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  Six days in May

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Author Topic:   Six days in May
Hawkeye
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posted 05-19-2011 04:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
So, add, add, add, add, +,+,+,+,

IP: 173.247.8.79

carjeff
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posted 05-19-2011 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carjeff   Click Here to Email carjeff     Edit/Delete Message
Hawkeye,

I'm near Atlantic City, about 1 1/2 hrs from Wilmington. If you'd like to visit the Jersey Shore, let me know!

Thanks for the tip on Bennett Lane and Sojourn. I have added both to our (already way too long) wish list. I'd probably have to add a extra week or 2 to our trip to squeeze them all in.

IP: 155.178.5.10

Hawkeye
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posted 05-19-2011 12:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Carjeff,

How close are you to Wilmington, DE? We will be visiting our son there in July.

One I would highly recommend in Calistoga is Bennett Lane. Fabulous reasonably priced Cab blend.

Sojurn had some of the best Pinot I have tasted so I would highly recommend them. They had a couple Cabs that weren't too bad either.

[This message has been edited by Hawkeye (edited 05-19-2011).]

IP: 173.247.8.79

yesilovewine
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posted 05-19-2011 10:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Good Morning Hawkeye and Carjeff! Thanks for reading my post.
Jeff, I would strongly suggest that if you do put Roessler and Auldessa into your itinerary that you add Matt Bradley's ( Auldessa's winemaker) other project ( as he calls it) Sojourn into the mix. Hawkeye has mentioned them and their location is in Sonoma town. It would be an interesting comparison between Roessler and Sojourn, I think. Oh, and Auldessa is getting ready to release a Malbec that I think will do very well.
Hawkeye, I have felt that we have similar palates for a while now. You seem to gravitate for the fuller bodied, bolder fruit wines, as do we. And, given your taste for Wilson's Zinfandel, I think that you would have a heyday at Mazzocco. They, too, are a "Zin House" and they prove it with all they offer there. Lots of approaches to the varietal and a lovely tasting facility. If you haven't been there, it might be a good place to take your group some time. There is lots of room.
We did go all over the place this trip, but we had the time to do it for a change. Day one was pretty random as it was arrival day, but a good chance to focus on Sonoma town which we usually just wave at as we pass on to the airport. Days 2 and 5 were set with specific focus, but turned out to be pretty manageable; good thing that Mazzocco fits into both the Wilson and Maple Zin category!

IP: 98.232.221.183

carjeff
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posted 05-19-2011 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carjeff   Click Here to Email carjeff     Edit/Delete Message
Hawkeye,

We will be spending 2 nights in Calistoga and 1 in Sonoma, so we will be in wine country from Sat morning until Tues afternoon. You have already given me some great suggestions on Tripadvisor, and also advice to others on here. This will be only our 3rd visit (I have been several other times on business trips). We will be concentrating mostly on Calistoga, and Sonoma Valley/Carneros regions, visiting a few wineries on the way to/from Calistoga. Spotswoode will be difficult to schedule in due to only 2 tours/week, and Stags Leap district will be saved until our next visit.

Too bad a few weeks ago our neighbor, who owns a local travel agency arranged a wine/bike tour in Oct. One day includes a Stags Leap tour. Too bad I could convince my wife to make 2 trips w/in a month!

IP: 155.178.4.10

Hawkeye
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posted 05-19-2011 07:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Carjeff,

How long will you be staying in Calistoga? I know you have traveled the area extensively, but if I can make some small winery suggestions, let me know. A couple things I would suggest: Visit Spottswoode on the north edge of St. Helena. We had this wine last week, and I consider it one of the top 2 or 3 wines to cross my palate. Check their website as they only do two tours and tasting each week. I would suggest you make your appointment now ans I called a couple weeks ago for an appointment for the last week in October and they were full. I will warn you, their wines are not cheap!!!!

The second thing I would suggest is to do one day in the Stag's Leap area. Be sure to taste at Hartwell (a little pricey), Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (not to be confused with Stag's Leap Winery), Regusci (great old long western style tasting bar), Stelzner (nice inexpensive cave tour and tasting), Clif Lede and Robert Sinskey (to with great Cabs). On the way back up, stop in at Baldacci which has several outstanding Cabs.

