Posts Tagged ‘Wine Country’
I recently attended Wines with Altitude, where the vintners of Lake County California brought their wines to town — literally, to a stunning San Francisco venue on Treasure Island. Casually dressed wine-makers and staff members poured and chatted with the attendees between baguettes and hummus. A folksy event put together by the Lake County Winery Association, the four-hour pow-wow came with a classy glass sporting the Wines with Altitude slogan, a fresh personal-size baguette, and booklet with info and space for wine-tasting notes. I attended as press.
The event was held at The Winery SF on Treasure Island. WARNING: This is a place of jaw-dropping city views. It was easy access and there were a couple of food trucks outside with picnic tables.
Inside there was a large main floor of wine pouring. An upstairs room featured winning wines from the 2011 Lake County Wine awards. In all, over 100 different wines were pouring from 20 or so wineries. There were olives and olive oil, pizzettas and gazpacho and some nice lounging areas in the
I’ve been known to favor Lake County Sauvignon Blancs. The Altitude theme suggested Reds. I arrived with my notebook and spit-cup, eager to commence tasting, and not really knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a day of surprises, some professional – like tasting a Lake County Aglianico, and some personal – like running into Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge, the first person who exposed me to garagiste winemaking. The story: About twenty years or so ago, a group of friends and I loyally appeared every season to help Nils bottle his fledgling Saddleback Cellars wines in a small concrete block building on Money Road in Rutherford, CA. The little block building is still the nucleus of Saddleback and Nils now also owns Cougar’s Leap in Lake County.
I made an effort to taste every Sauvignon Blanc (SB), and there were quite a few. The Lake County SB’s were each so different, I couldn’t identify a Lake County “style” or varietal “character.” The only label I recognized was Guenoc, a widely distributed and solid SB. This was a good sign I was discovering a number of labels for the first time. I learned that Guenoc is a Valley – and it’s own AVA — and that the premium SB is their Langtry Sauvignon Blanc (250 cases produced vs thousands of Guenoc). I liked the Langtry. My other favorite Sauvignon Blanc’s were 2 from Six Sigma Michael’s Vineyard – the 2010 stainless with bright fresh melon on the nose and classic grapefruit on the palette – and a single vineyard, very lightly oaked version that maintains a crisp, cleansing acidity while adding dimension from the oak. This wine recently won best-in-class in the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, directed by Ray Johnson.
Cougar’s Leap offered a unique Sauvignon Blanc rendition – the 2010 Black Rock White which is 70% Semillion, 30% SB and, according to vintner Nils Venge, includes a boost from a one-time barrel of Albarino. Cougar’s Leap was pouring 2 other wines and they were memorable: The 2008 Black Rock Zinfandel with lots of fruit coming through structure and tannins, and which Venge claims with a crooked grin is “17% alcohol.” Reviewers have dubbed it “Ballistic!” Definitely a wine with “Altitude.” I finished with a 2007 Petite Sirah at Cougar’s Leap.
Nils introduced me to Gregory Graham, and I spent quite a bit of time at Greg’s table. Former wine-maker at Rombauer, Graham has been at it for 30 years. At one point he was making 4 different Zinfandels for them. For his own label, he makes only small lots using bins for fermentation. He says this has freed him from the constraints of tank-based wine-making, giving him a lot of flexibility. He was pouring several wines. I tasted the 2009 Gregory Graham Red Hills Bartolucci Vineyard Viognier, one of the nicest Viognier’s I’ve had … and it’s a $16, 13.5% alcohol wine. Graham’s 2007 Grenache was my personal favorite of the day, delivering a mouth-filling intensity and lingering romance of fruit and texture on the palette. The 2008 Cinder Cone was my red blend favorite of the day – 48% Syrah, 24% Cabernet, and 14% each Malbec and Grenache. Big, balanced, and Red. Graham’s wines are well-priced, running from $15-16 for Dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to a high of $38 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir he wasn’t pouring, and a number of wines in the $18-24 range. Gregory Graham wines represent star-quality wine-making at excellent value pricing.
