How Green was my Valley

Driving along highway 116 in western Sonoma County, you may have driven by the former River Road Vineyards, now the Rubin Family Wines complex – a sprawling, aging wood complex including a restaurant and bar patio, as you head towards Forestville.

This area of the Russian River Valley has been home to some of the world’s best pint Nor producers for decades, and while River Road Vineyards had been experiencing somewhat of an identify crisis in the mid 2000s,  in 2011, the Rubin Family of Wines tok over the property.

A particularly ideal place to grow Pinot Noir, the fog often lingers here beyond other area of Russian River, cooling down the vineyards and adding an earthy, acid driven profile to the wines.

The Rubin Family of Wines is committed to producing exceptional wines. Sourced from both the River Road estate and other local sources, the Ron Rubin brand includes a Pinot Blanc and two Pinot Noirs, as well as a Chardonnay and Syrah.

With specific attention paid to the vineyards and resulting wine, the dedicated winemaking team focuses on passion and precision.

2015 Ron Rubin Green Valley of Russian River Pinot Blanc

Stainless steel fermented with a touch of neutral barrel blended in, this is a classic Pinot Blanc in style and weight.  Ripe pear, juicy peach, crisp golden apples bathing in honeysuckle fields.  Finishes with tart lime and bright acidity.  A refreshingly low alcohol wine, it comes in at only 13.5% abv.  The early harvest of 2015 came from Dutton Ranch’s Shop Block a mere 1.5 miles from the Rubin Estate, and since Pinot Blanc is unusual for Sonoma County, this was a rare treat (only 3.5 acres are planted in Green Valley).

$30
2013 Ron Rubin Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

A bold Russian River Pinot Noir with brown sugar, black cherry, and Dr. Pepper notes layering on top of chocolate mocha.  Rich but still fresh with earth and wet leaves.  I really wanted this wine to have more acid, but this is a crowd pleaser to be sure and would be popular at any gathering.  Also low in alcohol, and unusually so given the region and the flavors, this clocks in at 13.7%.  With a long and slow ripening season in Green Valley, the estate Pinot Noir is a mix of hand harvested clone 667, 115, 777 and Pommard.  The Pommard adds a richness to the wine, with a soft and round body with the 9 months of French Oak give it the spice and vanilla backbone.

$40

Special thanks to Jo Diaz of Diaz Communications for the hookup!




Pierson Meyer — from a mountain grows pinot

wine bottle labelPeirson Meyer Wines were born from a friendship that was formed in early 2001, when Lesley Warner-Peirson, her husband Alan Peirson, and Robbie & Shannon Meyer met at Peter Michael Winery.  With a shared passion, their first wine, the L’Angevin Russian River Chardonnay, was produced in 2001.

Today, Peirson Meyer crafts small lot wines sourced from Sonoma and Napa, and made to reflect the land.

Starting with the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, with only 50 cases (2 barrels) produced, winemaker Robbie Meyer really enjoys the use of native yeast.  In this wine, Pinot Noir clones 777 and 828 from two Sonoma County vineyards create this pale pink princess with rose petals, ripe peaches and berry coulis.  An elegant and restrained rosé that deserves to be the centerpiece of a summer day.  $32

While Peirson Meyer is known for Pinot Noir, the 2013 Ritchie Sauvignon Blanc comes from a cooler site where the grapes ripen more slowly.  Using the native yeast and a gente pressing of whole clusters, this wine is aged in neutral oak.  Bursting with tropical melon and juicy pears, the minerality shines through with a chalky, floral finish. $30

In contrast, the 2013 Ryan’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from a much warmer site in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district, and produces a bolder, more tropical style of wine.  Native yeast fermentation reveals dense apricots and honey, with slight banana notes.  $30

One of the highlights of our tasting experience was the ability to taste three chardonnays side by side.  Doing so allows us to really see the differences each site makes, as well as the nuances of wine making such as barrel selection or yeast selection.

