Posts Tagged ‘sonoma county’

Labor Day Weekend is Sonoma’s Finest Food and Wine Weekend

A Very Special, Personal Weekend

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend (SWCW) is a special event for me, and Simple Hedonisms. Four years ago….hmm I thought it was five, have I REALLY only been here just over four years? People think I have lived here forever.  Anyway, I digress.

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

Moving here on a complete whim in July 2009 in a whirl of tumult, I followed my passion and knowing almost no-one, and having no social media presence, I descended upon Sonoma County. I wasn’t new to the county wine scene however. I have shared regularly, I was in love in the Sonoma, especially Russian River Valley, and visiting so regularly, it just made sense to move, and immediately it ‘fit.’ I immediately planted a tiny vineyard, assisted with harvest, and started Simple Hedonisms.

I am a huge fan and regular attendee of the Wine Road events, but the Saturday Taste of Sonoma was my first walk around tasting where on foot, you could experience dozens and dozens of wineries, sorted by AVA (region) and get a true taste of how diverse the county is.  Sprinkle in amazing food, gorgeous scenery, good weather, and Sonoma County hospitality, and if you don’t love it here, you should be in the next Grinch book.

Just prior to the event, I launched the blog after being urged by many for years to do so, and the Taste of Sonoma, was my first event covered.  The article probably had 100 readers then if I was lucky, a far cry of the peak of my most active writing of 5,000+ a month.  This 2013 event may also prove to be special and unique for me, but alas, that is for a future telling.

How passionate am I about this event? I am in the middle of one of the busiest weeks of my year, and I am taking the time to sit outside with my laptop, overlooking my vineyard project, glass in hand, and trying to ‘write’ as opposed to pasting the press release. We can sleep when we are dead.

Experience The Magic in Sonoma’s Unique Event

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is an annual event every Labor Day weekend and is Sonoma County’s largest charity event and premier wine and food event, celebrating the region’s incredible bounty of food, wine, and fun while raising much needed funds for Sonoma's local charities.

The event is actually entire weekend full of a la carte options, from Friday night dinners to Sunday BBQ, each detailed below.

1. My Favorite: The Saturday Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

There are many wonderful tasting events in the county, and Bacchus be willing (and I also win the lottery) I’d attend them all.

However there are very few ‘walk around’ tastings, most involve going to each winery with a bracelet and a glass. These are wonderful because they provide the experience of the winery itself.

There is however a certain ‘efficiency’ (although I hesitate to use that word for such a relaxing, joyful environment.) of being able to walk around dozens of wineries gathered together from regions like Russian River, Dry Creek, Sonoma Valley etc and compare across the region, and then compare regions. There are 200 wineries in total pouring! I suggest you print the list and make a plan.

Come For The Food: If wine isn’t your thing, the event hold’s its own on the food and demonstrations alone. The who’s who of our many talented chefs are present, with over 60 chefs offering their creations.

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

The event is brilliantly orchestrated and comes off like clockwork. You simply enjoy a decadent day.

Tickets are $115 for Visa Signature holders (odds are you have one, flip your card over) or $165 for general admission. This Saturday event sells out! (All Grand Reserve already are.) You have been advised.

2. Friday Night Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola, with Food Icon Sondra Bernstein

Kick off Sonoma Wine Country Weekend poolside at the iconic Francis Ford Coppola Winery for an unforgettable evening of world-class wines, delicious cuisine, live music, and dancing to Bay Area favorites Pride & Joy — all set against a backdrop of shimmering stars in the Alexander Valley.

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

Guests will enjoy a bountiful array of local, seasonal cuisine poolside created by Sonoma Wine Country Weekend’s 2013 Honorary Culinary Director, Sondra Bernstein and Chef John Toulze, proprietors of the girl & the fig. Over 20 local wineries will be on hand to share their Sonoma County wines, pairing wines with incredible local fare.  Info and Tickets here.