Have a great trip. Cheers.

IP: 173.247.8.79

carjeff
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posted 05-19-2011 07:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carjeff   Click Here to Email carjeff     Edit/Delete Message
Ilovewine,

Thanks for the detailed trip report. Sounds like a great trip. Too bad you didn't enjoy Nicholson Ranch. That was one of my favorites from a trip a few years ago. I have put Roessler and Audelessa on our watch list for our trip in Nov. We will be staying a few nights in Calistoga and 1 in Sonoma (town), and will be concentrating on those areas.

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carjeff
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posted 05-19-2011 07:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carjeff   Click Here to Email carjeff     Edit/Delete Message
Ilovewine,

Thanks for the detailed trip report. Sounds like a great trip. Too bad you didn't enjoy Nicholson Ranch. That was one of my favorites from a trip a few years ago. I have put Roessler and Audelessa on our watch list for our trip in Nov. We will be staying a few nights in Calistoga and 1 in Sonoma (town), and will be concentrating on those areas.

IP: 155.178.5.10

Hawkeye
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posted 05-19-2011 06:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Yesilovewine,
Following you on the map, you were all over the place. We, too, have tasted at Fieldstone, a charming little cave tasting room, but if I remember correctly, the wines were not to our liking.

You did taste at several of the wineries that we hit in March with much the same results.

We also enjoy the Jack London Pub for lunch. Their hamburgers are awesome and to think that you are eating in the same place that Jack London sat and drank is awesome. I just wish they would reopen the restaurant attached which was another awesome place for lunch.

Excellent report . . . thanks. Next time we visit Sonoma I will refer back to it for suggestions. It was surprising that you found several of the wines a little to light bodied for your taste . . . our same reaction.

IP: 173.247.8.79

yesilovewine
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posted 05-18-2011 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Days 3 and 4 will be under the Sonoma Reserve Category.
Day 5: Quest for the Maple Vineyard Zinfandel
So, again the tasting room times didn't quite fit so we made an unexpected stop at Everett Ridge winery.
They actually have 2 labels, the Everett Ridge and the Esterlina which is predominantly in the Anderson Valley area. Both labels are available at ER.
We loved the views here and had the chance to get a pretty complete history as one of the owners was in the room when we arrived. We Enjoyed the Cole Ranch Riesling and the Pinot Rose' but we brought home the '07 DCV Estate Zinfandel and the Esterlina '08 Lazy S Vyd Cab. Both of these have great finishes and a lot of bold fruit which is nicely balanced.
Next, Armida- Holy Grail of Maple Zin
This is a beautiful property and has lots of room for picnics and outdoor dining. Armida winery gets the most Maple Vineyard Zinfandel of anyone. The ENTIRE Tina's block and the whole of their largest single block ( sorry I forgot the name) goes to Armida. And the folks here turn the grapes into something really special to drink. They still have some and if you're looking for it go get it soon. Maple Zin is selling out all over the place.
However, even if there were no Maple Zin to be had, we would still highly recommend this venue for you to visit. It is rare to have such wonderful attentiveness at any of the wineries and this was really special, even as we were about to leave, Christina, our server, came to the car and said that they were racking today and the 2010 Maple was out and wouldn't we like to barrel taste it?
SCORE!!!!!
Great stop, great wine, and not just the Maple, by the way.
Next,Dutcher Crossing:
Really crowded again, which is too bad because it does get stuffy when there are 30 other people in there. I did notice that they had aromatic candles burning, which I think is a detraction and it may have been why the Maple didn't seem to taste as well..we still bought some!....but nothing was tasting quite right. Not sure if it was the candles, too many people, or the crummy weather. Still love the place for the view and the excellent servers.
Left with Maple Zin and the '07 Taylor Reserve Cab, which was tasting great- lots of layers of flavor with a nice full-bodied mouthfeel. We'll see how it is without the candles...
Next: Mozzocco
We have had Mozzocco before but not been to the winery. They are sold out of Maple Zin.

