Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’
(Splitting a long review into two articles is an experiment, let me know what you think. )
Tuesday’s article discussed the Heart of Sonoma Valley’s Annual Holiday Open House event, and reviewed six wineries.
The final winery review is Eric Ross, to whom I award the Simple Hedonisms “Best of Event”, something I will do going forward each event. Now in fairness, that means the best I visited, a subset of the twenty. Even a guy nicknamed the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ at work can only hit so many in one day! This in no means detracts from the many good experiences, it just shone the brightest based on not just the wine, but overall hospitality (not just to me), layout, vibe – I have written repeatedly on the importance of providing a outstanding experience in the tasting room. I observed other attendees, other pourers – the place was warm, alive, and full of happy people and good spirit.
Eric Ross Winery
As I did for the previous weekend event, I chose to finish at a winery that I felt I could rely on for a positive experience. This was actually my first visit to the winery, but I had met Eric at the Family Wine Tasting in San Francisco earlier this summer, during the Industry tasting (I was pouring as a volunteer for Mounts Family Winery.)I had sought out Eric Ross because of their Marsanne-Roussanne white blend, and ended up having a very enjoyable, detailed discussion. That intial dialog was not just about his wines, but my sabbatical, my own interests in wine and the industry, and my hobby Syrah vineyard.
Part way through the Holiday tasting, Eric came out, and to my surprise recognized me, AND actually remembered all of our conversation, including the vineyard, 5 months later. I have written many times, wine is far more than the product itself, it’s a living entity, and an art form, and for me the enjoyment and experience is as much about the people and artisans, as their product, especially in a region with hundreds of wineries.
Eric Luse owner and winemaker, was a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle for years. I was fortunate enough he spent an hour with me on this busy day, and in addition to wine geeking, he shared a number of his photographs. His work is brilliant in my opinion, and he really should publish a book, as many have encouraged. Eric did the photography in the beautiful new mini book on “The Wineries in the Heart of Sonoma Valley.” Besides being an amazing photographer, and a down to earth, genuinely nice guy, he is a talented, passionate wine maker, and of interesting varietals, which captures my attention even more, in our California tendency to make homogenous, over extracted, over the top wines.
By complete co-incidence my friend and fellow Wine Blogger Amanda Hagood earlier this week also did a feature piece on Eric Ross. She did a great job, so rather than re-state a lot of the same, you can read her piece here.
I did actually taste wine, although I think I chatted more!
- His previously mentioned Marsanne-Rousanne is one of my favorite whites. The remainder of his 2007 vintage was on sale, so I grabbed 6 bottles. This blend has a great floral nose, good acidity, balance and mouthfeel. You red wine drinkers looking to branch out, should start with similar Rhone whites; Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier. But PLEASE do not drink overly chilled, as so many do.
- The 2006 Old Vine Carignane was a treat. An easy drinking, comfort wine with bright, but not overpowering fruit. The Rauser Ranch vines in Lodi were planted in 1907! Grabbed one of these for home, $22 retail.
- 2008 Pinot Noir, Saralee’s Vineyard. Drinkable now, but I’d leave in bottle for 6 more months if can resist, a pinot with big color and fruit, good structure, from 30% new French Oak.
- 2008 Old Vine Zin, Cody’s Block. Technically in Dry Creek, but on the edge off the Russian River appelation,and with the characteristics of RRV ZIns, I am starting to find very appealing. Softer, less intense than many Zins, I don’t buy many Zins, but one of these came home with me.
- 2006 Syrah. Sorry was yakking so much with Eric, forgot tasting notes! RRV Syrah with 3% Viognier. Amanda cracked open a bottle last night she tells me, and raved.
As a special treat, I also bought a bottle of the limited release 2007 Pinot Noir, Poule d’Or. It wasn’t being poured, but it wasn’t a big leap to trust Eric. “Russian River Valley vineyards of Pommard Clones dominating the Dijon Clones of Pinot Noir as they come together in this Reserve Wine, only made in the years deserving an extra look.” Sold!