3. Friday Winemaker Lunches and Dinners

Prefer something more intimate? Enjoy a special afternoon or evening of wine and food.  Many of these are already sold out, as seating is limited to each. Remaining winemaker lunches include wonderful venues like Davis Family Vineyards, Lynmar Estate, Landmark, and others. See the full list, descriptions and tickets here.

Only a handful of the Winemaker dinners remain, in various parts of the county, including a few seats at places like Sonoma Cutrer, Longboard, Muscardini and a few others.  I attended one of these last year, and it was buy viagra free shipping a highly personable, memorable experience.  See the full list, descriptions and tickets here.

4. Sunday BBQ

Three wineries are offering a Sunday BBQ and wine, a perfect finish to the weekend. Since there are only three, these shouldn’t last long either. See the full list, descriptions, and tickets here.

5. Sunday Harvest Wine Auction

For you high rollers, this is an amazing, first class experience of food, wine, and entertainment, all casual but classy Sonoma style. I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of the limited seats once.

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

The Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction is Sonoma County’s largest and fun, fundraising event, bringing together the wine community and caring donors to raise essential funds that make our world-class wine region a better place by supporting our kids and our community. Not all lots are expensive, I 'bought' a lot that was simply a donation to a fund that assists our migrant grape pickers.

Immerse yourself in the intrigue of Brazil at the 21st Annual Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, Sonoma Samba, sponsored by TricorBraun WinePak.  The Grand Lawn of Chateau St. Jean will be transformed into a Pan-Latin Celebration. The winery skits, usually in theme, are quite comical. (I will forever carry the memories of the Benziger brothers in bikinis for a beach theme.)

Your ticket not only offers you passage into the Wine Spectator Auction Tent, but it also allows you to mingle with Sonoma's finest winemakers, as each table will be presided over by a local  Winemaker or Grower who will share not only their finest wines, but great stories, too! Over 70% of the tables are already sold out.

Follow The Fun On Twitter

Courtesy of SWCW

Courtesy of SWCW

This event is attended by people all over the country, all here to experience the magic of Sonoma. You can follow some of the fun on Twitter via hashtag #SWCW as well as their Facebook Page. However, I suggest you come experience it in person. I will be.


Related Articles

The Annual Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch

Spotlight on Sonoma – Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sept 3-5: Visa Signature Event Highlights

Sonoma County's Finest Wine Weekend Gets Even Better: New Starlight Dinner Kickoff


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Rosé the Rhone Way – A Post in Pictures

A few weeks ago, William and the North Coast Rhone Rangers organized a beautiful Rosé tasting in the garden at Quivira Winery. Between the wonderful weather and the gorgeous bottles of Rosé, I ended up with a lot of really great pictures. I decided to just put them all up here and let the wine do most of the talking (with my own notes interspersed of course).

The pictures below represent just a few highlights from the tasting. The whole event was lovely and I look forward to adding some of these wonderful wines to my personal collection.


2012 Broc Cellars Santa Ynez Rosé $20

We started the day with the Broc Cellars Rosé. The blend is 50% Counoise and 50% Cinsault. It was a great refreshing way for us to start off the tasting. With clean, fresh, watermelon flavors it felt like a perfect start of summer wine. I personally am really excited about Broc Cellars – with a tasting room located in Berkeley, I know I will be stopping by before at least one Cal Football game this year.


2012 Campovida Rose di Grenache $34, 134 case production

The next Rosé was from Campovida. I had met the winemakers a few weeks earlier at the 7% Solution Tasting and was excited to get a chance to try their wine. Grenache Rosé is definitely something I've been enjoying a lot lately and this was no exception. To go from loving Grenache to discovering Grenache Blanc, it is only fitting that I've now progressed to Rosé and am growing quite passionate for it as well.  The Campovida was also selected by attendees as their favorite wine of the day, in a poll completed by attendees, by quite a margin, congrats!