But, they are also a Wilson winery, so we stayed and tasted the other zins of which I think they make 20. They are sold out of LOTS of their wines, not just the Maple, but we did enjoy the '08 DCV Sonoma County Zin and the '08 West Dry Creek Estate Zin.
This was an especially nice stop because our server was so good at setting up side-by-sides and verticals so that we could really compare the different vintages and or locations.
Next: Bella
What a treat. This is not a place you find by accident, but its worth the trip in the country. We did the Bella flight and brought home the '08 Lily Hill Estate Zin, the '09 Big River Ranch Zin and scored a rare Maple Zin ( only 3 cases left...they can't pour it but you can buy it if you dare.)
Last hit of the day, Zichichi:
An interesting experience, this. They are sold out of current release and had only 3 wines, older vintages, in the tasting room. Then you can barrel taste what is still available after the Passport weekend, and buy futures on that wine if you like. We bought the '07 Napa Cab ( who wouldn't buy an '07 Napa Cab?) and called it a day.
Headed to Francis Ford Coppola for dinner and were running a little early, so we did a small tasting but made no purchase.
Dinner at Rustic was nice, but something didn't agree with me so I'd rather hold judgement overall.
We didn't stop at Passalaqua again because we still have some of their Maple, and Lambert Bridge had 2 bottles left if you want to try it un-tasted.
Last day, just a couple stops on the way back to SFO- re-visits actually- to St. Francis, where we are members ( bought the '08 Pagani Vyd Old Vine Zin and the '08 Montecillo Vyd Kaarins Terrace Zin because they aren't in the next shipment).
Also went to Harvest Moon, where we are members, and had a delightful visit there. That is one cheerful place, in decor and in servers- they are always just so pleasant and friendly! We got an additional bottle of the '07 RRV Zin- a 4-vineyard blend from the farms around the estate that is just rightly balanced with fruit and acidity. Delish
We also went back to Audelssa to buy the Chocolate/Cabernet sauce and the '08 Tempest, a phenomenal co-fermentation of Syrah and Viognier that will knock your socks right off.
We had lunch across the street at the Jack London Saloon and it was very good. Highly recommend the BBQ Bacon Burger....the bourbon bbq sauce is to die for.

IP: 98.232.221.183

yesilovewine
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posted 05-18-2011 04:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Day 2: The Search for the Wilson Artisan Wineries
A note about Wilson's group....you can get a tasting card at any of the wineries that will gain you a waived tasting and a 10% discount on purchase which is good at all their properties. I actually inquired about it before we left and Dee offered to send me one so I'd have it when we started the day.

