosen from microwineries, harder to find producers, geek or Rhone varieties, or wines over $20. That’s often what I drink, but certainly not all. It most especially does not represent, as I often remind my wine geek, fellow wine writers, and wine maker friends, what the mass population of North American wine drinkers consume.

I will often write about these as I remain dedicated to helping the typical wine lover and consumer, expand their horizons.  Wine knowledge is a journey of ever broadening discovery, no matter what your experience level, and I would pass on some of my ‘wasted’ years and eye opening experiences, and save readers only drinking big red overoaked wines for your first ten years, which sadly over the last 20 years the consumer has been lead to think is ‘good’.

Have recommended these to many friends over the past 2 years. Buy female viagra online without prescription? For a man with ED, a harder erection can lead to a more satisfying sexual experience. When it comes to hardness, this can help.

However, even in the world of  mass market consumption, there ARE good wines you can find widely available, under $20, and just grab off the shelf.

The Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc is one of those. A price any budget can afford, a wine most wine consumers can enjoy (get over that ‘I don’t drink white wines’ stance  – its killing your growth,)  yet enough there for the experience wine consumer to enjoy, even if as a uber wine geek you’d ‘prefer’ a $30 ‘white’ 6 month skin contact Trousseau Gris.

About Dry Creek Vineyards

Dry Creek Vineyards is becoming one of those rare breed and size winery. Still family owned and operated since founded 39 years ago, as the winery that put Sauvignon Blanc on the map in north Sonoma County, they exist in a difficult space. At 100k+ cases they aren’t the sometimes more fashionable boutique winery, yet they are a fraction of the size of the BIG boys who make millions of cases a year. Only a handful of wineries exist in this size, and less and less each year. A visit to their tasting room and meeting the team, feels the same as the 20k case winery down the road.  Perhaps more another time, but do take a few minutes to read about one of Dry Creek Valley’s pioneers, that brings a piece of the Loire Valley, by clicking here and their love affair with sauvignon blanc here.

I visited with Bill Smart,  Director of Communications, several months ago and tasted through a series of wines. I should point out, Dry Creek Vineyards makes a number of small lot wines, including other sauvignon blancs, but by design for this tasting we wanted to focus on what consumers could find widely available. Do drop by the tasting room to try these – I will be.

 About Fumé Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes referred to as  Fume’ Blanc. Purportedly this started  when Robert Mondavi  in 1968, changed their Sauvignon Blanc from an off dry  to dry version. To not confuse their customers, they came up with the Robert Mondaviname “Fumé Blanc”, from Pouilly-Fumé, a  popular dry-style Loire Valley wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. Rather than trade marking the name, Mondavi offered to allow anyone to use the Fumé Blanc name to market dry-style Sauvignon Blanc.

Fumé is French for “smoke,” but has nothing to do with smoky flavor in the wine. It refers to morning fog in the Loire Valley. Any’ smokey’ smells or flavors are from aging in newer oak barrels, not from any aroma or flavor character that is in Sauvignon Blac. Although some wineries choose oak barrel fermentation and/or oak aging, the use of Fumé Blanc on a label does not mean the wine was barrel-fermented or ever contact any oak, although it’s a common misperception that it does. (Another spin is that sauvignon blanc didn’t sell, so Robert changed the name.)


Wine Review

Dry Creek Vineyards Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc), Sonoma County

Welcome to the 39th vintage of this flagship wine of Dry Creek Vineyards. This sauvignon blanc is entirely stainless fermented, with no oak contact.

To The Eye: Clear pale yellow

On the Nose: Fragant nose of white peach, honeysuckle, grapefruit

In The Mouth:  Citrus. Lime & grapefruit as well as some herbaceous  characters found in the popular New Zealand sauvignon blancs, but with some minerality as well as great acidity that give it a bit more nuance. The finish is dry and mouth watering. Would pair well with shellfish, salads, or make a great aperitif.

Recommendation: An excellent value at $12. This wine has justly received many awards over the years, including recent Best Buy from Wine Enthusiast and in 2008 was the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair (which I am pleased to be added as a judge this year) Sweepstakes winner.