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2012 Front Porch Rosé $25, 90 case production

My personal favorite of the day was the Front Porch Rosé being poured at the Idlewild table. As a blend of 70% Grenach and 30% Syrah, it has a lovely juicy flavor that was reminiscent of guava.

Of course, there were also some amazing Idlewild wines (which for some reason I didn't manage to get a picture of). The 2012 Vin Gris ($22, 70 case production) was an exceptionally light Syrah Rosé. With only 1.5 hours on the skins, it had delicate strawberry and crisp citrus tones.

The third wine at the table was another favorite – the Idlewild Grenache Gris ($28, 122 case production). With 3 days on skins and stems, it was darker in color than the Vin Gris. The wine had a beautiful nose and lovely cranberry flavors. I had tasted it a few weeks earlier and was happy to try it a second time and see that it was still as wonderful as I remembered.


Mounts Family Winery 2012 Grenche generic viagra Rosé $16, 82 case production

The Mounts 100% Grenache Rosé caught my eye initially just with how light and peachy the color was (I told you the pictures did a lot of the talking here). With only 4 hours of skin contact and low sugar content, it had such a light and crisp grapefruit flavor. It was absolutely perfect on the sweltering Sonoma day.


Quivira 2012 Rosé $19, 602 case production

It wouldn't be a complete review without mentioning the host winery's Rosé as well. This Rosé is a blend of 51% Grenache, 32% Syrah, and 17% Mourvedre. There was a lovely strawberry flavor that I very much enjoyed along with the bright pink color. The wine is also organic which I always support. In addition to the Rosé, I also picked up the Quivira 2011 Grenache. I had to contain myself from buying anymore and I'm sure next time I visit I will also be grabbing a few of their blends.


Drink Pink, Dress Pink

It wouldn't be a day of wine tasting without me hamming it up for a few photos as well. I was very enthusiastic that my dress matched many of the wines. I would love to say this was a happy accident but I noticed that most of my dresses had some wine spots on them and I figured in this case, no one would see if I spilled wine on myself. Ironically, since I took the precaution, I managed to refrain from my usual clumsy nature and keep all of my wine in the glass.


I can't take her anywhere…

The commentary on the event would not be complete without mentioning the beautiful sustainable garden at Quivira. It was fun to explore and see just how many different types of produce were flourishing. I can hardly keep my key lime plant alive so I was definitely impressed. My friend, Natalie, really enjoyed exploring the gardens as well. I hear the raspberries are delicious…


A wonderful end to a beautiful day of wine tasting!

After tasting a lot of lovely Rosé, we all went back to William's house for a wine filled homemade dinner that went way past sunset. It was a wonderful day and I'm looking forward to more of these smaller Rhone Ranger tasting events. At $15/ person, the Rosé tasting was a fun and inexpensive way to explore a very specific wine topic. Quivira was a perfect location for it and intimacy of the event really let me talk to the winemakers a little bit more. Thanks William for putting together such a beautiful tasting!

Related Posts

Rosé the Rhone Way in Healdsburg June 1st with the Rhone Rangers

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Interview: Nikki Lincoln, Simple Hedonisms New Millennial Writer


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.

Upcoming Wine Events in the North Coast, February 4 – 12

William has invited me to keep you apprised of upcoming wine events for the North Coast with weekly posts here at Simple Hedonisms. Each article will cover roughly 2 weeks of events taking place in Lake, Mari

n, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. Every now and then, there’ll be a sneak preview of something farther out in time or distance.

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.

One-time, up-front disclaimer (in future articles, this will appear at the end): 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. Enjoy!

Event organizers and publicists wishing to maximize the likelihood of their events being published here should post their 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.

Now that that’s out of the way… Wow! What a busy couple of weekends we’ve got coming up. If it weren’t for the Super Bowl this Sunday — an event against which few wineries are daring to compete — I’d still be clacking away, adding festivities. Valentine’s Day has inspired a huge bouquet of events pairing wine and chocolate, wine and oysters, wine and flowers, wine and romance. I’ll take any of those over a Hallmark card. (Gentlemen, this is not a suggestion that you forgo a card this year. Bad idea!)