First, the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  Aged in 45% new French Oak, and fermented with native yeast (are you starting to see the pattern here?), it is a blend of three vineyards.  Robbie allows malolactic to complete naturally, and uses the native yeast to his advantage, creating a natural, and rich wine.  Viscous and replete with baked apples and nutmeg.  $38

The 2012 Sophia’s Chardonnay comes from a site in the Russian River formerly known as the Sullivan Vineyard.  With 40 year old vines located near Graton, in the west of Sonoma County, this wine is nutty and cirrus driven, with preserved lemons, caramel, vanilla and fresh cream.  $44

The 2012 Heinz Vineyard Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast appellation is physically near the Sullivan Vineyard, yet worlds apart.  Restrained and clean, with Asian pears and graphite.  This wine is clean and focused.  $55

Finally ,we were treated to a trio of Pinot Noirs, each one unique, but with some wonderful similarities.

2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is classic Russian River, with dark forest floor, cola, and cherry notes.  Holiday baking spices dance on the tongue in this rich Pinot Noir.  $44
In the small town of Graton, the Miller Vineyard turns Russian River on it’s head by offering a lighter style of Pinot Noir.  The 2012 Miller Vineyard Pinot Noir has bursting black cherry, root beer, and raspberry flavors with cracked pink peppercorn aromas.  The savory aspect of this wine with mushrooms and cedar flavors give it an enchanting profile that is sure to please.  $50
In contrast, the 2012 Bateman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Sonoma Coast region north of Miller Vineyard, and gives this wine brighter acid, and a more masculine, defined structure.  Savory, earthy funk in all the best ways, the Bateman wafts bergamot and tangerine, with a hint of tomato leaf from it’s cool hillside foggy lair.  This elegant wine is an instant classic.  $60
Pierson Myer also producers a lovely Merlot and and Cab Sav, but for these purposes, I’d stick to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.  These are perfect for your holiday table, and gift giving!
Thank you to the good folks at Peirson Meyer for hosting us in their gorgeous vineyard house, high on top of Howell Mountain, as well as Relish Communications and Michelle Yoshinaka.  Make a point of seeking out these wines for your table, you won’t be sorry!

Expression is in the eye of the drinker

What do you think about when you think about wine?  Flavor, name, price?  When I think about wine, I think about location.  Where is it from?  Is it from a vineyard I know?  An area that I’m fond of?  Somewhere new?  All of these things are characteristics of wine that peak my curiosity, and make me want to know more.

I love wines that express their sites and show the uniqueness of the area.  Luckily for me, there are winemakers that are as driven and curious as I am.  In this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO, who founded the winery with the fundamentoal idea that wine should be an expression of terroir.  in this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor wanted to express the unique charachteristics of various terroirs of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a unique blend – Indica, a Rhone style blend.

By selecting the best possible fruit available from independent grape growers,, they are able to express control over their fruit and hone in on the exact fruit and characteristics that make the best wine.  Through careful clonal selection, sustainable practices, and careful site selection, the wines are born in the vineyard.

Moving indoors to the winemaking itself, using wild yeast in hand sorted grapes, with very little oak treatment, you get unique, wild, clear representations of the fruit in each bottle.  Having known about LIOCO since my early days of blogging, I was excited to have the opportunity to taste the latest releases.

First up, the fresh and lively 2012 Estero Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  This blend of two vineyards, both in Russian River Valley, reflects the cooling influence of the sites, low in elevation and susceptible to the fog fingers that linger in the mornings.  This proximity to the ocean creates a need for longer hang time, delivering a strength in flavor and bright acidity that is so magical in this wine.  This is what chardonnay should be:  expressive, bright, fruit driven.  Vinified in all neutral oak, the selection of blocks for the Estero is very specific, with all other lots going in to the Sonoma County bottling.  The Estero is showing Meyer lemon, lemon curd, fresh cream, underripe nectarines, fresh cream, and a flinty mineral finish that dances on your palate.  For $35, I’d drink this all day.

Next, two Pinot Noirs from different areas of California.  The first, the 2012 Laguna Sonoma Coast, is a blend of the Teach-Mor and Hirsch vineyards, both from the extreme Sonoma Coast.  This wine is everything I love about Sonoma Pinot Noir, with tangy, hibiscus and bright cherry filled bursts of flavor, with forest aromas of cedar and mushroom.  Fermented from wild yeast, the fruit was fermente with 30% whole cluster bunches.  With vineyards in the fog catching zone, the cool temperatures create the bright red fruit and zingy acidity that I love so mcuh.  This wine was not long for the table as we drank it quickly and happily, but it will age well and the big black raspberry and pomegranite notes are tasty with Thai curry and anything bacon.  Yum!  At $38 it’s an affordable luxury.

