30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 26: Viader

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Just the other day I mentioned that I was going to rely on winery recommendations over Google searches.  Viader was the result of a recommendation from a friend.  I’ve never heard of Viader (pronounced like “via dare”).  But, after speaking with them when making my reservations, I’ve been looking forward to this tasting!  They truly wanted to chat with me and get a better idea of my tastes and cater my tasting to me.  I love when they do that!

My Visit

The winery is located up on Howell Mountain behind a locked gate (of course).  Their tasting room was a cozy building overlooking the Napa Valley below.


I was pretty excited to see where I’d be tasting wine for the afternoon.  I was going to get to take in those amazing views.


It was actually a really gorgeous day when I visited.  Sunny and almost 70 degrees.  I kinda wanted to be on their terrace instead of inside their tasting room.  But walls of windows allowed me to have a thoroughly enjoyable view.

The Wines

The first three pours were their 2016 Homenaje, 2016 Viader “Black Label”, and 2015 Viader.  Viader is known for their blends.  The Homenaje is a blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% malbec.  As I’m not typically a fan of malbec, there was just a bit too much malbec in this guy for me to enjoy.  Though the wines were paired with a few cheeses and a spiced nut blend made by the winemaker’s wife.  The wines were definitely enhanced through the pairings.  The Homenaje was intended to be paired with a Malvarosa cheese.


I enjoyed the 2016 Viader “Black Label” which was a blend of 57% cabernet sauvignon, 26% syrah, 14% malbec, and 3% cabernet franc.   That was paired witn a Senior Del Cameros cheese.

The 2015 Viader is their signature blend comprising of 69% cabernet sauvignon and 31% cabernet franc paired with a Dry Jack.

I was initially really interested in their wines since they use a lot of Cab Franc and even have a 100% Cabernet Franc wine.  But, I was also initially disappointed that it wasn’t part of the tasting.  However, at like so many other wineries, we weren’t done yet!  I also had the opportunity to try their 2008 Viader side-by-side with the 2015.  Today I preferred the younger version.

I was so super excited about the next pour – their 2016 “Dare”.  I just love the name.  As I understand it, Delia was challenged (or dared) to make something that isn’t a blend!  She produced this 100% Cabernet Franc wine.  I was instantly in love.  I’m a sucker for a Cab Franc.  So many wineries hold that back for blending.  But I love it on its own!  However, since she was dared to make this wine and a play on her last name, this wine was appropriately named “Dare”.  Sadly, there is no 2017 Dare as all of the Cabernet Franc went into their other blends.


The final pour of the afternoon was the 2016 Viader “V”.  This wine was really unique as it is more than 50% Petit Verdot.  When have you had more than 20% of Petit Verdot in a blend?  I don’t recall the exact percentages and it isn’t on their website that I can see. But it’ll always be more than 50% Petit Verdot and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon.  I enjoyed the opportunity to taste it.  Though, it wasn’t my favorite of the day.

Other Comments

I shared most of my time in their tasting room with another couple.  So, I didn’t get my tasting host’s undivided attention until they’d left.  Normally that’s not the case – there are normally a couple of hosts.  And, normally the visit would include a tour.  However, they were down a staff member due to a child being sick.  No problem!  It happens.  Though, after the other couple left I had the opportunity to chat more about Delia and the winery.

I want to meet Delia.  Her story is impressive.  She was a single mother raising four children, going to school, and trying to build a winery all at the same time up on Howell Mountain.  Due to the terrain she actually needed to use dynamite and jackhammers to loosen the rocky soil and plant the vines. And we’re glad she did!  Her wines are very well respected!  In fact she had back-to-back placements at the top of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List.  Her 1997 Viader was ranked #3 in 2000.  Her 1998 Viader climbed to #2 in 2001!  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Her wines are consistently highly rated and recognized.  Delia’s son has taken the reins as their winemaker as of 2006.

At the end of my visit, I was surprised and delighted to be given an autographed copy of her book – Daring to Stand Alone – An Entrepreneur’s Journey.  My tasting host had shared a copy for us to flip through during our tasting.  And I wanted the opportunity to read more.  I overheard that she’d gifted the other couple a copy, but they’d purchased far more wine than I did.  I wasn’t expecting to receive one.  I can’t wait to dive in and read more about this amazing woman and her wines.

I almost forgot, my favorite delight of my visit was the view as the sun was setting.  If you schedule a visit to their winery, be sure to do it in the afternoon!  I stepped out onto that terrace and was completely in awe.



30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 25: Kosta Browne

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Kosta Browne LogoKosta Browne is one of those wineries I discovered at PinotFest.  It quickly made it to the top of my list of 30 in 30.  Before I attended PinotFest, I chatted with some of my local wine friends over dinner looking for their favorites on the list.  Kosta Browne was one that folks seemed excited about.  Hmmm…okay….