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you tomorrow afternoon at the Micro-Winery Collective Open House at the Inspiration Vineyards tasting room in Santa Rosa.

Lake County

Saturday, February 11

Wine & Chocolate . . . and More! at Mt. Konocti Winery — Lakeport: 12:00 – 4:00
There will be more than 30 wineries pouring premium Lake County wines paired with gourmet chocolates and savories by Master Sommelier Candidate and Masters of Wine Candidate Sommelier Stephanie Green.

Marin County

Tuesday, February 7

Happy Hour with Tudal Family Winery at Bacchus Venus — Sausalito: 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Taste through a flight of Tudal Wine’s for $10.

Mendocino County

Sunday, February 11

McFadden’s Second Saturday — Hopland: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Enjoy McFadden’s wines made from 100% organically-grown grapes and paired with a delicious food treat.

Wine & Chocolate Extravaganza at RWV Wineries — Redwood Valley: 11:00am – 5:00pm
One ticket gets you a glass for Wine Tasting and Chocolates at all 9 locations.

Cupid in the Caves at Saracina Vineyards, Hopland: 12:30pm – 4:00pm
Stop by the Saracina Tasting Bar for the romance-inducing foods of the gods: wine, oysters and chocolate!

Crab Feast in the Barrel Room at Jaxon Keys Winery — Hopland: 6:00pm – 10:00pm
A Valentines Weekend Crab Feast in the Jaxon Keys Barrel Room. They’ll start things off with Oysters three ways: Rockefeller, Florentine, and raw and then it’s all about the crab!

Napa Valley

Friday, February 3

Annual Open House at Charles Krug Winery — St. Helena: 10:30am – 4:30pm
The Peter Mondavi family welcomes you to their annual open house. Meet the family, taste new releases and enjoy live music.

Saturday, February 4

Annual Open House at Charles Krug Winery — St. Helena: 10:30am – 4:30pm
The Peter Mondavi family welcomes you to their annual open house. Meet the family, taste new releases and enjoy live music.

Winter Release Day at Silver Oak — Oakville: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Release celebration for the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and kicks off of festivities for Silver Oak’s 40th Anniversary.

Cabernet Release Event at Bennett Lane Winery — Calistoga: 11:00am – 5:00pm
Visit Bennett Lane Winery for the pre release of their 2009 Cabernet and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winter Tag-a-Long at Saddleback Cellars — Oakville: 11:00am – 5:00pm
It’s a great day to taste at Oakville wineries since most in the area celebrate the release of the 2007 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon! At Saddleback, they’ll have an enhanced tasting day with food from Rebel-Dog and live music by the Wasted Rangers.

Cabernet Pre-Release Day at Cosentino Winery — Yountville: 12:00pm – 04:00pm
Get a sneak peak at the Cosentino Winery Reserve Cabernet and its library varietal, paired with chocolate.

Cabernet Pre-Release Day at Girard Winery — Yountville: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
A sneak peak at the inaugural release of the Girard Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

Friday, February 10

Cupid’s Kitchen at Girard Winery — Yountville: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Bubbles, the Oyster Girls from Tomales Bay, a sensuous chocolate fountain and exquisite cheeses.

Saturday, February 11

Valentine’s Oyster and Wine Pairing at Black Stallion Winery — Napa: 12:00pm – 4:00pm or until the oysters run out
Oysters by the pair, six-pack or dozen. And wine!

Goosecross Valentine’s Day Party at TopFlight — Napa: 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Enjoy an afternoon of wine, chocolate and romance.

San Valentino Dinner at Andretti Winery — Napa: 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Put on your best Upscale Wine Country attire and come celebrate amore and Valentine’s Day with Andretti Winery.

Sonoma County

Saturday, February 4

Crab Feed at Sbragia Family Vineyards — Geyserville: 5:00pm – 8:00pm
The Sbragia family invites you to join them for an evening of cracked crab and fabulous wine!

