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Gallo of Sonoma offering first tours and wine tasting

For the first time, the Gallo family is offering tours of its vineyards. The “Seasons in the Vineyard” tours in Alexander Valley let guests explore Barrelli Creek Vineyard’s hillsides, ponds, and oak groves while learning how terroir affects grapes and wines made from the vineyard.

Winemaker Gina Gallo says, “My brother Matt challenges me to make great wine, and I challenge him to give me great grapes. Our grandfather Julio used to say that the best fertilizer is the winemaker’s footprints in the vineyard, and we’re inviting our guests to follow in those footsteps.”

The two-hour tour is available for small groups. It starts at Gallo’s tasting room on the Healdsburg Plaza and includes a tasting of wines from the vineyard plus a second tasting of limited release wines from other Gallo family vineyards along with local artisan cheeses and fresh breads.
Tours are offered daily at 9:30 a.m., cost $35 per person, and are available by reservation only.

Gallo’s tasting room offers a sit-down tasting of flights of three wines and individual tastes. The flights feature new releases, wines available only in the tasting room, and an opportunity to compare wines from different Sonoma County growing regions or within the same grape varietal.

The tasting room is located at 320 Center Street in Healdsburg. Open Monday-Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and till 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. To make a reservation for tours, call (707) 433-2458.

Cliff Lede Vineyards opens expanded tasting room

Cliff Lede Vineyards has opened its attractive and expanded visitor center on Yountville Cross Road in the northern Stags Leap District.

Lede bought the former S. Anderson Vineyards, and continues to sell sparkling wine under that name, but is focusing on Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, and other still wines.

The new tasting room offers both sparkling and still wines in an attractive setting around a large, U-shaped bar, and visitors can also step outside onto the spacious patio to enjoy their wine or view several sculptures and a heirloom rose garden.

The winery has recently expanded its caves, which are open for tours at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. It has also bought a B&B on the hillside nearby, and is turning it into the Luxurious Poetry Inn.

Cliff Lede Vineyards
1473 Yountville Cross Road, Yountville
(800) 428-2259

More Wine Tasting in Lake County

Though Lake County north of Napa is often viewed as the famed wine region’s poor stepsister, many prominent growers and wineries in Napa are quietly planting and buying grapes from the area. Unfortunately, Lake County hasn’t had many wineries to highlight its grapes, but that is changing rapidly.

Recently three boutique wineries have opened tasting rooms on the north shore of huge Clear Lake, and another is soon to follow.
The Shannon Ridge Tasting Room in Clearlake Oaks occupies an old schoolhouse where it pours wines made from the Shannons’ dramatic hillside vineyards nearby.
It’s open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 12599 East Highway 20.
Brassfield Estate is building a new tasting room at its modern winery in unique High Valley 1000 feet above Clearlake Oaks. The peaceful valley is definitely worth a visit. The winery is open by appointment at (707) 998-1895.
Farther north along the lake lies the new Tulip Hill Winery & Tasting Room between Lucerne and Nice. It offers wine tasting, gourmet foods, and wine accessories daily at 4900 Bartlett Springs Rd. just off Highway 20, (707) 274-9373. Just across from Tulip Hills is Jim Fetzer’s "Ceago Del Lago" on the north shore of Clear Lake. This 220-acre property is being transformed to promote a holistic farming environment of plant and animal life, including an impressive building complex. It’s not open to the public yet, but should be soon.



Mumm Unveils America the Beautiful exhibit

Mumm Napa Valley Winery has a gallery at which it features fine art photography at no charge — though few visitors are likely to resist enjoying some of its sparkling wines on the patio after viewing the exhibits.

Showing through October 10th is “America the Beautiful,” an exhibit of landscape photography featuring works by acclaimed western photographers.
The exhibit showcases more than 100 color and black-and-white images of western scenes through the lenses of more than 17 American photographers. The curator of “America the Beautiful” exhibit is the Ansel Adams Gallery.

In addition to work by Adams, other contributors include Martha Casanave, Charles Cramer, Brad Cole, Chuck Davis, Michael Frye, Carol Henry, Geir & Kate Jordahl, Robert Glen Ketchum, Bob Kolbrenner, Roman Lorenc, Tom Mallonée, A. Leo Nash, Ted Orland, Ken Parker, and Norbert Wu.

Mumm Napa Valley Winery
8445 Silverado Trail in Rutherford
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (707) 967-7700.

One of the hottest and Newest appellations

The hottest appellation in Santa Barbara County is one of the coolest in California.

The Santa Rita Hills, which enclose a Y-shaped valley close to the cold Pacific Coast between Lompoc and Buellton, are gaining increasing notice for their elegant Pinot Noir wines.

The area has sandy and loam soils, ideal for Pinot Noir, and the cool winds that blow through the valley also help reduce crops and concentrate flavors. The wines tend to intense blueberry and blackberry flavors yet remain ethereal unlike Pinots from warmer areas.

The pioneer more than 25 years ago was Sanford & Benedict, but many other small wineries and vineyards now dot the area: Babcock, Brewer-Clifton, Fiddlestix, Foley, Hitching Post, Longoria, Melville, Sea Smoke, Siduri and Taz among them.
Other wineries such as Andrew Murray, Au Bon Climat, and Rusack outside the appellation also buy Santa Rita Hills grapes.
It’s an easy detour off Highway 101 at Buellton to make the loop through the distinct sides of the region. Call the wineries first, however, as some are open only by appointment or on weekends.

Napa Soap Company
Looking for something unique to see and do in Wine Country? How about a demonstration of soap making. You can find owner Sheila Rockwood of Napa Soap Company in St. Helena, making soap most weekdays and she is always willing to explain the process. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at 651 Main St. behind Tesoro florist. (707) 963-5010. 

Finding the Perfect Pumpkin

When it comes to selecting the perfect pumpkin, know that there are many more available than the run-of-the-mill orange ones that we’re all used to seeing at Halloween time. The newest trends and styles of pumpkins reveal some interesting varieties. White pumpkins, such as “Casper” and “Lumina” are not typically used to make jack-o-lanterns, but are quite spellbinding nonetheless. The “Rouge Vive de Tanse,” or “Cinderella” pumpkins, perhaps so-called for their strong resemblance to the said fairy-tale carriage, are very heavy and dense. So what if there are bumps on the surface? They give character; and its you who will decide if its the perfect pumpkin for you.

A tip to remember: if you’re interested in using the pumpkins for cooking and not just decorations, the tastiest ones are the small sugar pumpkins, also known as pie pumpkins, as they are perfect for making pumpkin pie.

Taste Napa Downtown

Downtown Napa is now filled with many great wine tasting opportunities, and ten of them teamed together to make it even more attractive to taste downtown. 

The “Taste Napa Downtown” card allows holders initial tastes at 10 downtown tasting rooms for only 10 cents a taste.
The participants are Copia, Back Room Wines, Bounty Hunter, JV Wine & Spirits, Napa General Store, Napa Valley Traditions, Napa Wine Merchants, Robert Craig Winery, Vintner's Collective, and Wineries of Napa Valley. 

You can buy a “Taste Napa Downtown” card from many downtown merchants and tasting rooms or send a check for $15, payable to Napa Downtown Association, 1556 First St., Suite 102, Napa, CA.



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