Rosa d’Oro Aglianico. This is a red varietal grape of Southern Italian regions – Basilicata and Campania – pronounced alianico. I’ve had the Corte Normana from Campania (imported by Salvia Bianca), and heard of one or two Aglianico’s being vinted in California. So I was pleased and surprised to find Pietro Buttitta pouring his family’s estate-grown 2008 Aglianico. It’s a lovely wine expressing the full Aglianico character, if in a smoother, less rustic style than it’s Italian brethren. Well-priced at $18. I tasted the 2008 Barbera, which won a Silver medal in the Chronicle Wine Competition – also a fine wine at the $18 price point.
I decided the only way to cope with the bounty of Rosa d’Oro, is to visit the their Tasting Room in Kelseyville and do some serious sampling of the Primativo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and maybe a Rosato. And in another year or two, they will be bringing out a NegroAmaro! (You read it here first.) Pietro is also a prolific blogger – check him out here.
It’s clear I have a lot to learn about Lake county as a wine region and I’m planning to make a trip. You can find various Lake County Wine events online; next up is the Lake County Wine Auction on Sept 17. The event that interests me most is the People’s Choice Wine Awards and blind tasting on November 5.
I love blind tastings … as long as I can see the view!
One last surprise: Many of Lake County Wineries have active Facebook pages, but there is definitely room for growth in the Twitter realm. The Winery SF’s most recent tweet was in July, nearly 2 months ago. One would expect better care and feeding, especially when you have a high-profile name, location, and over 2000 Twitter followers.
Ever have one of those weeks you wanted to clone yourself to get more done? As a lover of Wine Country Events, its a weekend like that, starting tomorrow. Just North Sonoma alone is a hotbed of activity. Featured below are some of the highlights.
The folks in Alexander Valley, a wine region in North Sonoma, have outdone themselves with a stunning array of food and wine pairings, and entertainment to boot at many. 35 wineries, some open only for this event, are pouring great wines, pairing savory wine country food. Check out previous articles for details. Tickets are no longer available online here, are $75 at door. That’s a bargain for ten hours of Sonoma entertainment.
The event kicked off last night with the Opening Night Gala at Rodney Strong’s rarely open Crown Vineyard. It’s sold out, sorry, I did say to buy early!
Plan your day using Tips & Suggestions for June 5&6 Taste Alexander Valley.
Russian River Single Night (Single Wines, not people) – Saturday 630-10pm
C. Donatiello Winery
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
The Russian River Wine Growers are hosting a new event, this Saturday night, Singles Night. No, its not a meat market, its for everyone, the ‘Single’ being single varietal (grape ) wines. This fun filled, unique is at C. Donietello Winery. Get there on time for the special tasting in the cellar room that starts at 630. Bring friends to bid on the very cool auction lots, specially designed to win/share with friends. Details here and here. The list of Single Night participating Wineries is pretty spetacular. As of now, some tickets are still available, but have been selling briskly.
8 at the Gate – Sunday, June 6th 11am to 4pm.
8 at The Gate is a special treat if you are a club member of one of these 8 wineries: Balletto Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Dutton Estate Winery, Hanna Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, Marimar Estate and Taft Street Winery. I am a little miffed about short notice for this event, (I am a member) and overlap to the Taste Alexander Valley event. I know overlap is sometimes inevitable, but it would be nice to see the North Sonoma Wine Road appellations try and co-ordinate; I’d have liked to attend, and spend money at both events.
The event is a traveling farmer’s market with each winery pouring their best wines, offering irresistible wine club discounts and showcasing a local food purveyor and fresh produce from their own winery gardens. For this one special day, you can visit the 8 neighboring wineries, and receive all the privileges of being a member for the day. The wineries are within three miles of each other at the gateway to the Russian River Valley, so it’s a perfect fit for a one-day excursion. Each membership 4 accompanying guests to share in the fun.
Windsor Oaks Vineyards, 10810 Hillview Road, Windsor, CA
Another great venue, only open 18 days a year. Chill Out by the Pinot Pond at Windsor Oaks Vineyards and Winery on Friday June 4th, Saturday June 5th and Sunday June 6th from 11 to 4! If you have a passion for Pinot, you will love tasting and comparing several their artisan Pinot Noir’s. Other award winning wines will also be poured. Order a gourmet box lunch to enjoy pond-side or bring goodies from home. $10 tasting fee waived with purchase.
Kendall Jackson Farm Stand – Saturday 10-2
The Kendall Jackson Wine Center culinary gardens are home to hundreds of fruit, vegetable and herb varietals from around the globe. It’s the source of fresh produce for our own culinary team and many exclusive restaurants in the Bay Area, and now sharing their bounty at the Kendall-Jackson Farm Stand!