89 Points – Excellent, Recommended Buy.  Buy locally or online, or check your local store. Media Sample (but I will be restocking for summer and Thanksgiving.)

Side Note: I should add their <$10 Chenin Blanc, is also a great value at $8-10, and  varietal I wish we saw more of in Sonoma. I have the 2009 also in my glass, current release is 2010, or it could have also ended up as a Wine of the Week.

Wine Geek Info:

  • Grapes 100% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Appellation: Sonoma County
  • Harvest: October 4, 2010
  • Fermentation: Stainless steel fermented at an average of 52˚F for about 30 days
  • Barrel Aging:


  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Total Acidity: 0.64g/200mL
  • pH: 3.36
  • Residual Sugar: Dry
  • Aging Potential: 3 – 5 years
  • Case Production: ~30,000 cases

Our Highlights of Passport to Dry Creek: Food &amp; Music Pairings

Take a pristine, gorgeous day with spectacular vistas in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, California. Combine it with a wide range of wine varietals and styles. Add generous portions of thoughtfully paired foods. Mix it up with music and friends – blues, salsa and even zydeco – and you have the makings of a weekend that brings together all of my favorite things. And, all the wineries have specials, case discounts, and in some cases $1 case shipping – a big saving for travelers. One of the best things about this wine event is the active involvement of the vintners, winemakers, vineyard managers, owners, and family members in serving the foods, pouring the wines, and mingling freely with the guests to share their perspectives on the wines.

This was Passport to Dry Creek 2011. Here are some highlights:

Day One

Dutcher Crossing: Coconut Prawn Cones with Mango Chili Sauce paired with 2009 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc. The taste is unique on this SB made with 9% Viognier, 7% Semillion, and 1% Roussane. It was well chilled and paired nicely with the prawns.

I found a hidden surprise in the tasting room: 2006 Dutcher Dry Creek Port, fortified with brandy and made from 40% Cabernet and 60% Syrah, all grown on the estate.  The port was dark and chocolat-ey.  Extra points for pairing it overnight canadian viagra with Frozen Chocolate Whoppie Pies – two pieces of soft Oreo crust wrapped around a dollop of frozen chocolate ice cream. Yummy.

Sbragia Family: 2008 Gamble Family Ranch Chardonnay (grapes from Napa), paired with bean and pasta soup with Pancetta.  I prefer unoaked, and this Chardonnay is made with oak. But it’s subtle oak flavors — without the buttery mouth feel and syrupy texture of so many over-done Chardonnays — made it highly drinkable.

Besides the wine, food, and hospitality, location is the highlight of Sbragia. The winery is a stunning building perched on a ridge opening to views all the way to Marin. By the time I got there the temperatures were in the high 70s, and live music from the terrace was filtering out over the property. Sbragias’ good wine and kitchen make this a must-stop for future tasting days.  Now that summer weather is here, check the website for regularly scheduled music dates. An added bonus when you’re there: In the Italian tradition, Sbragia shares recipes from their kitchen. I took home a “Skewered Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Dried Fig Sauce,” recipe card from the tasting room – can’t wait to try this.

Unti Vineyards: Unti sells about 50% of their 60 acres worth of grapes to other wine-makers.  I’ve had wine made with Unti grapes, but this was my first visit and first taste of their wines.  The Grenache wines were the highlight for me. Two: a 2010 Rose of 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre that was a lovely peach color, ultra-dry, 13.5% alcohol wine. Chilled, it’s a perfect lunchtime wine.  And the 2007 Grenache itself was my favorite red wine of the day. Paired with a blues vocalist and tortilla nacho plate with melted cheese from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Thumbs-up.

Mazzocco. I couldn’t pass up the Cuban music and food theme at this wonderful winery location. Orchestra Borenquen and Zinfandel? Yes! The pairing was Flank Steak with Chimichuri and Saffron Prawns. It was the best food of the day.  In addition to other varietals, Mazzocco makes vineyard-designate Zinfandels from 9 ranches in the region. They were barrel-tasting 4 of their 2010 Zinfandels for Passport. I favored the Stone Ranch Vineyard – their only Alexander Valley Zinfandel. Tasting right from the barrel, the wine was soft, fruity and naturally balanced. The Stone Ranch 2009 was sold out; but there were good discounts available on futures.