We stay in Santa Rosa because we like the accessibility to the whole county and because we can find reasonably priced lodging here that is close to terrific dining options. We also like the extra $$$ to spend on wine.
So, on this day we headed north on 101 and took off up Chalk Hill Road. Heading toward the new Wilson property called Soda Rock. What a gorgeous drive! Treacherously narrow in some places, but beautiful.
En route, we came to Field Stone winery, which opens at 10, so being early for the Soda Rock opening, we stopped in. Another unexpected delight! This is a very pretty property that is loaded with those huge Valley Oak trees that look like they could be 100 years old. The tasting room is actually in the wine cave here; you enter the barrel room, are enveloped in the aromas of wine, and walk into the business office area where they have a nice tasting bar set up. You know how in the old cartoons a great smell would take the character off their feet and they would sorta float along on the aroma? That is the ambience of Field Stone.
It was a great start to the day!
This is another really dinky place- more than 6 folks will put you shoulder to shoulder unless you can be out in the barrel room area, which can be arranged.
They offered a wide array of varietals including 4 different white ( even a Gewurtz'!) and 4 reds along with a port.
These are very typical Alexander Valley wines, in my opinion. Solid, fruit forward, nice finish and affordable. We bought the '09 Staten Family Reserve Viognier which is just great- a little floral on the nose, nice crisp quality with peach and something else...maybe apricot; an interesting spiciness rounds it beautifully.
We also bought the '07 Staten Reserve Petite Sirah. Yes, I know...shocking isn't it? I vowed never to drink that horrid varietal again, but was feeling a bit daring and I am SO glad. This was a delightful wine. Its an old-vine field blend so the raspy harshness isn't there at all. Its dark, really rich and just slightly tannic so you could drink this alone but I would go for a really hearty stew or maybe a roast.
The port was also very nice here. If we didn't already have all those spots on the rack filled we would have bought some.
Next, Soda Rock:
Such an interesting concept this is. The property is still a work in progress, but it is grand in a rustic sort of way and would be an exceptional place to host a conference or big party. Left Brain is actually going to recommend it as a potential meeting place for his parent company.
This used to be the community gathering place back before Prohibition and there were several small businesses here. The tasting bar is a beautiful antique. There is a separated area for wine club members.
There is not a wide range of wines here yet but they are just getting started; having just opened in October I think it was. They currently have 3 white and 6 red wines released. Grapes are sourced from Wilson properties all over the area, but they do have one vineyard that is theirs across the road. They are a Visa Signature winery and will waive tating fee with purchase for those not having the Visa card.
We bought the '04 Merchantile Cab, a dark, full bodied wine that fills your nose with delicious aromas and makes you want to go for a swim in it.
DeLormier was next:
Another great place to have wine...it would also be nice for picnics or even a dinner. They were preparing for a wedding reception when we were there.
The tasting room is actually in the vineyards, which I just love. Our server was not the best, but her co-server was very well informed and did a good job of cueing when necessary.
This winery had a few winners in the Harvest Fair competition, so we were anxious to try some of those, and we chose the '06 Warm Springs Vyd. Cab to bring home. It's rich and full flavored with a nice finish.
Harley the Cocker Spaniel on hand was a real piece of work and we had a good time watching him.
From here, we headed down to the flagship winery, Wilson and had a wonderful time with our server Jean ( there were 3 Jeans behind the counter!) She is a neighbor of the Wilsons and hearing her tell about them was really interesting. Wilson will of course always and forever be a Zin house, and that suits us just fine. We love their wine, and having been through just about the entire "collection" of wineries by now we were beginning to see where Diane's hand shows in the wines. We felt that the '08 Sawyer was tasting best on this day and brought home some of that along with the unexpectedly delicious Sauvignon Blanc.
I don't care for the "herbaceous" style of Sauv. Blanc that is associated with New Zealand; I want the citrus, fruit forward style and that is what you will find here. Its crisp and grapefruity.
Last stop of the day was Matrix:
Another great place to visit. Its small but comfortable with a very nice outdoor seating option that overlooks a creek.
Pinot is king here, and they do a wonderful job of making a variety of styles to appeal to different palates. Though we liked a couple of the Pinots, not being big on that varietal we opted to brin home the '07 Alegria Reserve Zin. Its very much like the old style that made us love zin to begin with: a bit of chocolate and fruit on the nose, but the presence of that peppery quality that makes zin so interesting. Tannins are soft here with a wonderful long finish.
If you are a Pinot person, I would highly recommend that you try this place and Roessler. Both have developed a variety of production styles with this grape that will be of interest to someone who enjoys exploring that varietal.
That ends day 2. Well, almost. Somewhere in the day we stopped at Sbragia. Since I can't recall where in the order and took no notes you can correctly assume that we were totally unimpressed. I know folks love this place, and the view of the valley is nice enough, but I really don't care to walk in to a place that is so blatantly resting on its laurels from the "good old days". I know Ed Sbragia's reputation and the history of his successes, but this place is just not "all that". I can find much prettier views and be served by far more pleasant young people and not be charged a $15 tasting fee to try mediocre wines that start around $45. End of story.
Dinner at Jack and Tony' was enjoyable as always.
Next...