Winter Release Day at Silver Oak — Geyserville: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Release celebration for the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and kicks off of festivities for Silver Oak’s 40th Anniversary.

Syrah Saturday at Amista Vineyards – Healdsburg: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Enjoy Amista’s signature estate wines with gourmet food pairings from 11:00-4:30 on Saturday, February 4th.

Wine & Chocolate Fantasy at Rodney Strong Vineyards — Healdsburg: 10:00am – 5:00pm
The Rodney Strong barrel room is transformed into a beautiful series of halls and rooms, featuring wine and chocolate and chocolate and wine!

Micro-Winery Collective Open House at Inspiration — Santa Rosa: 11:00am – 5:00pm
These wineries don’t have public tasting rooms. This is a special opportunity for you to try and buy wines from seven uniquely different wineries, each

with their own winemaker present to tell you their stories and introduce you to their wines.

Fundrasier for the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue at Marimar Estate — Sebastopol: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Tapas, wine, and an education booth run by Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue

Tuesday, February 7

Tasting Tuesdays at Willi’s Wine Bar — Santa Rosa: 4:00pm – 05:30pm
This week’s guest is Jesse Inman of August Briggs Wines.

Friday, February 10

Roche Winemaker Dinner at Sheraton Sonoma County — Petaluma: 6:30pm – 09:00pm
This “Pre-Spring Fling” Winemaker Dinner is open to the public, however, advanced reservations and RSVP are required.

Saturday, February 11

Reds & Romance Weekend at Dutton Goldfield — Sebastopol: 10:00am – 04:30pm
Featuring Dutton Goldfield Winery‘s luscious red wines, including single-vineyard Pinots from the amazing 2009 vintage. A special sweet treat awaits you as well.

Bring Your Sweetheart! at Deerfield Ranch Winery — Kenwood: 10:30am – 4:30pm
Deerfield Ranch Wines paired with Robert’s handcrafted chocolate truffles.

Culinary Romance: Valentine’s Weekend at Bella Vineyards — Healdsburg: 11:00am – 4:30pm
Bring your special valentine and bask in the elegant ambiance of our wine cave as you explore the culinary side of romance.

Sweet 116 at the Wineries of 116 — Sebastopol: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Enjoy decadent treats and delicious wines at six wineries along Highway 116 near Sebastopol.

Valentine Library Wine Flight at Skewis Wines — Healdsburg: 11:00am – 4:00pm
We have a special tasting planned for Valentine’s weekend; a single vineyard, vertical tasting from our private wine library.

Miette Pastries at J Vineyards — Healdsburg: 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Head over to J Vineyards and Winery and enjoy tasty treats prepared by Executive Chef Mark E. Caldwell from the Miette, San Francisco’s most charming pastry shop.

Tasting Room Grand Opening at Karah Estate/Windy Hill — Cotati: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Come to the grand opening of the new Karah Estate tasting room and enjoy a free tasting, plus its panoramic view of the Petaluma Gap!

A Zin Affair to Remember at DeLoach Vineyards — Santa Rosa: 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Vertical Zinfandel tastings, gourmet chocolate, local artisan cheeses, live music and more!

Sunday, February 12

Reds & Romance Weekend at Dutton Goldfield — Sebastopol: 10:00am – 04:30pm
Featuring Dutton Goldfield Winery‘s luscious red wines, including single-vineyard Pinots from the amazing 2009 vintage. A special sweet treat awaits you as well.

Bring Your Sweetheart! at Deerfield Ranch Winery — Kenwood: 10:30am – 4:30pm
Deerfield Ranch Wines paired with Robert’s handcrafted chocolate truffles.

Culinary Romance: Valentine’s Weekend at Bella Vineyards — Healdsburg: 11:00am – 4:30pm
Bring your special valentine and bask in the elegant ambiance of our wine cave as you explore the culinary side of romance.

