I did it! I visited and wrote about 30 wineries over the course of 30 days! The final (official) stop on my journey was at Auteur! Auteur was not on my original list. However, I had a free day in my schedule. You may remember my visit to Stewart Cellars. My tasting host there, Andi, struggled during our entire tasting to remember Auteur. Based upon our conversation, she knew I’d enjoy their wines. I’m grateful she took the time to email me later that night when the name came to her! She was absolutely right!
Later in the trip when I was entertaining myself at lunch on Instagram, I ran across a couple of Auteur’s posts. Their name immediately jumped out at me. I saw they were invitation only, so took a chance and reached out. I wasn’t overly optimistic I could get a tasting scheduled. You see, my one and only free day was Superbowl Sunday. And the local team happened to be playing in the game this year. Who on earth is going to come into the winery on Superbowl Sunday for a tasting for one person with less than 24 hours notice? The answer – Corey at Auteur. He explained he could do a 10:30 or 11am tasting. I went with 10:30. I’m pretty sure he was grateful I chose the earlier time slot since I’m so chatty.
In our email exchange he asked how I’d come to learn about Auteur so I explained the recommendation followed by Instagram. I believe he told me that 95% of their tastings are by winery referrals.
I was initially hesitant once I sat down and researched them the morning of the tasting. I really try to explore a winery’s entire website before a tasting. And, if I have a good amount of time, I’ll do a Google search as well. Why was I hesitant? Well, according to their website they were sold out of just about every single Pinot Noir as well as some others. Were they going to have anything for me to try – let alone purchase if I happened to like them?
I was also a little hesitant when I did a quick Wine Spectator search of their ratings. Most were under 90 points! And they hadn’t been rated since their 2016 vintage. However, I became a bit more optimistic when I saw some of their more recent ratings on their website – so many well over 95 points. Okay. That’s a little better. But still…what on earth are they going to pour me? I figured they wouldn’t schedule a tasting if they didn’t have any wine to share.
They’re located just steps away from the square in Sonoma. I didn’t immediately realize where I was based upon the way my GPS brought me into town. And then I just laughed when I saw where their tasting room is located – directly across the street from Walt and around the corner from Three Sticks. They are both tasting rooms I’d visited last fall. And I hadn’t even noticed Auteur.
They check all of my boxes. Not open to the public. Crazy small production of wines produced with fruit from very reputable vineyards – Hyde, Durell, Savoy, and Gap’s Crown just to name a few. I believe he said they farm usually 1/2 acre blocks at these vineyards. Producing around 100-125 cases of each. Small.
Corey even commented on the fact that they’re having a hard time figuring out what to share in the tasting room! Just a few days ago they went digging in inventory to see what they have left. Just a handful of cases of these wines. And, they even had to pull out some library wines to round out the tasting.
I was so excited to jump into the tasting. Corey poured three Chardonnays for me. And then he said something that almost immediately turned me off. They don’t put their Chardonnay through malolactic fermentation. Ummm. I like the results and characteristics related to that malolactic fermentation. And they’re only using 25% new oak. What on earth??? I can’t wait to get home to pull out my Wine Spectator Magazine where apparently Ramey made a comment about California Chardonnay that doesn’t go through malo. However, I really liked the first wine Corey poured – their 2017 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay. Whew! The second and third wines were the 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the 2017 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay. I really loved that Durell.
Next we moved onto Pinot Noir. We started with a pinot they needed to pull from their library due to the limited amounts of wine they have available. I wasn’t complaining. It was their 2010 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. And I instantly loved it. I’ve been drinking so many younger pinots these days that I haven’t enjoyed many of the older vintages that have been poured for me. That wasn’t the case here. Sadly, they no longer source fruit from Shea Vineyard.
The second Pinot Noir was their 2017 Sonoma Coast blend which I could just drink all day long. They make a bit more of this – a whopping 174 cases. Their blends tend to be the wines that make it out into restaurants. The third was the 2017 Savoy Vineyard Pinot. I’ve gotten a lot more familiar with this Anderson Valley Vineyard this trip. And it was my favorite of the pinots I could purchase. Corey pulled out their 2017 Manchester Ridge Pinot for me to try. Jeb Dunnuck had proclaimed this to be one of the Top 50 Red Wines he tasted in 2018 out of 9000 different wines. And Corey tells me the 2018 promises to be even better. I cannot wait to get my hands on that one this fall!