The second Pinot is from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, south of San Francisco at at elevation.  The 2012 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir is also 30% whole cluster, and is unfined and unfiltered.  Finding fruit from a well kept secret in the Saveria Vineyard 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean, clones 115, 667 and 777 are cooled by constant morning fog and a diurinal swing of ~40 degrees.  That ocean is fickle she is!  Aromas of gingerbread and Christmas trees are followed by flavors of balsamic strawberries, rose hips, cranberry sauce with orange zest and black cherry.  The juicy red fruit lingers with the spice box on the finish that is just wonderful, with a touch of cedar smoke lingering on my palate.  A splurge at $50, this would be a wonderful wine with your Easter ham.

The wines of LIOCO bring back the true meaning of terroir, and what it means to be a winemaker and not a wine factory.  WIth so many wineries tryign to achive continutity year after year, makign a product that is a known entity, LIOCO strives to go beyond that and focus on expressing the fruit as much as they can.  Every vineyard and every vintage demands different treatmetn, and deserves careful attention and focus through bottling.  These guys are doing it right.  Balance, flavor, uniqueness.

If you would like to visit the winery, it is located in an urban wine ghetto in Santa Rosa, CA.  Open by appointment only, you can find them at liocowine.com.

These wines were provided by the PR company for consideraton, but I have been known to buy a bottle or two of LIOCO myself.  After this trio, I will buy a bottle or three more!

Dot…dot…dot…

2011 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

I love a good rosé.  I’m also very picky about my rosé.  From pale pink to deep salmon, a rosé of pinot noir can be all over the map, but generally speaking, it is delicious.

Ellipsis Wine Company

Sonoma County natives Jonathon and Chris, founded Ellipsis after returning to the area after college.  Jonathon holds a degree in Agribusiness, while Chris has his MBA, but they both realized they wanted to be back in the thick of it.In 2007, they headed back to Healdsburg and decided to combine talents and create a wine brand that created hand crafted, premium wines that showcased the best of the surrounded vineyards.This rose shows the love they have for the region.  Darker in color but not in flavor, this lovely summer sipper is full of red berry, pomegranate, and a touch of vanilla cream.  I could sip this $22 love every day this summer and not get sick of it!  Perfect for an afternoon, or perhaps with some salmon, it’s great on it’s own or also with food.

Go check it out!

This wine was provided by the boys of Ellipsis, after chatting with them at a wine event.  Thanks guys, and yum!

 

Red, ruby, Garnet!

Garnet: -A semi precious mineral gemstone, often mistaken for a ruby.
-A middle English word meaning dark red.
-A wine producer that specializes in Pinot Nor from Carneros.
Recently, I was tretaed to a dinner featuring the wines of Garnet, hosted by winemaker Alison Crowe.
Once a lower brow brand of large California fighting varietal house Saintsbury, Garnet was sold to the grape supplier Silverado Winegrowers in 2011.
With over 11,000 acres of California vineyards, Silverado has been a longtime supplier of premium grapes to several brands. With the purchase of Garnet, they now focus on production of higher-end wines.
Creating wines that retail between $11 – $30, you can bet there is something in there for everyone. I was delighted by the quality of the lower price point Monterey Pinot Noir, which typically can be a bit off putting to me.  I just don’t personally care for the Monterey terroir in my pinot.
While most Garnet wines are sold at restaurants, they recently announced a partnership with Safeway to sell the Monterey pinot in stores, which means you can get a inexpensive wine for a steal.  The Garnet label has been around since 1983; in the mid nineties, the production swelled to 15,000 cases, which, while I don’t know for sure, probably lead to some degredation in quality.
Alison cut her winemaking teeth at Chalone, one one of the great family houses in Central California (ok that’s another story). From there, she move don to work with Randall Graham, and really honed her style with some of the world’s best renegade wine makers.  Now, she has the opportunity to build a brand in to one of Carneros’ finest.  It is her goal to ensure that each wine is a true expression of the terroir, and by selecting specific sights in the vineyard portfolio for each bottle, she can do this.
Before dinner, we were greeted by the 2010 Sonoma Coast Chardonany.  Now, you know that I’m not the world’s biggest chard lover but this was a nice departure from the overly cloying, butter bombs that are typical of the region.  Filled with bright lemon and citrus, there was a lemon curd sprinkled with nutmeg hiding in there.  I loved the brightness with a hidden agenda.  The fruit is 75% Carneros and 25% Green Valley (Russian River).  It’s my personal opinion that the Green Valley fog brings an acidity and zip to this wine that you wouldn’t otherwise find in a Carneros chard.  The other quality that has promise in this is that it is 100% stainless steel fermented and is just kissed by oak barrels when the wine is finished, so you get very little of the oaky  butter bomb effect.  For $15, this is a great wine for your white wine sipping ladies on the porch.  A-