- Purchase Heirloom Vegetables from the Gardens
- Chef’s Cooking Demonstrations
- Garden Seminars with Master Gardeners
- Wine Tasting and Education
The first Saturday of each month May through October, starting on Saturday, May 1.
Kickoff of 20th Annual Summer Concert Series at Rodney Strong Vineyards – Kenny Loggins, Saturday 4 pm
This year’s Rodney Strong Concert Series includes returning greats and winery first-timers that make a stellar lineup for the winery’s 20th annual concert series.
The season will kick off on June 5th with Kenny Loggins. As a solo artist Kenny went on to stardom with such top hits as “Whenever I Call You Friend”, “I’m Alright”, “Footloose” and “Danger Zone.” I ran into the head of PR last night at the TAV Gala Event, and was told a few tickets ere still left.
Season passes and individual concert tickets are available here or by calling (707) 869-1595 ext. 4. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Rodney Strong Vineyards Tasting Room. Doors: 4 p.m./Show: 5 p.m. Tickets VIP: $110/GA: $75. For more information click here.
Have a GREAT Weekend enjoying the Simple Hedonisms of Wine Country, cheers!
It’s another fun filled weekend in Sonoma County for events; below are some of the highlights and my personal picks.
May Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup
Friday 5-7 p.m. Roadhouse Winery, Healdsburg
Facebook Wine Meetup meets again in North Sonoma this month!
Join consumers, wine producers, and fun residents (or visitors) of Wine Country, for a social meeting. Many of us are Facebook friends who communicate regularly, but may have never met: lets put the ‘Social’ in Social Media.
$10 at the door gets you a glass of wine, and nibbles. This month we are at Roadhouse Winery, a new winery in downtown Healdsburg.
The door prize raffle drawings for wine and other items at 630 pm, so try to be there by then! If your business wishes to donate wine or other merchandise (physical items only).
We usually get 60+ people, so come out and network, have fun.
Lets celebrate this amazing county, its great people, and make new wine friends. See you there!
Please RSVP here if you can so we can have sufficient, glasses, food, soft drinks, etc.
Longboard Vineyards Mavericks ’10 Reception
Sat 5-9 pm The Tasting Lounge, 5 Fitch Street, Healdsburg, CA
The Mavericks, Everest of the Seas Exhibition has unveiled its latest gallery featuring some of the most heart-stopping images from the epic El Niño-fueled 2010 Big Wave Season. This year’s lineup will include the finest new images from Award-winning photographers Frank Quirarte, Doug Acton, Seth Migdail, Ed Grant and Art Gimbel along with a multimedia slide show and a video recap of the 2010 Mavericks Surf Contest, one of the greatest days in surfing history.
“Everest of the Seas” first made its debut at the Coastal Arts League Gallery in Half Moon Bay, drawing large crowds and an enthusiastic response. The show has finished successful runs at San Francisco’s world class Museum and Gallery, SFMOMA, The Fillmore, The Half Moon Bay Big Wave Surfing Festival and now a return engagement at Longboard Vineyards.
Best of Sonoma County Wineries Exclusive Tasting Event
Sun 1-430 3358 Coffey Lane, Suite D, Santa Rosa CA 95403
Vinify Wine Services/Collective is a state of the art custom crush facility located in Santa Rosa that houses some of the best boutique winemakers in Sonoma County. Our member wineries produce wines from highly acclaimed vineyards all over the North Coast representing over 12 varietals. Join us on Sunday, May 23rd and preview 40+ wines presented in Bordeaux or Burgundy Riedel stemware (yours to keep).
Winemakers and owners will be showcasing their wines and are available to answer all of your questions and educate you in order to make informed purchasing decisions. Some of our wineries are hot “up and comers”, while others are established, reputable brands producing highly allocated, quality wines, many of which are sold exclusively direct from each winery.
A generous spread of cheeses and other tasty wine treats will be provided. In addition, we will be raffling off a few cases of mixed wine to anyone that enters, raffle entrance is free.
Limited tickets available! Purchase tickets in advance at $20 per person and save, tickets available here.