IP: 98.232.221.183

yesilovewine
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posted 05-18-2011 03:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Day 1:
Arrive SFO around 8:20 am; arrive at Schug's tasting room at 10 sharp, just when they opened.
Shug: Interesting facility and winery history, but the wines were not to our taste- too light and no finish at all. You choose between 2 flights of either Current Release ( $5) or Reserve ($10) and if you buy a bottle they take $5 off the price.
This is a small place and they post that you must call ahead for parties of 8 or more; believe it- even 8 will be a tight squeeze here.
Nicholson Ranch: The turn is easy to miss as the signage to point you is not done very well. But its a very pretty property right off the highway with a nice view. At one time there was lodging available here, but I was not clear whether that is still the case. This is a working cattle ranch to some degeree.
Again, the wines were okay, but still too light for our palate. Our server informed us that we have an "American palate" and thus would probably never go for the more elegant style of wines produced in Carneros or Europe. -Well, I'm an American, Dude, what'd you expect??
The tasting room is full of fun doo-dads for purchase, and they do make a line of gourmet condiments that look pretty good. There are 4 tasting options with fees ranging from $5-$10.
Back to the town of Sonoma for a walk around the plaza where we happened upon Roessler Cellars, a delightful surprise. You will find them one block off the plaza on First St. West, across the street from Hawkes whose sign is easier to see from a distance.
This is a Pinot/Chard house. That is all they make. They source from all over CA and they make some outstanding Pinot Noir.
- See, I told you I could be swayed by the right folks!-
I believe they make 24 Pinots and about a half-dozen Chards. We were tasting only Pinots and I must say that they offer a style for any palate. With prices ranging from $30-$60 they can fit into most budgets.
We came home with the '09 Blue Jay Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, and the '08 Chalone Brosseau Pinot Noir. The Blue Jay is rich and flavorful with a great finish and could easily be a stand alone wine to enjoy.
The Brosseau is a little more tannic with bigger flavors. I got a lot of cherry on the nose. This is really a food wine, and I think a gameier flavor would go with it. Venison or maybe lamb....
Our server was Scott Herrmann, the tasting room manager, and he is a wealth of good information about these wines. He will guide you through an exceptional tasting experience.
After lunch at Murphy's Irish Pub we hit Hwy 12 Wineries which is located in the gift shop on the corner of E. Napa and 1st St. East. This is a complimentary tasting of your choice of 5 from the current releases or you can try the reserves for $10.
Again, these wines were not to our taste- too thin with little on the finish. We did buy a bottle of the '08 Mission Hardware, Old Sonoma Red which is a Merlot/Syrah blend, but mainly because we are short on blends and this would "do" for going with something off the grill.
Interestingly, the winemaker is Michael Sebastiani, a grandson of Sam who started the Viansa winery in Carneros.
Last stop in Sonoma was Hawkes. Yes, I know they are located in Alexander Valley, but they have put in a satellite tasting room at the Plaza and it has been very successful according to Corinne, our server. Hawkes is primarily a Cab house, but they also had a Merlot and a Chardonnay to offer, both of which are quite tasty. There is a $10 tasting fee which is waived with a $30 purchase. We brought home the '04 Alexander Valley Cabernet which was rich and lovely.

As y'all know, I'm nothing if not long winded, so I'll do these day-by-day and you know to just fire away if you have questions or comments.....

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 05-19-2011).]

IP: 98.232.221.183

yesilovewine
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posted 05-18-2011 09:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
A quick preview so you will know what's coming....
We signed up for the Sonoma Reserve event which was held the weekend of May 14-15, and decided to tack on 2 days to each side of that for further exploration of Sonoma County. We have officially covered the county from stem to stern now!
Over the course of our time, we visited about 30 wineries, including the ones in the event. We DID visit all the places that Tina Maple referred me to and were able to score a few bottles of Maple Zin along the way. We also visited all the Wilson properties except for Jaxon Keyes; its location is about 30 miles north of our outermost visit this trip and we couldn't justify the time it would have taken.
Hawkeye, we still did not get to the Healdsburg tasting rooms, so Williamson was missed once again. A Healdsburg Day is planned for October, however.
I have to get my notes sorted and will fill you in later, but overall this trip was just an outstanding learning experience and if it hadn't rained 3 of the 6 days it would have been perfect.

IP: 98.232.221.183

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