The 2009 Monterey Pinot was a sleeper hit.  As I mentioned, I don’t care for the flavor profiles I often find in Monterey Pinot.  There is an oddness in there, and something that doesn’t sit well with me, in the form of green sticks and odd leaves.  But this example has dusty dried cherries and strawberries, and while it was a bit tight at first, opened up to white pepper with a lot of floral influence.  Again for $15 it’s a crowd pleaser.  Solid B.

The 2010 Carneros Pinot was, as is expected, big and jammy with bright raspberry.  I personally thought it was a little hot, and bold but silky.  Even though it was big and jammy, the body was lighter, which was somewhat surprising for a Carneros wine.  There was a lot of darker fruit hiding in there.  Not my fave.  C+

My personal favorite glass was the 2010 Rodgers Creek Pinot.  This single vineyard designate is the only wine that is finished with cork and showed Earthy mellow mushroom, bark, sarsaparilla and spicy gingerbread.  In a way it reminded me of a Coca Cola cake (it’s a southern thing).  The foggy terrain of Rodgers Creek gives this a stunning baking spice palate that I just love.  I couldn’t quite believe that this was only $30, and it definitely gets n A in my book.

The moral of this story is that it pays to dig a bit under those big brands.  They often hide premium wines under their hats that you might not otherwise approach.  Since I prefer to dig under the vines for smaller, less well known wines, I am appreciative to find a larger production winery that is focusing on quality, even when quantity makes the bankers happy.

Thanks to Alison and Laura from The Barn Group for a lovely evening!

Bubbles bring me Joy!

It’s a terrible thing, be able to enjoy sparkling wines whenever I want to.  I personally love bubbles with potato chips, hamburgers, and at the ballpark, but that’s just me.  I’m a firm believe that wine (especailly sparkling wine) is made to celebrate life, and not just life’s special occasions!

In celebration of my life and my friends, Iwas invited crashed dinner with friends, including the venerable Chuck Hayward of JJ Buckley Wine, his Girl Friday Paige (also of JJ Buckley) and my sistah from anotha motha, as well as Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, the far western Sonoma County bubble house.

Iron Horse was founded by Audrey and Barry Sterling in 1976, in a quiet corner of Green Valley, in the lush rolling hills of Green Valley.  This western Sonoma area is in the rainy side of town, and it’s a perfect place to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  So off they went, to grow grapes for still wine.

But why would a vineyard, known for creating delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make the leap to sparkling?  It’s not exactly easy.  The answer is easy – necessity is the mother of invention.  In 1980, the first vintage of sparkling wine was made when there was an excess of still wine.  Since 1985, Iron Horse sparkling wine has been served in the White House continuously.  Not too shabby for a creative solution to a common problem.

Audrey and Barry passed on the Iron Horse legacy to their children, Joy and Laurence.  Joy, educated in paris and at Yale (yeah, she’s a smart cookie that one), is the face of Iron Horse and the CEO.  Her brother Laurence and his wife Terry live on property and he is the Director of Operations.

I was lucky enough to meet Joy through Paige several years ago, and it’s so much fun to drink with her!  But that’s enough about that.  Never one to say no to a glass of stars, we ran through all (oh yes all) of the  current releases at dinner.

2006 Ocean Reserve is a special bottling that was created in partnership with National Geogrraphic to help raise funds to protect marine areas.  This 100% Chardonnay is aged for 4+ years and has a briny flavor that actually does taste like the ocean.  There is a seaweed taste in there, with a creamy limestone and bitter lemon note that tastes of oysters and burnt toast.  So very interesting!