For questions, please call Hillary at 707-495-4959 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the participating wineries include: Baker Lane, Bevan Cellars, Bjornstad Cellars, Lattanzio Winery, Pfendler Vineyards, Sojourn Cellars, Westerhold Family Vineyards, Calluna Vineyard, Jemrose Vineyard, Barbed Oak Vineyards, Desmond Wines, Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery, Olsen Ogden Wines, Gracianna Winery, Cinque Insieme Wines
Paradise Ridge Winery Santa Rosa Estate -16th Anniversary Celebration & Opening of Marijke’s Grove Exhibit “Mettle”
Sunday May 23rd 11-5
Join Paradise Ridge at their Open House to celebrate from 11-3. Releasing the exclusive 2008 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley & the 2008 Ode to Joy, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. Current release wines will be paired with scrumptious nibbles. Outstanding anniversary discounts will be offered on wine and gift items.
Tickets are $10 per person at the door refundable with purchase. There is no charge for Paradise Found wine club members.
“Mettle” is the 14th annual sculpture exhibit at Marijke’s Grove. It will feature the amazing work of the following artists; Albert Dicruttalo, Ben Harris, Grant Irish, Michael Maes, Dan Romo, Wayne Shaffer, Raymond Suarez, William Wareham & Cedric Wentworth.
There will be a reception in the sculpture garden with the artists from 3-5 pm.
Paso Robles Wine Festival
After my recent trip to Hospice du Rhone, I am dying to return to Paso for more Rhones, besides the tasting events, manywineries are featuring special pairings, entertainment etc. Just can’t pull it off, having been on the road two months straight.
Siduri Open House
Saturday, May 22nd, 9am to 4pm is our
Join Siduri for their Annual Spring Open House at the winery, enjoy some fantastic Wine Specials, some great Growers helping pour, and more fun than the law should allow.
This Spring Open House also has the distinction of being the last event held at our current address – as we will be moving across the parking lot this summer! It isn’t a big move, distance-wise, but it still promises to be a real pain! To help ease that pain, a number of wines are on sale, which will undoubtedly leave ess to move! Those of you who live far away from the Wine Country and won’t be able to this event can share some of the Wine Specials with you as well. These specials include fantastic pricing on a number of Siduri and Novy wines as well as discounts on some pre-release offerings. To access the Specials please click here.
Mutt Lynch Winery – See You This Saturday at Barkus!!
Join Us At Barkus!
Join Mutt Lynch on this Saturday May 22 from 11am to 4pm for 2nd annual BARKUS Spring event at the winery. All you need to know is this year’s theme… Mingle, Sniff, Mingle… who can resist?
Patch is resting up for the event. And the Mutt Lynch human crew is getting the winery ready for a day full of wine tasters and canine sniffers! Swing on by and join the fun! And remember… $10 admission, which is being donated in full to the San Francisco SPCA. And 10% of all sales proceeds on the day are being donated to the SF SPCA as well.
If you see me out and about this weekend, say HI!
The weather is warm and gorgeous, and weekend wine country and winery events are heating up as well.
A number of great events this weekend, including:
STRYKER SONOMA 8th ANNIVERSARY PARTY
May 15th 2010, 2pm to 6pm
It’s been eight years Stryker has been sharing wine with wine club members and fans! Now get ready for the ultimate anniversary party…Stryker Sonoma Style!
Stryker has teamed up with Stark & Co. Catering featuring, Stark’s Steakhouse, Willi’s Seafood & Rawbar, Willi’s Wine Bar and Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, to bring you Ahi Tuna Tartar Tacos, Fig & Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese Crostini’s, Grilled Meatloaf Sliders and plenty more, paired with Tim’s favorite Stryker Wines! And it doesn’t stop there!
Boogie down with one heck of a rockin live band as The Pat Jordan Band brings their great sound to the upper lawn. After the tunes, take a stroll under the Wisteria to the Tasting Room where the celebration continues, pairing Healdsburg Toffee Co. decadent chocolates with some special Stryker Sonoma Wine.
Pick up a bottle and make reservations at any one of the Starks Family of restaurants for dinner that evening and the corkage is on for Stryker Sonoma! It’s Stryker’s way of saying Thank You for eight GREAT years of sharing our passion for wine with you, our favorite friends, family, and club members!
(Make your reservations early, visit http://www.starkrestaurants.com/reservations.html to find the perfect match for your evening.)