Valentine Library Wine Flight at Skewis Wines — Healdsburg: 11:00am – 4:00pm
We have a special tasting planned for Valentine’s weekend; a single vineyard, vertical tasting from our private wine library.

Love and Meritage Blending Party at Topel Tasting Room — Healdsburg: 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Topel winemaker Marcus Topel will pair up with KRSH Radio’s Ziggy Eschliman, best known as Ziggy – The Wine Gal, to guide friends (with or without benefits) and lovers through the wine blending process.

Wine Lover’s Event at Mounts Family Winery — Healdsburg: 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Indulge yourself with a wine, cheese & chocolate Pairing and try pre-release Petite Sirah, Malbec viagra best buy and Zinfandel. RSVP required.

Looking Forward

Don’t forget the 7th Annual Int’l Alsace Festival coming up on February 18 in Boonville. There will be an Int’l Alsace Varietals Festival Technical Conference a Grand Tasting and a Winemakers Dinner. I’ve attended this event before and really enjoyed it.


This article is by Fred Swan for Simple Hedonisms. Photograph ©Igor Prole, used under license. All rights reserved.

4th of July Weekend Marks Two Year Anniversary for 'Sonoma William' – and Brings More Changes, Evolutions & Decisions

It's snuck up on me again, perhaps because (as many echo to me) it is sometimes hard to imagine I have only been here two years. In many ways I feel like was always here.

Two Years Ago – The Long Overdue Journey Begins

I knew in my heart and soul, over 12 years ago this is where I would live: The result of  working for a Petaluma startup and discovering Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. However being (at that time) in my early 30s's,  and single, I was in denial a rural, agrarian county was the place for me, and instead lived in San Francisco and Marin, but sojourning regularly into Sonoma for work and play. Russian River Valley (I fell in love with Pinot, my 'first girl') and often Dry Creek Valley, became monthly visits.

Flash forward to 2009; after leaving the Bay area and brief stints in Seattle, Denver, and Baja Mexico, I returned to California in 2007 and was working in Silicon Valley.

A rapid series of life & work  events landed me here in North Sonoma, newly single, on paid 6 months off, really not knowing anyone, and keen to dive, at least partially,  into the wine industry. After much urging by friends, I also decided it was time to start a wine website and blog on it. I was fairly new to Facebook, not even on Twitter, but realized, with my background in marketing & technology, that these Social Media tools really could provide some social integration and networking, as well as establishing the brand of 'Sonoma William.' Today the blog Facebook page has 2400 followers, and Twitter, 4000.

Which incidentally I get push back on occasion as a wine writer. I write, travel, and review all wines and AVAs. Sonoma County is where  I live and love, not my wine focus, per se. Although she holds a special place in my heart, and where above all other places, I choose to live.

I wasn't alone – we had other new entities like Hardy Wallace and Rick Bakas, all of us only a brief span apart. move into wine country. The differentiator for myself being I was completely independent and self funded. (Not that I wouldn't want a large or progressive thinking, funded, winery at my back!)

It wasn't long before I heard regularly – 'you are everywhere!'

Diving In

Things coalesced: I finished the blog site,  self designed and hosted;  I was fortunate enough to have good  local Industry backing, especially of the North Sonoma Wine Road, and then it spread to organizations like Hospice du Rhone,  and momentum just grew. More of my background and first adventures can be found in my post: ‘Sonoma William’ Joins Forces With the Rhone Rangers; Some History & New Directions. I jumped into 2009 harvest. I covered events and just waded in head first.

Alas, my 6 month 'sabbatical' ended prematurely and I had to stop mid harvest and begin the struggle of trying to balance time between two very distinct worlds.

Now, two years later much has evolved, personally and professionally, but one thing  is certain – being involved in the wine industry was my calling – but on what path?

More Changes and Several Paths To Choose From Ahead

  • New Life Changes

Two years later, a touch ironically, I am amidst another series of life changes.