2006 Classic Vintage Brut is fresh and bright, and has a classic (no pun intended) flavor of freshly baked bread.  There is a ton of fresh lemon and bright crisp citrus as well.  With 68% Pinot Noir, it’s a great example of a Green Valley wine.

The 2007 Wedding Cuvee  has a lot more color than in most years.  The gorgeous strawberry and raspberry notes had a fresh floral feeling, with rose petals and cream.  Delicious!  This is probably my favorite Iron Horse sparkling wine.

The 2006 Brut Rose is a gorgeous deep salmon blush color.  With Blood orange and oom on the nose and almost a bit of tomato, this purpose made rose has a rich flavor that brings some thing different to the table.

The 2006 Russian Cuvee is another classic, with buttered popcorn flavors springled with fresh yeast.  It is slightly sweeter than the others and has delcious stonefruit falvors .  This is my other favorite!  Starting it’s life as the same base wine as the Classic Vintage Brut, the Russian is given a richer dosage (more sugar).  This makes the Russian more opulent, and fitting for any Czar.  It’s got a touch of sweetness, and was created for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit at the end of the Cold War.  Pretty cool!

 

Iron Horse Vineyards is located on Ross Station Road, just outside of Sebastopol in western Sonoma County.  If you go, make sure you you bring your four wheel drive and mud boots in the winter, and a hat int he summer!  Sitting on the top of a hill above the vineyards in the valley, you will be able to sip wine among the apple trees, in the outdoor tasting bar.  There is no table serviec here, just pure fun!

Are you single?

Are you looking for adventure?  Want some one on one time with some really great wine?

Then look no further!  SingleVineyard.com is a new dating site.

 

ok well not really.  BUT – it IS almost time for the 2nd Annual Russian River Single Vineyard night!  (And no, it’s NOT just for singles!)  What is this wild adventure you ask?  Single Vineyard Night is a celebration of single vineyard wines in the caves, where you can sip, eat and tweet some of the best that the area has to offer.

On June 4th, from 6:30-10, join single minded wineaux at Thomas George Estates in Russian River where you can wander the caves and meet more than 30 winemakers woh specialize in single vineyard wines.  Roving “Cellar Teams” will be promoting auction lots, and in a new twist, group bidding is encouraged to raise funds for Russian River Valley Winegrowers to continue their work to preserve the region’s agriculture legacy through marketing and education.  Targeted at millennials, the 20-30 somethings who are the biggest new group of wine drinkers since GenX grew up and became post boomer yuppies (oh hell, that’s ME!) young vintners and growers will be pouring their wares.

After the tasting, move on over to the  Thomas George Estates’ picnic grounds for the auction!   A no-host bar featuring wines that normally retail for under $25 (offered by the taste and glass) and “sliders” fresh off the grill for a small price will be available as well as other food items.  This year, one lot – hosted by Thomas George, will benefit a project sponsored by Coddingtown Mall, who donates gift cards to children from homeless shelters, Boys & Girls Clubs and other children’s groups to shop for school clothes.

Here are some of the kids pouring Single Vineyard wines:

  • Ancient Oaks, Siebert Ranch
  • Arrowood-Saralee’s Vineyard
  • Balletto Vineyards , selection of single vineyards
  • Benovia, Bella Una Vineyard
  • Desmond Wines, Estate
  • Dutton Estate Winery, Dutton Palms Vineyard
  • Dutton Goldfield, Freestone Hill Vineyard
  • Ferrari-Carano, Fiorella
  • Gary Farrell, Westside Farms
  • George Wine Company, Leras Family Vineyard
  • Graton Ridge Cellars, Bacigalupi Vineyard
  • Hop Kiln Winery, HKG Bridge Selection
  • Inman Family, Olivet Grange Vineyard
  • Iron Horse Vineyards, Rued Clone
  • John Tyler Wines, Bacigalupi Vineyard
  • Joseph Swan, Trenton View Vineyard
  • Korbel
  • LaFollette, DuNah Vineyard
  • Lauterbach Cellars, Estate
  • Longboard, Dakine Vineyard
  • Martinelli Winery, Lolita Ranch
  • Matrix Winery, Nunes Vineyard
  • Merriam, Willowside Vineyard
  • Merry Edwards, Klopp Ranch
  • Moshin Vineyards, Bacigalupi Vineyard
  • Mueller Winery, Vino Farms
  • Nalle Winery, Hopkins Ranch
  • Old World Winery, Estate
  • Papapietro Perry, Leras Family Vineyard
  • Russian River Vineyards, Estate Vineyards
  • Sandole Wines, Oehlman Ranch
  • Siduri Wines, Ewald Vineyards
  • Sonoma Cutrer, Owsley
  • Thumbprint Cellars, Saralee’s Vineyard
  • William Selyem, Flax Vineyard