What a great ending to the day. It had been a fun day of wine tasting and meeting people, but it was this final visit that was the experience that makes me glow like a bulb on a Christmas tree. I had recently dropped a wine club, as I like to rotate each year, and completed my experience by adding Eric Ross to my list.
Wine club pickup events will also give me a reason to come back to Kenwood/Glen Ellen area more frequently, which I need to. I skipped some of the larger/older wineries, like Kenwood, Ledson, Benzinger, Chateau St. Jean, and they are deserving of a visit as well, having played key roles in the history of Sonoma. This event was well done, and this area deserves more buzz. I’d encourage the marketing organization to continue to be in Social Media, and promote itself more on FaceBook, Twitter and it’s Website. It has a lot to offer.
Thanks for reading – come back tomorrow for the weekly posting of Wine Country weekend events.
Part 1 (Because of the length of the review, event will be split into two posts, with a feature tomorrow on Eric Ross Winery)
It was a week to be thankful for indeed. It was my first full week back home since I started my whirlwind new job that has me commuting to Portland weekly. I had hoped to spend more time connecting with industry friends, but between work, and some needed respite, I wasn’t able. I was well rested, though for this weekend’s Heart of Sonoma Valley’s Annual Holiday Open House.
I was especially excited, as I really have not paid enough attention to the Kenwood and Glen Ellen areas of Sonoma Valley. While was familiar with many of the wines, I had actually visited very few of the wineries, and others not in years. Last week, Simple Hedonisms (aka me) visited Carneros for their Holiday in Carneros event. Two weekends in a row in Sonoma Valley (as opposed to my beloved Northern Sonoma Wine Road)…would it meet my high (maintenance) expectations? Would I have fun?
Once again, I followed my own advice (I don’t always) and did some planning. Using the Heart of Sonoma website, I printed out the map, and clicked on the individual wineries seeing what they were pouring, and sometimes digging deeper. The nice thing about this area is the wineries are all pretty close off of one road, most of the way, so it’s not as spread out as a Wine Road event. Still, with only 4-5 hours and 25 wineries, I needed to narrow it down, and the website wasn’t completing the task. Reaching out to Social Media, I got input from those on FaceBook and Twitter. I used those suggestions, especially when there were numerous people making the same comments, like Eric Ross.
I also decided to go the second day of the event, as I did the weekend prior for the Holiday in Carneros. This again proved prudent, as crowds were lighter, and allowed for better interaction. (hmmm maybe I shouldn’t share this tip.)
I chose this trip to focus again on new and smaller wineries, as much as I wanted to hit some of the older classic wineries of Kenwood and Glen Ellen, I had been to most and could only fit in 7-8 in one day. Spit cups, cooler, and maps in hand, I ventured out of Russian River into Sonoma Valley.
First stop to get a glass and a bracelet was Kaz. I am a big fan of Randy and Kaz’s weekly Radio show (which I listen to as a podcast) of Wine Biz Radio. They regular feature interviews of Social Media people, (maybe me one day 😉 ) and new marketing ideas. Kaz apparently doesn’t like signage, as he has a teeny sign on the road. But then as a micro-winery (under 1000 cases) he probably isn’t looking for those tour buses. On the radio show, Kaz is a boisterous, high energy guy, and he is just as whacky in person. He was buzzing around personally greeting people, serving chili, and making sure people tried the barrel samples of his 09 ‘newvoh’ Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sangiovese releases, in addition to the tastings.
Kaz was offering tastings of a variety of reds. All were interesting varietals, and had interesting names: including Hooligans Grenache, Moo-Vedra (Mourvedre), and Melodrama Malbec. All were 100% varietals, and I thought a good expression of the fruit. They were also pouring three ports, that I skipped, so I could try all the reds. (5 tastes total.) Tasting room pours were small, not uncommon for small wineries at passport events, but makes it hard sometimes to evaluate with only one mouthful. He was offering a buy two, get two free, so I had no choice but to partake. Bottles in tow, headed back onto Hwy 12.