Side note:  During this journey you’ve probably noticed just how much more I have to learn and experience!  While I thought I knew what I was talking about when it came to Pinot Noir, I was REALLY new.  REALLY uneducated.  I don’t claim to be an expert by any means.  And I don’t expect I’ll be close to being an expert at the end.  I’m just a fan of Pinot Noir and wanted to document my journey.  And, hey – maybe you’re interested in following along!  So, that’s why I’m blogging about it!

Okay, I’m gonna admit – I’d never heard of Kosta Browne before that night.  Don’t laugh.  I realize now that they’re a name I should have known.  Heck, they were named the #1 wine of the year by Wine Spectator in 2011!  But that was years before I became obsessed with Pinot Noir.

So, when I stepped into the rooms at the Farallon Restaurant that day for PinotFest, Kosta Browne was one of the first wineries I sought out.  I instantly liked their wine.  I knew they needed to be on my list.  It also helped that they were giving away tins of a spice blend from one of my favorite Healdsburg restaurants, Valette, to anyone who joined their mailing list!  I’m a sucker for a freebie.

The Winery

I had no idea that I drove right by Kosta Browne in Sebastapol last weekend.  In fact, it appears I ate lunch at a little taco “stand” that’s attached to one of their buildings!  It’s located in the Barlow.  I noticed wine-looking “stuff” as I drove by, but assumed it was Pax since I know they’re located in that little outdoor mall/area.  I just laughed when I realized it was really Kosta Browne I was noticing.  It’s a tight squeeze between the road and their gate.  I really thought I was going to put my front bumper through their gate trying to reach their call box, but I fit.  Unlike some of my others recently, I made sure to know that at this gate I was to call to be let in.


Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of their courtyard.  It’s pretty much horseshoe shaped.  All of their production is done right there in the Barlow!  The trucks pull into their crush pad – which is all indoors.  They have their own bottling line in another building in the facility.  They have ultimate control.  However, not all of their barrels are stored on-site.  My tasting host, Katey, explained that any barrels that are stored onsite can be quickly removed and relocated if flooding were to occur… it did just one year ago!  I hadn’t realized Sebastapol was flooded.  I was more familiar with the flooding up in Guerneville along the Russian River since I’d previously stayed in that area and had a personal connection.  At the time, I’d never visited Sebastapol.

Of course I had to do some research – it’s an easy enough Google Search!  The “F” shaped complex on the right is Kosta Browne where I toured.  Everything in the photo below is under water.  Today you’d have no idea by looking at this area that it was under water less than a year ago.


My Visit

I was super excited about this visit – I’m still sitting on Kosta Browne’s wait list with probably another year to wait!  I was optimistic that I could probably take some bottles home with me after my tour!

Katey began by giving me a pour of their 2017 One Sixteen Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  It was quite delightful.  I enjoyed it.  And then we set off for the winery tour!  First up was the barrel room.  These are the barrels that could be so quickly relocated if there’s a threat of flood.


We walked to the end of this building into their crush pad.  Where we did some “barrel tasting”.  First up was a sample of 2019 Treehouse Single Vineyard Pinot Noir out of their concrete egg.  Normally I’m not a fan of barrel tastings, but this one is gonna be super yummy!  Kosta Browne uses a pretty decent amount of concrete during fermentation and aging.


Next up was a taste of their 2019 Gaps’s Crown Pinot out of their Foudre.  I’m a lover of most pinots from the Gap’s Crown vineyard so I was pretty excited to taste Kosta Browne’s.  I was also excited to hear that once I make it off of their wait list, generally the first single vineyard wines I’ll be allocated are their Gap’s Crown and Keefer single vineyard pinots.  And, most likely, it will be these 2019s that I’ll be allocated!


We headed back into their “kitchen” to taste a couple of their 2017 appellation blends.  Katey had explained that they generally make the appellation blends before their single vineyard wines.  I had figured it would be the opposite – and they’d just take whatever was leftover from single-vineyard wines and throw it together.  Instead, they focus on making really nice appellation blends first!


Purchasing Wine

As I finished the tasting I asked the question I was so nervous to have answered – “Can I purchase any of your wine today?”  The answer was an apologetic no.  While they absolutely love hosting tastings for folks – even those of us not on their mailing list – they do not conduct sales from the winery.  All is done through allocation and a small amount out to restaurants.

I kinda love Kosta Browne a lot more now!  They invited me in for a tasting knowing full well that I’m not on their mailing list and they wouldn’t sell to me at the end of the tasting.  Knowing full well that they weren’t going to single earn a dollar from me that day.  And, knowing full well that my tasting was absolutely FREE.  My tasting lasted a little over an hour.  I didn’t feel rushed.  Katey answered any and all of my questions.  She also explained that they have an “elevated” (my word) tasting experience that I’ll have to try on my next visit.  I can’t wait!

Kosta Browne History

I really love their story.  Their website provides a wonderful history about the winery’s early day and founders – you should check it out.  But, I’ll give you the quick highlights here.  Dan Kosta and Michael Browne were two friends and coworkers back in 1997.  They worked together at a popular Santa Rosa restaurant as a general manager and sommelier.  Together they decided they wanted to make wine.  They socked away $10 from their tips whenever the two worked together.  They had collected close to $1000 when a chef at the restaurant kicked in the difference to bring them to their $1400 goal.  That amount allowed them to purchase equipment and a half a ton of pinot noir grapes.  And they made 24 cases of wine!  Click here to read the full history!  I find it incredibly inspiring.