Since I am unable to attend this year, both because I’m not longer single (don’t tell me you didn’t read my Facebook today!) and because I am booked, I am giving away two tickets to this event.  Yes!  TWO TICKETS!  Tickets are $45 each so that’s some moola right there. Please leave a comment here on this post telling me what you like most about Single Vineyard Wines to be eligible to wine!  Er win.  Winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 25th Thursday May 26th FRIDAY MAY 27TH (yeah you have to be 21 to attend youngsters).

Tickets to this event are $45 (presale, $55 at the door), or $80 for a VIP session that starts at 5:30.   I think it will be a blast!  Go forth and buy tickets.  It’s only $45! And you do not need a date, and you do not need to be single, you just need to love wine!

 

 

On the birth of a winery

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past year or so, you know that I’ve ingratiated myself  become friends with the Cellar Rat (@cellarrat), Alan Baker, and his partner Serene Lourie (@slourie), who have launched their new brand, Cartograph Wines.  Morphing out of Alan’s previous project, Cellar Rat Cellars, which was some damn fine Pinot Noir & Syrah, Cartograph is truly a labor of love – and it shows.  (You can read my previous review of Cellar Rat here)

This was my third time tasting the wines in barrel, and it is a joy to watch them grow and develop over the course of the past 9 months.  Much like a new baby, these wines change and grow, becoming something special as they integrate in to the finished product.

The first wine we tried was the Gewurztraminer.  I have a growing love affair with this dry & racy white wine, and this had flavors of lychee, grapefruit, tropical fruit, hay and subtle guava notes.  I also tasted Tuscan melon.  .  The wine is made from the first harvest of the planting, and is fermented in stainless steel.  It had just a hint of spiciness and was a great alternative to other whites for the warmer summer months.

Next, we tasted the 2009 Perli Vineyard Pinot, from Mendocino Ridge.  This AVA is known as the “islands in the sky” since it is the only AVA that is non-contiguous land.  Instead, the AVA dictates that the land must lie above 1200 feet, which is the vertical fog line.  This is one of my favorite Pinots, and I tasted creamy strawberries, cloves, nutmegs and rhubarb with a smattering of black cherry and Dr. Pepper.

From here, we moved on to some of the different clone and barrel selections, and we tasted through to help decide what the blend should be.  I lost track of what was what, but it was fascinating to taste the difference between barrels, particularly when we got to the point where barrels of of the same wine, made from wood from different forests, but made by the same cooper from the same area.  I do know that I did find that the 777 clone in 25% new oak was my favorite, with black cherry and spicy cloves finishing with rich black raspberry.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the Cartograph line is the label design.  you can see from the front label, that there are five points on Alan & Serena’s journey in to wine, From France, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. to San Francisco and Healdsburg.  The back label design shows you the wine making process, and allows you the consumer to take part in the experience. The five points in the wine making process mirror the five points on the front, as you go from budbreak through bottling.  Bottling incidentally for the 2009s starts any day now, so I can’t wait to restock my cellar with smoe brand spanknig new wine!

If you’re in Healdsburg, give them a shout.  You won’t be sorry!  If you like Pinot, and you like small handcrafted wines, run out and buy some today.  While you’re at it, grab some of the Gewertz.  You will be happy you did, and your tastebuds will thank you!

Life ain’t a barrel of monkeys, but it’s sure a Barrel (Tasting) of wine!

jimThe weekend before last, I spent my 2nd weekend up in Dry Creek & Russian River Valley, searching for some new wines and trying to impress my blogging buddies Matt, Robbin, Joe & Amy.  Also along for the ride were Shana and Liza, my regular drinking buddies.