The Mazzocco property was beautifully laid-out for the event. The orchestra was shielded by a gigantic sunshade. Flank steak was cooked to order, perfuming the air. A Cigar Loft stood slightly away from the center, completing the Cuba theme.

Seghesio Family. Seghesio went to town with a “Big Easy” theme. I loved the Cajun Barbequed ribs as served up by Pete Seghesio. They were meaty and succulent and went well with some of the featured Italian varietals such as a tobacco-ey 2008 Alexander Valley Sangiovese and a Zinfandel – Petite Sirah blend called “San Lorenzo.”

The Big Easy backdrop was the sounds of Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic.  A local bay area group, Andre Thierry’s accordion brings his music heritage from southwest Louisiana together with an R&B sensibility to create upbeat and highly danceable music.  If there had been a dance floor at Seghesio you would have seen some zydeco dancing too. As it was, the shaded venue on a warm afternoon was perfect … Mardi Gras beads handed out at the door and a glitter tattoo station completed the theme. That and the fresh beignets at the end of the tasting line.

Day Two

A. Rafanelli. It’s always special to taste the limited production, handcrafted wines of the Rafanelli family. Even more special to visit this historic homestead winery, which is open by appointment only. And on Passport weekend the Rafanelli’s went “all-out.” I spoke to a number of people who return here each year for Passport. The 2008 Rafanelli Zinfandel and 2008 Rafanelli Cabernet – both of Dry Creek Estate-grown grapes – were pouring.

With this there were 5 food stations with 3 dishes each. Five stations! Fried artichoke hearts with Parmesan sauce, steak marinated and cooked in heaps of fresh rosemary, roasted red potatoes to name a few of the small bites offered each guest. The final station is two tables of chocolates.  Two tables! The interplay of chocolate, Zin and Cab was sublime.  Back outside the sounds of a traditional Italian trio with accordion and vocals set a festive mood.

Mounts Family. The short drive up to Mounts was worthwhile. The new 2010 Estate “Pink” Syrah (a light rose’) and delicate yet well-structured 2008 Estate Malbec were standouts, as was the shaded belly-dancing pavilion in the middle of a benchland vineyard just above the Dry Creek Valley floor.  Middle-Eastern foods and a mini-cupcake of ginger capped with incredible syrah frosting completed the experience.

Quivira. A biodynamic winery and farm, Quivira served the only Sauvignon Blancs of the day. Both from the same vineyard and vintage but made in two different styles. One produced in pure stainless and the other in neutral oak with new acacia barrels and a hint of Viognier. I surprised myself by liking the acacia-fermented taste. Both wines were crisp and refreshing on the warm afternoon, and paired with small savory bites to enhance. My friend Sheri found her favorite wine of the day – a GSM+ red blend at Quivera.  Called Elusive, the wine is 34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah. Quivera was also pouring a Mourvedre made from locally grown grapes; unusual because it is made without blending – it’s 100% Mourvedre.  Mushrooms and blueberries delighted us in this wine.

Passalacqua. This is a charming winery hidden in plain sight across the road from Dry Creek Vineyards.  I loved the gardens and vistas from their back deck, and their 2007 Sangiovese. This is a well-balanced Dry Creek Sangio with a highly satisfying tannic finish on it. Paired with flatbread pizza and Chocolate mousse gelato.

Mike Farrow, Amista



Amista Vineyards. I wasn’t hungry but I couldn’t pass up the Truffle Mac-n-Cheese with Arugula at Amista. It set off the Amista Syrah wines so nicely that I joined the wine club and brought some home. As a wine-club member I had access to the 2007 Syrah and a Sparkling Syrah that is not sold to the public. And soon a new Rockpile Cabernet will be available to members only. I’d been eyeing the Amista wines, their club and cooking events for some time.  With the club benefits and entry-level membership, the time was right. We ended our tasting on a jolly note with proprietor and vintner Mike. A must-visit anytime you roll down Dry Creek Road.


(Note from William – special thanks to Katherine for covering this event, and doing a great write up so quickly. I had previously accepted a Media invite to Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, so she attended and covered.)