Muscardini Cellars and Ty Caton Vineyards
I had originally planned to skip this tasting room, since I had just tasted Ty Caton the previous weekend at their Eighth Street location, but after repeated suggestions, I gave it a look. Muscardini had a nice offering of Italian varietals, so that was enough to sway me. Their tasting room is well designed to host people, and had a very steady flow of traffic. The tasting staff was both friendly and knowledgeable, enough to make me overlook the country music blaring just as it was at their other location. A little yee-haw never hurt anyone.
Eleven wines total were offered to taste that day with no restrictions….really glad I had my personal spit/dump cup. Kudos for both the selection, and for offering 20% off on all purchases during the event. I also appreciated nice sized pours that allowed me to evaluate each pour several times.
- 2005 lightly Oaked chardonnay, partial ML (Malolactic), Wine Enthusiast Best Buy, well balanced, good expression of fruit.
- 2008 Ty Caton Syrah Rose. I like few dry rose’s and this one made the list. Dark color, dry, big fruit, and 1/2 off at $11. Bought one.
- 2007 Muscardini Sangiovese. Award winner at multiple events, big nose, great body, dry finish. Another purchase.
- 2007 Ty Caton Malbec. People rave about Ty’s Malbec. This wine by their own admittance is young, but its flying off the shelves. (WSJ mention didn’t hurt.) Its big, and would benefit from some cellar time, so I bought one to put next to my 2006.
- 2008 Muscardini Barbera. A big bold wine, with lots of big fruit, good structure. Surprisingly smooth for a 2008. Another one for the cellar, bought one.
- I skipped two Syrah’s from Muscardini. I also skipped the Ty Caton Merlot – had it the previous week. It’s billed as ‘big enough to pass as a Cabernet.” Not a fan…I like Merlot to be like Merlot….supple, friendly, almost comfort wine. I buy Cab when I want Cab! But that’s just me.
- 2007 Muscardini Tesoro – Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cab, and Syrah. Big wine, big tannins at finish.
- 2006 Ty Caton Tytanium. (I skipped the 2006 Cab, had last week.) Another wine with a big following, Bordeaux blend. A treat to taste at $75 bottle, on sale for $60.
A really great visit, and experience here. Back onto Hwy 12, for a slight detour down Dunbar Road.
Kangaroo Crossing signs driving up belay the Aussie origin of winemaker Chris Loxton. Loxton was pouring their Zinfandel, Syrahs, and award winning ports. Friendly people, good wines, albeit small pours again. Tasting was station to station, not at a bar, no tasting notes this stop, sorry.
I added Wellington mainly because I saw a 2008 Roussanne offered, since I am a big fan of white Rhone wines. Unfortunately it turns out that the white Rhone wasn’t offered for tasting. It’s a small production that the renowned Girl & a Fig restaurant buys the majority of and features. That was good enough endorsement for me, so after tasting through their zin, merlot, cab, I bought a bottle of the Roussanne, even though I couldn’t try it.
Mayo Family Winery
After a quick lunch at CaffeCitti (and a bad choice of sangiovese) moved on to Mayo. I was fortunate enough at the first tasting station to meet one of the owners, pouring a Pinot Gris and 2007 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay. Neutral oak, and partial malolactic, this was a nice Burgundian style chardonnay that didn’t hide the fruit. Wine geeking, I also found out they sold a ‘unwooded’ Chardonnay, no oak, all stainless.
Additional stations tasted a 2007 Pinot, a 2006 RRV Zin, 2006 RRV Old Vine Petit Sirah, 2005 Merlot, 2006 Libertine red blend, and a few others. I thought all were well made, the Zin catching my eye at only 14% alcohol, soft, nice fruit that wasn’t in your face, and a good finish. I also really enjoyed their 2005 Napa Cabernet, $40.