Free to club members (& significant other); $30 for their guests. Please email Ashley for reservations Ashley@StrykerSonoma.com
HANNA Winery & Vineyard’s 25th Anniversary Celebration
Featuring a Blending Competition & Annual Winemaker Dinner, Sat, May 15, 2010 4-8 pm
Hanna is celebrating their Silver Anniversary with a wine blending competition in our Alexander Valley Barrel Room.
o Each team’s blend will be judged by the winemaking team of Winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe, Asst. Winemaker, Marti Quan and President, Christine Hanna.
o The winning team will receive a three year vertical collection of our Bismark Mountain Vineyard Titan.
Following the competition is a delicious, celebratory & wine paired dinner by ZaZu Restaurant and their celebrity chief proprietor Duskie Estes. Dinner will be served upstairs in our gorgeous Alexander Valley Hospitality Center.
Tickets for this anniversary celebration are $150. Wine Club members are $125. For more information & reservations, please contact Alexandra at 707-431-4310 x111 or email email@example.com
Passport to Sonoma Valley
Saturday, May 15 – Sunday, May 16 10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Explore the unique charm of Sonoma Valley, California’s Original Wine Country!
Tour one day or the entire weekend as over 50 Sonoma Valley Wineries present over 300 exceptional wines, delicious food pairings and delightful amusement. Your passport and commemorative wine glass give you unlimited tastings, discounts on wine purchases and entry to Sonoma Valley’s acclaimed wineries and hidden gems not normally open to the public. For more information visit sonomavalleywine.com.
Special pricing extended! $40 off 2-day ticket (price now $50) and $30 off Sunday-Only ticket (price now $40)!
The sun is finally shining in Sonoma, so take advantage of this EXTENDED weekend offer and reserve your pass to tour over 50 Sonoma Valley Wineries! Enter promo code “WEEKEND” at checkout to receive your discount!
Tickets, maps and more info available here.
Open House – Windsor Oaks Vineyards and Winery
Join Windsor Oaks for a casual day of wine tasting on our beautiful 710 estate vineyard property. Since Windsor Oaks is only open to the public 18 days annually, this is the perfect opportunity to stop by and sip our award-winning wines. Bring a picnic or order from our list of hot and cold gourmet lunches. (Drat I have to fly to Savannah to speak at a conference, will miss. )
More details on their Facebook Fan site event.
Check the Simple Hedonisms Calendar regularly for events, and don’t forget you can download them right to your Desktop, Google, or other .ics form calendar.
Have a great weekend – cheers!
For “Sonoma William” its Christmas early – off to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone 2010. (Posting from the car actually via Netbook and mobile wireless.)
Hospice du Rhone – The biggest US tasting of Rhone wines assembled – 393 Rhone wines from 130 wine producers, from 6 countries and 10,000 Riedel stems a day.
This is my first time attending, and couldn’t be more thrilled. While I drink and enjoy all wines, Rhone red and whites have become my favorite, even surpassing Burgundian wines (Pinot and Chardonnay.)
Each day I will be attending (and writing thanks to my new Netbook) in seminars , grand tastings and food pairings. Seminars range from “The Past, Present and Future of South African Syrah” to “Washington State: The Perfect Haven for “The Ultimate Terroirist” as well as fun events like a Rose lunch, Live Auctions, the Sommelier Soiree with entertainment by the tunes of Grammy Award winner Louie Ortega and his band.
Since its been a decade since I have been to Paso Robles (it won’t be another ten years I promise, more like 10 weeks!) and the days are full with the ‘labor’ of tasting food and wine 8 hours a day, we are going to try and fit a few Rhone wineries in this afternoon, traffic withstanding. Hoping to fit in Alta Colina, Edward Sellers, Villa Creek, and Nadeau. We will of course attempt to visit most of the Paso Robles wineries pouring each day.
I will be posting regular updates on Twitter, my personal Facebook page, and of course the Simple Hedonisms site, hope you will enjoy the virtual tour.
Is your mantra about white wine ‘ABC’. (Anything but chardonnay.) Do you enjoy sauvignon blanc, or other white wines with crisp acidity, and bright fruit? If so hunt out the slowly growing category of chardonnays that are made without oak aging or malolactic (ML) fermentation.
There is nothing wrong with a chardonnay that is well made, and seen some oak and ML, but many have been turned off by the overly oaky, buttery chardonnays that have been being cranked out for years – we love to take a good thing to excess in the U.S. Its also a personal palette preference.