Until last month, I have been head of sales for a small, VC funded,  software company, which by its nature brings volatility, especially when you are subject to the whims of Venture Capitalists, and in turbulent times. Despite the fact I helped the company grow and 2011 was on target to meet or exceed another 25+ percent growth year, a never ending series of  changes and  re-orgs, my role was eliminated. Without the big corporate severance package this time.

It was clear this was an opportunity to assess and decide – is this the time to jump full time into the wine industry? I have had offers before (and now) – but the issue has always been a huge decrease in income, at a time with a new farm, small vineyard, and other projects where capital is needed…can I afford to? We shall see, for right now I am pursuing other avenues and interests, hopefully through Harvest 2011.

Additionally, a bit  unexpected, I am in a relationship with someone, also in (and new to)  the wine industry. After many years of focusing on everything but my own life, I am investing substantial hours per week in building and growing this relationship, and spending time with a person who completes my life in many ways. My 'usual' line of work involves heavy travel 2-3 days a week, every week, and has always made relationships a challenge, so I am welcoming the quality time getting to know a dear person I both greatly respect and whom I think the world of.  Life is short, time is precious. It's time to live, love and practice what I preach about enjoying life's primary pleasures.

  • Wine Marketing Consulting

Over the last year, I had been doing some side consulting for marketing and social media integration to several clients, mostly in conjunction with wine Public Relations veteran Marie Gewirtz of MGPR, and occasionally independently. Given recent changes, I am now open to new clients, and have recently closed several with more request

opens for proposals. These can range from a Social Media only focus, helping launch Facebook, Twitter, building a following, integrating key applications like Cruvee and Google Analytics for measurement, training, and handing over the keys to the castle over some months, to campaign and event consulting, or a full blown soup to nuts Marketing , Public Relations, and Social Media campaign combining the resources and and experience of MGPR, and others who work with us.

I need to build an 'accolades' page, as we have already accomplished some great things, and I have also launched several projects including the new Santa Rosa Wine Trail. I also teach seminars for Wine Organizations, teach at Sonoma State University, guest lecture at Santa Rosa Junior college, and have presented at winery's national meetings. Work has never been this much fun, or fulfilling, until now.

  • Starting My Own Wine Label

In the background I have been working to create my own small brand, focusing on Rhone blends, producing 7 barrels of Rhone varietals (175 cases) and am going through all the fun paperwork. (Especially daunting has been the name creation.) I have had help and coaching from many people, ranging from Rhone icon Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon (whom I feel guilty to even contact) to the guidance of local winemakers Darek Trowbridge (and Steven Washuta) (Old World Winery), Alan Baker (Cartograph), Dylan & Tobe Sheldon (Sheldon Wines) & Kevin Hamel, veteran Sonoma wine maker and consultant. Busy with their own small artisan wine brands (all personal favorites) , these people have been kind enough to mentor me.

The ultimate size of this label? Remains to be seen… I think this is my long term future…but is that five years out? Ten? It's still TBD as I let it happen somewhat organically. Joining with a life partner, investment partner who is also a passionate wine aficionado could accelerate this. My experience with Venture Capitalists makes me reluctant to  create a business plan and raise outside investors who aren't hands on involved, and like minded.

  • Wine Writing, Press Tours, and Wine Judging

At the same time, my following and reputation as a wine writer seems to have really accelerated. Readership is high, for a niche wine website. Requests for media coverage and event press passes flow in. I am having to decline some wine samples, based on backlog, capacity,  and really wish I again had active wine writers again for events and reviews.

A new twist  has emerged that I am excited about – wine judging. In early August I will be a judge in the Mendocino County Wine Competition. In September I am judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, our biggest competition. And in November I am judging in a brand new competition called the Garagiste Festival.

Additional requests for press and media tours continue. I recently have been spending time exploring Mendocino County with a press tour and Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp. In July I am one of six writers selected on a all expense paid week media tour in Spain, sponsored by Freixnet, and visiting properties and wineries

of the 22 brands, including Ribera and Rioja. Wine writing doesn't pay, but it has its perks!