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Wine Review Panel – Six Sonoma Zinfandels from Wine Guerrilla

A few months ago I was contacted by Bruce Patch, the owner and proprietor of Wine Guerrilla and asked if I would like to receive some samples.  These days samples come in decent amounts, and my own cellar is burgeoning with wine, but when someone has taken the time to contact me and wishes to send a bottle, most times I accept, and will attempt to review.

Bruce it turns out was local, so I offered to let him drop off the wines to save shipping. It also allows me to meet the winery face and glean a bit of their story.  I was expecting a few bottles, lo and behold, Bruce had six. I like do like, buy, and review zinfandel (especially cooler Russian River Valley or Zin with some bottle time) but of the many wines I consume, Zin is less common. I realized it would take me quite a bit of time to get through six, nor would readers want six back to back Zin reviews, so I decided to try a different, more fun approach.

I was enthused, some of his Zin’s were well regarded, including prominent California Wine writer Charles Olken. Additionally it was a great opportunity to compare many fruit sources.

The Tasting Panel 

Wine Guerrilla "The revolution is in the bottle."

One of the great things of living in an area where there are over 200 wineries in a 30 mile radius, is enthusiasm and knowledge on wine cheap canadian viagra is very high. Many of us have changed our entire lives in pursuit of passion of this nectar of the gods. It’s as much a lifestyle as it is a beverage, and I blessed with many good friends who are like minded in this passion.

I decided to ask 4 friends all passionate about wine and all in the industry in various manners, ranging from wine maker, to blogger, to tasting room, to join me to taste through these wines.

I kept it simple to keep it fun, but focused still. Panelists were asked to write down basic tasting notes, and then rank their top 3 of the 6 zins.


Wine Guerrilla makes a crazy amount of Zin’s, over a dozen are on the website for sale. Most are 200 cases or less.

#1 2009 Sonoma County Zinfandel 81% Zin, 10% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignan & Cabernet

#2 2009 Adel’s Vineyard Dry Creek Valley

#3 2009 Harris-Kratka Vineyard 2009 Alexander Valley Zinfandel – 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan & 5% Petite Sirah

#4 2009 Conte Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel- A field blend of 83% Zin, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignan, 2% Alacante Bouchet, & 1% Grenache

#5 2009 Clopton Vineyard ‘old vine’ 2009 Russian River Valley Zinfandel –

#6 2009 Coffaro Vineyards ‘old vine’ Block 1 2009 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – 84% Zin, 16% Petite Sirah

The tasting was not blind, and tasters had access to the tech sheets. This was an experienced crew, I wasn’t worried about influence.


Each reviewers top pick got 3 points, #2 two points, and #3 a single point. As you can see, the number one choice scored almost twice as many points as the second. And they quickly trailed off.I should add, there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t like, and for many it was a hard choice, with a few re-visits. The styles were surprisingly, refreshingly different.

Wine Total Points
2009 Sonoma County Zin; 81% Zin, 10& PS, 8% Carignan, & Cab 4
2009 Adel’s Vineyard DCV 2
2009 Alexander Valley – Harris-Kratka 12
2009 RRV Conte Vineyard 5
Clopton Vineyards Old Vine RRV 6
Coffaro Vineyards DCV 84% Zin, 16 PS 1

Wine Review – Wine Guerrilla 2009 Alexander Valley – Harris-Kratka

The winner by a margin.

To The Eye: Lively, dark red.

One The Nose: Cocoa, spice, cherry pie, black fruit

In The Mouth: Brambly, jammy, complex, good finish.

Recommendation: A crowd pleaser amongst a wide variety of palates. 91 points $30 (media sample)

Wine Review: Wine Guerrilla 2009 Russian River Valley  Clopton Vineyard

To The Eye: Hazy dark red

One The Nose: Earth, blackberry, pepper

In The Mouth: Rich, viscous texture, ripe red fruit

Recommendation: A zinfandel that starts out with lots of fruit, finishes nicely, making come back for more. And more. 89 points.