I discovered sauvignon blanc years ago, before the New Zealand craze caught on, and as a result of palette fatigue (kinda like wine ADHD) was hunting something else, and was pleased to discover this slowly emerging category of chardonnay in the US. (This is nothing new to Aussies.) I was inspired enough this was one of the two varietals I crushed this year, to also experiment with this style.
The Sonoma County Fair for the first time, amidst some controversy, had a category this year for unoaked Chardonnay, which I hope they repeat. Like any wine, not all of these unoaked, no ML chardonnays are stellar, and a few poorly made entries seem to have portrayed the category negatively.
I generally try and/or buy any in Sonoma County I find, and have tasted quite a few. Sometime early next year, I am planning to taste through a number in comparison, so if you have suggestions, send them on.
One that I discovered this year, and enjoy regularly is from Gary Branham, a local boutique wine maker. Gary shares a tasting room with Kenny and Lynn of Hobo Wines, (I am a big fan of Kenny’s wines.) Both of their wines are poured and available for purchase in downtown Healdsburg, at Downtown Wine. More often than not, you will be attended to by Aaron – a very knowledgeable wine aficionado. Talk less than I do, and you may learn a few things. Downtown Wine is also part of the Wine Road, and will be taking part in the Winter Wineland next month.
Color: Pale yellow, light straw, good clarity
Aroma: A wonderful nose – full of green apple, citrus
In the Mouth: Left on the lees (wine sediment) for 4 months gives this chardonnay nice mouth feel.
A bounty of fruit in the mouth; pineapple, green apple, grapefruit. Needless to say, a mouth watering finish, that lingers nicely.
Only 325 cases made, get some before its gone, but save a case for me!
Around $22, You can find this wine at the Downtown Tasting room, or Vine Tastings in Windsor, by the glass or bottle. (Unfortunately like most restaurants its served over chilled, masking its nuances. Cup your hands around the glass for a minute.)
Wine Geek Info
- Harvest: September 30, 2007
- Average Chemistry at Harvest: 25 Brix 3.20 pH .68 TA
- Whole Cluster Pressed
- Fermented in Stainless Steel for 25 days @ 55 degrees F
- No Malolactic fermentation ~ Left sur lie for 4 months
- Bottling: January 2007
- Chemistry at bottling: 14% alcohol 3.20 pH .68 TA
- Varietal percentage; 100% Chardonnay
- Vineyards: Foppoli Family Vineyard
- Production: 325 Cases
Its a busy weekend again, despite no big ‘passport’ events for Sonoma County this weekend (although there is a mini one in Russian River for those ‘on the list’ .) There is never a dull moment though in Sonoma County, here are some of the many options to enjoy that caught Simple Hedonisms attention:There is never a dull moment though in Sonoma County, here are some of the many options to enjoy that caught Simple Hedonisms attention:
There are TWO passport events though in Napa, in Rutherford and Calistoga, see below.
Friday Dec 4
Vine Tastings – Meet The Winemaker 7 p.m.
They will have new chef William Oliver create scrumptious appetizers to pair with her wines. Please RSVP in advance as there is limited seating.
Vine Tasting’s. 9058 Windsor Rd, Windsor, Ca 95492. (707)620-0833
Sat Dec 5th
Pellegrini – Holiday Open House and Winter Pick-Up Event
Celebrate the Season with a Day of Wine Tasting, Holiday Shopping and Good Cheer in the Russian River Valley. Please join in ringing in the holidays at Pellegrini Family Vineyards! The Winery will be decked out for the holidays, and the Tasting Room will be filled with festive gifts and special holiday fare. A special visit from Santa will take place at 2:30 p.m. Reservations are required For any additional questions, please contact Barbara Pellegrini Rodriguez at 800-891-0244 ext. 2, or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a fun facility, normally open by appointment only.
Hauck Cellars – Jeff Mall, Josh Silvers, Down Home: Downtown signing
Stop by Hauck Cellars on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 1-4pm. Zin Restaurant’s Jeff Mall will be there signing his cookbook, Down Home: Downtown, co-written with Josh Silvers of Syrah Bistro.
Siduri Wines – Open House
I wrote an article about Siduri Wines a few months ago. Siduri (all Pinot) and Novy (other varietals) is having their annual open house this Saturday. This is a special treat both because of the wide variety of wines they will pour, and because Siduri is normally open by appointment only. Don’t miss it!