As I was leaving, I decided to purchase the un-oaked Chardonnay without tasting it, and the Cabernet. I should have paid better attention to their specials – the tasting sheet offered 20% off 2 bottles of most varietals, but the chardonnay wasn’t listed, and I hate public haggling, and didn’t want to mar a good experience over a few dollars.
Come back tomorrow for Part Two, and winner of The Simple Hedonisms ‘Best of Event’ Selection – Eric Ross Winery.
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.
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.
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!
Ty 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?
Would 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.
I 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.
I 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!)
When Palette Art Café in Healdsburg closed before I could even try it, I was bummed. So, I was glad last week to learn via Facebook that a new wine bar and restaurant had opened in the same space – Affronti.
You don’t believe Social Media helps small businesses? Think again. If it hadn’t been for the post about Affronti by the “What’s Happening Healdsburg” Group ( it may have been months before I found it. I decided to check it out Friday night after flying back from Portland on business. Since it would be late and I’d be hungry, cooking would not be on the agenda that night.
It’s in a good location in Healdsburg in that it’s only a block from the square, and right as you come into town. Although, it’s hidden mid-building, so signage, visibility, and word of mouth are going to be important for success. They have a website, and a Facebook fan sight just started. Initial buzz has been good.
I really like the layout of the place. Outside, there is a big courtyard (great in summer, and could be used as spillover in warmer nights, with heat lamps). The inside space is warm, open, and inviting. The bar is comfortable. There is also a section with cozy couches for hanging out with cocktails. If this place takes off, it will need more space like this….Healdsburg desperately needs more places where you can lounge on a comfy couch with a cocktail.
The server was prompt, courteous, knowledgeable, and attentive throughout the evening – as soon as a plate was done, or a glass empty, he was there intuitively to serve.
I really like the wine menu.
Huge kudos for offering mostly, but not all, local wines. And yet finding interesting varietals and blends to pour, instead of the standard tired list of Pinot, Chard, Zin etc. zzzzz.
These included a Roussanne/Marsanne from Arrowwood, Fiano from Seghesio, Grenache Noir from Unti, to name a few – Bravo. Their unique wine cocktail list looked great too with creative libations made from wine, and sake, like the Alexander’s cup – viognier, ginger beer, cucumber, and strawberry.
Chef-Owner, Jude Affronti, has quite the pedigree of experience, and doesn’t disappoint.
The menu offers something for all appetites. The ‘bits and bites’ are great single serving nibbles. I highly recommend the flakey tartines. The spinach salad was big and well done with nice chunks of savory bacon. Soup of the day was a creamy leek and parsley that was delicious and not too heavy. The only dish that didn’t float my boat was the rillettte slow cooked duck small plate. Besides the bits and bites, and the single small plates, the menu at that time had four choices for dinner-sized plates as well. Included was a local fish ‘en papiote’ that sounded tempting. The menu on their website as of time of this article only had a fraction of what the printed menu had, so don’t let that dissuade you. There were also some tasty look desert choices – the chocolate terrine has my name on it for next time.
Their description via the website: “Affronti brings a unique “mix and match” menu format to the downtown restaurant scene; allowing diners to experience a wide range of sophisticated, yet accessible tastes without breaking the bank. From the colorful eye appeal of bar bites and small plates to the intriguing combinations of flavors and textures found in ”something bigger to share” selection, Mediterranean cooking influences fuse with local ingredients to reflect both the bounty and heritage of Sonoma County.”
I’d have to concur with this – reasonable prices, quality food, good ambience, creative cocktails and wine selections – finally! They have “social hour’ specials 4-6:30 pm, Jazz brunch on Sundays, and live Music Thursday nights. This is my new hangout of choice – check it out, support it, so great venues like this stay in business. (p.s. check out my other new favorite in Windsor – Vine Tastings – I plan to review their great new menu next week.) 235 Healdsburg Ave, #105, Healdsburg.