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Simple Hedonisms Highlights of Passport to Dry Creek, 2010

April 24-25th was the prestigious annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley, organized by the  Wine Growers of Dry Creek Valley in North Sonoma County put their best foot forward pairing their wines with food, decorations, and even entertainment.  After a long month of travel, I was here to enjoy myself. I wasn’t on a press pass, and was simply out to have a great time, explore and enjoy myself; thus you will find a lack of tasting notes and other details I usually include in an event review; this was purely for me.

Passport to Dry Creek isn’t just another weekend wine tasting event – It’s a day of quality experience and enjoyment, not just racing around from winery to winery, trying their wines.  With only 5 hours each day, and 45 wineries participating, one has to be selective about where you go, In this case I based my choices not only on the wines poured but the description of the entire experience in the event details.


We kicked off the weekend at Amista, enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Vicky, Mike, Ross and the team; they held a wonderful brunch for their Wine Club members, and celebrated the launch of their new ‘minis’, which I had to be one of the first to buy! Had there not been a full day planned, we would have lingered over a bottle of chardonnay in the back patio.

Second stop was Mounts Family Winery – Dry Creek’s up and coming 3 generation growers turned small production vintners. The wines and hospitality are wonderful, and this time the Mounts had outdone themselves. The simple Mounts crushpad was transformed into a Persian adventure, complete with Belly Dancers.  Great food pairings from a Divine Affair, and David’s well made wines. (Look for his amazing new Grenache release about to come out, it won’t be around long.) Of the wineries I visited, I have to give the Mounts the Simple Hedonisms ‘Best of Event’. A video of the Belly Dancer’s is here.

Even though they weren’t participating in the Passport, other than a walking tour, I had to stop by at Preston. Presto’s new releases are often small and don’t last long, and I love their Rhone blends, so I couldn’t resist stopping by for a taste. Preston was nice enough to not be charging Passport holders for tasting. I was also pleased they recognized industry discount when I left with four bottles, which is always a nice reward for this labor of love.

Next was Bella, I have visited a few times, and love hanging out on their lawn in the summer, where they regularly have live music.  Bella staff doesn’t know the Simple Hedonisms guy yet, which is sometimes nice to be below radar when evaluating an experience. They did an outstanding job converting their property and cave to an African safari. There were some wonderful food offers, and the music was wonderful. Despite the busy day, I couldn’t resist grabbing a bottle of rose and lazing in the sun on a blanket for a bit.

We finished off the day at  Michel-Schlumberger, Jim and his team always go the extra mile for these events, with fun themes, good food pairing. Their Baja theme was well done, and we hung out for a bit, had a good time, enjoyed some fun, and good wine. I forgot to try the famed Pinot Blanc snowcones though!

After wine tasting all day, nothing is better than a cold beer – so I opened my newly home brewed lager. Which ironically I bottled some of it in a Burgundy wine bottle as an experiment.


We started out the day with my favorite Sonoma Rhone wine producer, Frick. I had hoped that coming here first would ensure we didn’t have a crowd, but alas there was already a bit of a line. Frick was offering 8+ food and wine pairings, in order, in their small barrel room, which resulted in a bit of a backlog. I teased Bill I was going to stop writing about Frick and telling everyone, which of course I’d never do. Frick has many wonderful Rhone red and whites, most only 100-200 cases. At Passport the whites poured were his Grenache Blanc (one of my fave whites right now) and Viognier. Red single varietals were his Cinsaut (wonderful!) Counoise, Carignane, Syrah and Grenache, as well as his red Rhone blends C2, C3, and Cotes-Du-Dry Creek. I stocked up on what I needed, and headed out.

Next was a quick stop at Dutcher Crossing. Didn’t see the ever lively Deb, but enjoyed their hospitality, gorgeous views, a few good food pairings, before on to the next stop.

On a lark, stopped at Gopfrich, which had never been to, and was intrigued by the ‘little over 500 cases’ production, and that they are rarely open to the public. Hospitality was wonderful, enjoyed a few wines, tried our hand at ‘fishing’ for a special prize (fishing poles and wine tasting can be a interesting combo as we observed.) I was on a mission to see more wineries than Saturday, so pressed forward.