Everything started out innocently enough, with a requisite trip to Truett Hurst to pick up our glasses.  From there, we headed over to Pappietro Perry, who is making some mighty fine pinot noirs that I really enjoy.  Jim, the up and coming wine social media man about town, joined us, and we wandered in to Amphora with our winemaking blogging friend Patrick of Iridesse Wines.   Now, I have not been to Amphora in quite a long time, and as luck would have it, another favorite Lush, Patrick had an inside scoop.  We headed in to the VIP tasting, and were given a whirlwind tour of their offerings.  I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of wine now being presented and will have to go back.

Patrick, Jim, JuddFrom Amphora, the posse invaded Michel-Schlumberger, and availed ourselves on Judd’s hospitality once again.  At this point, we were a bit of a mixed bag, since we kept losing cell reception and Amy & Joe were meandering around the countryside somewhere north of Occidental trying t meet us.  Shana and her crew were sidetracked at Kokomo, so we just continued on our way, drinking through the amazing Dry Creek Pinot that MS has.  Additionally, their Bordeaux blend in barrel as well as the finished versions were stunning.

After MS, it was across the driveway to Mounts Family Winery where we had to give Lana a big shout out.   Since Shana and I were there the weekend before, we had some idea of what they were pouring, but after tasting the Malbec again, I decided to split a case of futures with Liza.  The malbec is something Mounts has only done once before, and it was delicious.  I am SO excited to taste the finished thing!

Since it was getting late, and we had a date in town for Twitter Taste Live, we hightailed it to the Front Street Five, where Patrick’s wife Genevieve was pouring at Camelia.  Since it’s a collection of smaller wineries, I dragged my friends in to Holdredge, where John treated us to a barrel room raid.  I have been going to Holdredge for years, and really love their pinots – but this was my first secret taste of Strawberry Fields and The Other One; these are John’s special blends that are mostly for personal consumption, but he was offering a few futures for special customers. Next to Holdredge, we had a few minutes, so we went back to Hudson Street Wineries, a new coop tasting room that I talked a bit about here.  Sine it was last in the day, we had more time to chat and drink.

Saturday ended with a drinking fest at Palette Art Cafe, who warmly welcomed a VERY merry group of slightly tipsy wine bloggers for Twitter Taste Live – Passion for Pinot.  Earlier in the day, Judd has graciously contributed his Humanitas Gaps Crown Pinot, as well as Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek pinot, to taste along with the official wines of Gainey, Sonoma Coast, and Willakenzie.  Below are some of my short but sweet tasting notes from that session:

I really want to thank Pallate for being willing to take us on, on a Saturday night.  The service was as fast as we could expect for a 15 person order in a small cafe, and they waived their corkage fee on our TTL wines.  The rest of the wine we slurped that night were opened for only $12 each, and the dishes ranged int eh $6-15 range, making it an economical centrally located casually elegant spot for dining in Healdsburg.  I didnt’ get a chance to look at the wine list, but judging by the glasses on the table before I arrived, there were no complaints.  Stop by and check it out!

Sunday was a wee bit of hair o’ the dog, since most of us had not slept very much the night before.  However, since we were at an annual event, we had to go!  We started out at Windsor Oaks, which I described here.  Next, we meandered out Eastside Road to Copain, which was a return visit for me, but well worth it for the views and the Rhone reds.

After Copain, we headed down the river to Joseph Swan, which I love for its rustic setting and fun with geology and terroir.  On hand, the resident geologist told us a lot about the land, and how it impacts the flavor of the wines.  We were tasting zins side by side, and could really get a feel for how the soil impacts the flavors of the wine – even if the vineyards are less than 1 mile apart. After Swan, we went down to Sunce, which is a requisite stop for the food, and their mystery bottle game.  I rather enjoyed the Barbera and picked some up to add to my collection.barry

About the time we were ending up, Patrick called us and invited us up to Chateau Felice.  Barry & Phyllis Rogers, Genevieve parents, own the property, and generously let us in after the official end time for some tasting and chatting.  Chateau Felice is located in the Chalk Hill AVA, nestled in rolling hills.  I was hard pressed to find a favorite wine here, because they were all absolutely lovely.  However, I did end up with half a case of futures as well as 3 distinct Bordeaux blends that I will savour.  Please go see them up at the Chateau!  Make sure you call for an appointment first, but it will be well worth your time to do so.   The wine was truly spectacular, and the hospitality was even better.

Having survived this barrel soaked weekend, I needed about a week of sleep, but I’ll be back at it tomorrow when we live to drink some more!

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