Windsor Oaks Vineyard & Winery – Open House.
Windsor Oaks will be open to the public for wine tasting this Saturday and Sunday – normally only open 18 days a year. Come sample their handcrafted very small production wines. A $10 tasting fee applies and there is no charge for our Club members.
(Tasting fee is refundable with 2+ bottle purchase. All tastings in Riedel glasses.
Michel Schlumberger Holiday Market Bazaar
Michel Schlumberger Wine Estate, 4155 Wine Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 11-5pm
Why not go Holiday gift shopping AND drink great wine? This Saturday, December 5th, Michel Schlumberger features nearly a dozen local artists and craftsmen and women with great holiday gifts in our courtyard. And what a coincidence, it is their last Wine Bench Pick Up Party with food by local chef Dan Lucia. Pouring the newly released 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Syrah.
Heidi Barrett – Winemaker Tasting 300-53o pm
The Wine Shop – Healdsburg, 331 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, CA
Join them this Saturday from 3:00-5:30 and meet one of the most celebrated winemakers in the world. Just back from her trip to China, Heidi will be pouring the current releases from her La Sirena label. If you ask nicely, she may even sign a bottle for you.
Sunday Dec 6th
Summit School – Stonestreet Tasting Room 1-3 pm 7111 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA
Discover how different wine glasses enhance the flavors and aromas in wine. Friends from Riedel are joining this class where you will have the chance to experience first hand the difference the right wine glass can make.
The tuition for this class also includes a set of four Riedel glasses.
Simple Hedonisms note: Stemware RULES!!! if you are new to wine, or don’t think stemware makes a difference, go try this class!!
Wine Club 8 at the Gate Day – 8 Russian River Wineries 11-4 pm
To help celebrate and get into the holiday spirit, 8 Russian River Wineries are mutually extended Wine Club member benefits to each other. If you are a member of Lynmar, Dutton-Goldfield, Dutton Estate, Hanna, Iron Horse, Marimar, or Taft Street Winery,you are invited to visit each with wine club member perks for a very special day of wine, food and exclusive perks in the Russian River Valley on Sunday, December 6, from 11 am to 4 pm.
For this special day, you can visit all, enjoy some wonderful wine and food, and receive all the privileges of being a member of all 8 wine clubs for the day. Our wineries are within 3 miles of each other at the gateway to the Russian River Valley, so it’s a perfect fit for a day. (For those members too far away to join in person, each winery will offer its discount via web or phone orders on December 6th only. When ordering use the code “8 at the Gate” to receive your discount.)
There’s no charge for this fabulous event and no reservation necessary-it’s our way of sharing some holiday spirit and saying Thank You to loyal wine club members. And, it’s a great way for you to taste and purchase wines at very good discounts, just in time for your holiday shopping. Please view the map to see the participating wineries, locations and websites
Mutt Lynch Winery – Open Sundays in December
This is a treat, as Mutt Lynch isn’t normally open, save for events.
To help welcome in the holiday season, Mutt Lynch will be opening their winery doors each Sunday of this month – December 6th, 13th and 20th – from Noon to 4pm. Come canines, come humans, come all! If you’re anywhere in the neighborhood, please made certain to swing by and enjoy a taste (or two… or three… or four!) of our wine. We’ll have some holiday nibbles for both human and canine to make it worth your while.
There are tons of other family related wine country and other events on SonomaCounty.com December event page.
Calistoga – Winter in the Wineries, Passport Weekend
Just saw this Thursday by luck on a Twitter tweet – wish I had known earlier.
The Event: Weekend Passports, at $40 each, entitle the holder to tours at numerous wineries, wine tasting, and meeting winemakers, and exclusive special discounts by restaurants and lodging venues.
To Purchase Passports: To purchase your Winter in Wineries Passports online, please click here.
Rutherford Passport Weekend
Gah, another I just saw now. The appellation has a newsletter mailing, signed up so won’t miss again.
The Rutherford Passport Weekend is the premier consumer event sponsored by wineries residing in this historical appellation. Experience the wineries of the Rutherford Appellation as never before. Passport Weekend allows Passport holders exclusivity to special pourings, barrel and tank tastings, paired food and wines, and conversations with the winemakers – all of which will make for a memorable time in beautiful Napa Valley. Read about the participating wineries.
(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!)