Onto  a quick stop into Peterson, recommended by our wine maker friend Alan Baker. I am on a mission trying ‘natural’ or zero manipulation wines as they tout, and their carnitas were also being lauded. Indeed instead of a taste, it was enough for lunch! Sampled a few wines (must come back to try the Sangiovese) and walked to our next stop:

Kokomo – I have had Erik’s wines many times at tasting events, and Becky has always been great, but I had never actually stopped by the tasting room. Like many participants, there wasn’t a lot of detail on what they were offering, but I was really glad we stopped, the food pairings were one of the best of the weekend.  Erik was also pouring two new releases, his Grenache rose, and his new Chardonnay, both wonderful discoveries. The rose was bone dry, lots of great fruit and a wonderful finish. The Chardonnay was one I thought I wouldn’t have fond of, given it was oaked and full Malo-lactic, but Erik did a great job retaining acidity and fruit characteristics, and I really enjoyed it. Sampled a few zins, and then headed on.

A quick pitstop into Quivira. who wasn’t originally on my list, but I needed to pick up some of their mourvedre, one of their Rhone varietals, not commonly bottled as single varietal, and one of the best I have experienced yet.

Next, was Alderbrook, as I had planned to stop by Mazzocco and maybe one other. Alderbrook is in a interesting location –it’s a convenient first or last stop when visiting D.C.V. It was my first visit to Alderbrook; the Pigs N Pinot description had me. It sounded fabulous, and I was also determined this trip I’d fit some new tasting rooms I had yet to visit, a never ending goal, since the Wine Road has over 150 in a 30 mile radius. The tasting room of Alderbrook is nice, but the gem is the beautiful back yard, perfect for a warm sunny Sonoma day. In a addition a great Zydeco band was playing (video clip here) – I was hooked, and took the blanket out of the car, bought a bottle of wine, and spent stayed until closing, to the detriment of my itinerary, but to my personal pleasure. The wine and food were great, the venue, music, and hospitality wonderful. It was a great relaxing end to a hedonistic 2 day weekend.

The event was well executed, and I thought most wineries did a wonderful job. Albeit Passport is a more elite event than others, and with the higher $120 price tag, should come a higher quality experience.


Some wineries definitelyoutdid others, but the most important aspect is hospitality, and all excelled here. I have two broad suggestions for improvement. First, was thimble size halve pours at some venues. Before you sputter and mutter it’s wine ‘tasting’, remember I am the guy who frequently preaches AND uses a spit cup at these, and writes regularly encouraging thus. As someone evaluating wine, I find it very hard to when there is one  mouthful, as I generally want at least two samples, and found that difficult at a few places. Given every pour was with food, I want enough to be able to enjoy with the food. Over pouring is bad, and I totally empathize with small wineries (I am the guy also frequently writes wine tasting isn’t charity) but at $130 event, I should not be wanting for wine.

The second suggestion which I think should be looked at more closely, both policed by the D.C.V, as well as participating wineries if they wish to attract attention: provide (or enforce) providing details of what you are offering. Most of these wineries and wines are generally open for tasting; so at this event it IS also about what the rest of the package is. Simply printing your usual web data that “your wines are grown on ancient vines delivered by Moses, and the grapes pressed by Elves” really doesn’t help me in narrowing down where to visit, and for the most part, meant you likely didn’t get considered. I know small wineries are busy, but help yourself marketing wise, and submit something compelling.


Those two minor suggestions aside,  it was a wonderful weekend, and I was a bit sad I had not got to experience more, as I have no doubt more wonderful experiences were to be had, in this beautiful area, and with so many wonderful people. I highly recommend this event if you have not attended, and look forward to 2011!


Simple Hedonisms gets a ‘Passport to Dry Creek’

In the blurry whirlwind of wine events in April, excited this weekend to attend our first Passport to Dry Creek.

As always. I suggest making a plan for multi-winery passport/bracelet type events. So I grabbed a glass of wine, downloaded the brochure, and tried to narrow down the 45+ choices to fit into 2 days. Some people like to turn these into a whirlwind event, hitting as many as they can. I prefer, especially at an event focused on food pairings, with music etc to take my time, talk to winery owners, wine makers (where possible) and take a more leisurely pace.

No plan survives battle, and my wine event weekend itineraries generally morph as the day goes, but here is my first pass for Saturday and Sunday:


Amista -The amazing Rosso Pizzeria will be there, using the shiny new oven just installed. And Amista’s new mini’s.