  • Stepping into the Rhone Rangers Board of Directors, and Starting the North Coast Chapter

Life has been so busy, I haven't even had time to craft a press release about our record Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand event, nor my appointment to the Board of Directors last month.

Additionally, I am also spearheading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, in the footsteps of the successful Paso Robles chapter. Our initial goal is a map of Rhone producers with an electronic map for Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. More on this in a separate article, but if you are a winery that fits this or can recommend one, please contact me ASAP. I love working with wineries, but if you have ever done any cross winery work, you know its cat herding at its finest!

Where Does It All Lead?

The above items are by far a complete list; add in the monthly social events  host for 100+ people, the live tastings I do, and much more, life is very full! But where does this lead? I often get asked where is my 'master plan'?

Atypical for me, I don't have one. I see multiple possible paths in front of me, and I am letting them play out, somewhat organically, or naturally. Water follows its own path, and in this case, I think my life will as well.

I can't wait to see what the 2012 Third year anniversary summary brings! Cheers!


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Our Highlights of Passport to Dry Creek: Food & 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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Wine of the Week – Dutton Estate 2008 Russian River Valley, Thomas Road, Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir – my first non Bordeaux love, before my Rhone mistress. You never forget your first real experience with a woman; Pinot Noir, thankfully ahead of Sideways, awoke my palate after many years of Bordeaux varietals  (Cabernet, Merlot, etc.) I was seduced by this seductive, layered, complex varietal that didn’t require tannin condom on my tongue to drink.

I speak  passionately about Rhones, but  a elegant, silky Pinot Noir fills a void no other wine does.

Dutton Estate

I had a very pleasant re-visit to Dutton during my frenetic garagiste harvest. Consumer sales guru Martini Bagget had been corresponding with me to stop in. Dutton Estate’s tasting room is casual and non-pretentious, which worked well since I was coming back from Saralee Vineyards with my trailer after dropping off bins, in harvest attire. It was a quick stop from Saralee , so I decided to treat myself to a visit amidst the fall frenzy of activity.

Unfortunately I didn’t make a blog about my entire tasting – but sometimes even wine writers ‘just enjoy’, and I did. Martini was a very gracious, enthusiastic hostess.

My goal for Wine of the Week is to share a special wine I think others will enjoy, and will strive for something in reach of most. Granted, at ~$45, this is a bit higher than others, but small lot, well made Pinot Noir simply isn’t inexpensive. Like an expensive mistress, it’s a high maintenance grape that needs special attention, and comes with a higher production cost for a true Pinot Noir experience.

Dutton Estate 2008 Russian River Valley, Thomas Road, Pinot Noir

Dutton Estate is a grower first, vintner second, managing 80 distinct vineyards in Russian River Valley, much located in Green Valley. Thomas Road is planted with Dijon clone 115, which produces a darker, bolder Pinot Noir. Nonetheless this Pinot Noir maintains her form. Don’t let the clonal descriptors through you off, this is not a Syrah tainted Pinot.

I wish I had created this quote myself, but I must share one of the Cellartracker reviews: “A big, curvy, sexy Pinot, stuffed into a simple elegant dress…” This is a woman, not a girl.

To The Eye: Garnet.  Modestly opaque, unfiltered.

On The Nose: Cranberry, black cherry, spice, and a hint of earth

In The Mouth: Bold front palate; black fruit, cherry; wonderful mid palate, lush, nice mouth feel. Fruit carries through to a nice finish, with lingering acidity.

Where To Buy: Online on their website, $48

Food Pairing: This Pinot has enough heft to stand up to a number of  meats – Lamb. Filet Mignon. Duck.

Other Info: 14.4 % Alcohol. Only 15 barrels (375 cases, unless using Napa math) made

Recommendation: A Russian River Pinot Noir worthy of a spot in your cellar. Not quite as delicate as other Pinot Noirs I often favor, but seduced me nonetheless.

Rating: Outstanding, 91 points

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

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