I could have sat there and chatted with Corey all day. But he had a party to get to. It was still Superbowl Sunday! But I was blown away by the service that provide to their members. Corey invites members to call and text any time. They make notes on everyone who comes and tastes about preferences and their palate. That way when a customer calls and asks for a suggestion, they have a better idea of what the customer might prefer. They offer concierge service and can get folks into harder to get into tasting rooms. I think I’ll take him up on that service on future visits!
30 Wineries in 30 Days
So this is winery number 30. It should be the end of this journey, right? But why end at just 30? I have a few more wineries that meet my silly criteria to visit. So, you can look forward to a few more visits over the next few days. There are definitely three – possibly four more. First will be Occidental – Steve Kistler’s new winery. If there was one winery that was suggested more frequently than anyone else it was Occidental. They were actually supposed to be my very first winery on this journey. However, they reached out to me because they didn’t have anyone to do the tasting on the day I was scheduled and we pushed back my tasting. They wanted to schedule me for the next day and I just laughed. My schedule was packed. I can’t just come the next day.
The next one or two are a couple of cult wineries I’m excited to try. Radio-Coteau is the first of those. I have a funny story I cannot wait to share about Radio-Coteau and am thrilled out of my mind that I’m getting to do a tasting there. The next is an almost impossible winery to get into. They flat out state that they don’t do tastings. Period. But I reached out and we scheduled something. But it’s not 100% confirmed. So, I’m hoping it’ll still happen. I won’t even name them here just in case it doesn’t happen. And, last but certainly not least is Aubert. Oh, do have stories to share about Aubert.
However, since this is the unofficial end, let me share some stats. I arrived in Forestville on Saturday, January 4th. My first stop was a winery. Not my house. Not a rest area. Not a restaurant. It was a winery. Dutton-Goldfield. It’s not one I’ve blogged about because it doesn’t meet any of my criteria, but it’s a favorite of mine. And, ironically, my trip ends with them. I extended my trip by an entire week just to attend a luncheon they’re co-hosting with one of my very favorite restaurants, Valette. You better believe I’ll share about that!
I’m on track to have 57 winery visits between January 4 and February 8. I worded that very carefully. I’ve actually only visited 56 wineries – one I visited twice. Seventeen of those wineries were over the course of two days with a group of friends who flew in for the weekend to attend Wine Road’s Winter Wineland. I’ll write up a separate post about that fun event and the highlights. A couple of wineries fell off of my list. But, I will have visited at least one winery every day between January 8 and February 4. I spent my first 3 full days in wine country with an awful stomach bug and had to rearrange some things.
This trip was thoroughly exhausting – far more exhausting that I ever anticipated. I thought by just visiting one winery every afternoon that it wouldn’t be too much. I was wrong. So very wrong. Except for that weekend of 17 wineries, I never visited more than three wineries in one day on a weekend day. Every Saturday I rolled out of bed grumbling that I didn’t want to taste wine. Most Saturday wine tastings began at 10am. And a couple of them were in Napa – an hour’s drive from my Airbnb. The majority of these tastings weren’t basic tastings at the tasting bar. They were one-on-one, seated tastings lasting 1-1/2 to 3 hours per winery. Many included tours. Most included pairings of some sort. Almost all included in depth discussions about production and clones and farming techniques.
A girlfriend of mine who works in the industry shared with me that after a significantly shorter trip to wine country, she comes home and eats a bowl of white rice with sparkling water because her palate is shot. Amen! Will I ever be able to drink lower priced wines again? I’m sure I will. But, boy, did I taste some amazing wines!?!
I’m getting a little choked up as I write this. The journey is pretty much over. (I really have one week left in wine country before heading home as I’m writing this.) But this is my 30th winery! I made it! I miss my house and my friends. I’d say that I miss my bed, but the bed in my Airbnb is really comfy. I’ve missed all sorts of gatherings and events by being away so long. I cannot wait to get back to a different normal routine since my normal routine has been to work from 5:30am to 2pm every week day. Then hop in my Jeep and drive 10 minutes to an hour to a winery. Spend a couple of hours at the winery before finding dinner (though I cooked about 50% of my dinners). Then blog. Then go to bed between 8 and 9 to do it all over again the next day.
If you’ve followed my journey, thank you! I hope to continue to post about my Adventures With Wine. Many more trips are planned. I’ll probably write up some of my thoughts as I open some of the wine I’ve purchased as well as share recipes that pair with them. I have a bunch of restaurants I want to share about just in case you’re in the area and want to try something new. Hint….I’ve already written up about my dining experiences at both SingleThread and The Restaurant at Meadowood – both Michelin 3-star rated restaurants in wine country. They’ll be posting in the next couple of weeks. So please stay tuned!