Alderbrook – You had me at Pigs and Pinot, plus I have never visited, need to work in some new stops

Mounts – Belly Dancers, Mediterranean Food from A Divine Affair; and David & Lana are the best.

Dutcher Crossing – Deb isn’t sharing in the brochure what the food and entertainment is, but she is always a great hostess.

Peterson – my winemaker friend Alan Baker recommends Peterson for their Carnitas and their wines, never been, added to the list.

Frick – my favorite Rhone producer in Dry Creek, I drink a number of Bill Frick’s wines regularly and need a re-stock! Food pairings sound promising. Sometimes I wish Frick would stay a secret, but somethings have to be shared.

Bella – close by to Mounts, love touring their caves and hanging out on the lawn.

Michel-Schlumberger M-S always throw a great bash, look forward to their Baja party.

Mauritson Winery– Charlie Palmer is the chef. Need any other reason? (Syrah, Petite Sirah, Malbec doesn’t hurt either!)

I have other DCV faves such as Kokomo, Seghesio, Talty, Rafanelli, Ridge, David Coffaro I want to try and fit in as well, time permitting. I picked the above on a combination not just their wine, but their offering of food parings, entertainment, facilities. Passport to Dry Creek isn’t an inexpensive event, and most of these wineries I can visit any week, so my selection criteria isn’t just wine based.

If you see us out and about, come say hi, cheers!

Amista Vineyards goes ‘mini’ for Passport to Dry Creek Valley

This weekend will be abAmista Minis 06uzz  with the Passport to Dry Creek Valley event. Its a fun event with a bevvy of activity,  46 wineries in picturesque Dry Creek Valley come together once a year to celebrate their wines paired with mouthwatering cuisine. You can take tours, meet the winemakers and mingle with the chefs from Sonoma County’s best restaurants. Experience entertainment ranging from belly dancers, to circus troupes, live music and much more.

I love many of the great wineries in Dry Creek, one of these being Amista Vineyards. Vicky, Mike and the team are always seeking ways to improve the customer experience and enhance their already great hospitality, which they are renowned for. I have enjoyed following them on Facebook, and their recent adventures adding a pizza oven.

I was really pleased to learn of their latest innovation they are launching this weekend, a new ‘Taste of Amista’ – a package of 6 bottles of their wine, using the new 50 ML bottles.

This is an exciting development that I hope more wineries embrace. What a great way for wine club members, remote wine enthusiasts, wine writers and bloggers, be able to sample a wineries portfolio, in a much easier, less expensive format to ship, transport etc.

Amista Minis 05

More technology is involved than most consumers realize. Bottling  is  one of the least fun parts of the wine industry; getting wine into small bottles, with minimal exposure to air (bad), impurities etc took significant  research and innovation.

TastingRoom Inc.  creates these wine samplers using its patent-pending T.A.S.T.E. Technology™ (Total Anaerobic Sample Transfer Environment). Using T.A.S.T.E. Technology, wine is transferred directly from full bottles into small 50 ml bottles in a sealed, zero-oxygen chamber, so that wineries can be assured the wine samples are a true representation of their wine.

I asked Vicky and Mike to share their thoughts, and why they adopted this new bottle format:

“We think it’s one of the coolest innovations to come along in the world of wine in a long time – the next best thing to visiting a tasting room and  try before you buy.  It is especially exciting for a winery like ours – small production of 1800 cases, whose wines you will never find on the wine shop shelves.  There are so many wonderful boutique wineries to experience and here’s a way to do it”.

I completely agree, and am excited to see Amista be an early adopter. Other  wineries who have rolled out this format include Trefethen, Seghesio, and DeLoach.

The applications for this are wide; Tasting Parties, Gifts, Try before you Buy. Amista has a special “Tasting Party Bundle’ concept; one box for each guest replicates the Amista tasting room experience complete with tastins. Take one home as a present for the house sitter from your wine country vacation. (or send us wine bloggers a wider variety of samples in a less expensive method!) Check out their fun video too for the debut: Amista goes Mini

Can’t wait to grab one this Saturday before they are all gone!


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