In November 2017 the duo announced that they were stepping down from operations at Kosta Browne.  Michael now focuses on his small-lot family label, Cirq.  Dan Kosta is over at AldenAlli after partnering with the Lagasse family (think Emeril Lagasse).  So I’ve now added two more wineries to a future list:  Cirq and AldenAlli.  Unfortunately neither winery currently offers tastings.  Ironically, I unknowingly picked up a bottle of Cirq on my travels last year in Idaho which is still in my cellar!  I’m currently sitting on Cirq’s waiting list waiting for my turn.  Their tasting room is scheduled to open to members later this year.

And a funny story about AldenAlli.  I was doing some preliminary drafting of this post and typing up some of the history a couple of weeks ago (this was supposed to be the first winery visit on my journey but I got terribly sick and needed to reschedule).  I was frustrated that AldenAlli’s wines were alluding me.  After I finished work that day, I headed out to visit a wine storage facility.  The first thing I noticed as soon as I walked in the door of their building were cases of Cirq and AldenAlli.  AldenAlli was more prominent.  A winery sticker was even adorning one of their carts.  Their wine seemed to be EVERYWHERE.  But it was all out of my reach.  They’d definitely miss a bottle.  They use a bar-coded inventory system.  It’s very impressive.  After my visit, I stopped by my very favorite wine shop in the area – The Bottle Barn.  You never know what you’ll find there.  You’ll find things that shouldn’t be there, but are.  In the second aisle, I found two bottles of AldenAlli’s 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  Score!!!  And, since then, I’ve placed my first allocation order for their wines!



30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 24: Adobe Road

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It really isn’t very fair that my visit to Adobe Road was the day immediately following my visit to Stewart Cellars where they spoiled the heck out of me.  But, that’s how my schedule played out.  The Adobe Road tasting room is in a temporary location in Petaluma while a larger, impressive looking facility is built along the waterfront.  The tasting room had four counter stools, a small table that sat two people, and a larger table that sat four comfortably.  Even though I made a pre-paid reservation, they are very much open to the public.  When I left every seat was occupied.

My Tasting

I selected the Reserve Tasting which included a flight of five wines:

  • 2017 Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyards
  • 2017 Pinot Noir, Robert’s Road Vineyard
  • 2017 Merlot, Palmer Ranch
  • 2016 Syrah, Fedrick Ranch
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon,Bavarion LIon Vineyard

I liked the Chardonnay the best out of the lineup.  But, I really didn’t like any of the other four wines.   My tasting host quickly realized that I wasn’t a fan of the Reserve Tasting and announced that she was going to find a wine that I liked.  Oh dear.  Not every winery will have wines that I love.  This is not a mission she needs to accept.  At one point she even made a comment that it’s appropriate to buy at least one bottle when you visit a winery.  Uhhh….I paid $40 for my tasting.  I’m not sure I’m obligated to purchase anything.  I didn’t even ask to try anything else that wasn’t on the list of predefined wines.  I agree, I try to find something that I like at a reasonable price point if I find myself at a winery where the wines just aren’t my style.  It happens.  It’s happened before on this journey.  It’ll happen again.


I really should have written down what I was poured, because the list is LONG.  I didn’t quite taste everything on (and off) their menu, but I came pretty darn close.

The winery is owned by a racecar driver – Kevin Buckler.  I have no idea who that is.  Apparently his wines have quite the following on the racing circuit – and I’m truly happy for them if they’ve found a good market that loves their wines.  So it’s appropriate that they have a line of “Racing Series” blends that tend to be crowd pleasers.  So, she poured me the 2016 “The 24”, the 2016 “Shift”, the 2016 “Redline”, and the 2018 “Apex”.  They were definitely pretty easy drinking and I understood why they’d be crowd pleasers.

Shocking to me, they make a Beckstoffer Cab from the Georges III vineyard.  So, I got to taste that one in both their 2015 and 2016 vintages.  I actually quite enjoyed the 2015 Beckstoffer Cab.  But, again, I’d just come from Stewart yesterday and have had at least one 100-point Beckstoffer Cab within the last week.  I’m not a big Cab drinker.  I don’t need more.  No matter how many pours of it she gave me, she wasn’t going to get me to buy it despite the fact that I repeatedly mentioned I tend to not be a Cab drinker because I don’t cook a lot of dishes that pair with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Additionally, I’m pretty sure I was also served the 2017 Griffin’s Lair Pinot Noir (which I liked), the 2014 Bavarian Lion Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2009 Cabernet Franc.  And then we revisited the 2015 Beckstoffer Cab.  I think that’s 15 pours in under an hour.  Yikes!  There was no cheese plate to offset the alcohol.  I certainly got my $40 worth even without any kind of pairing!  Even with dumping most of my pours (which is completely normal for me), I wasn’t getting right back in my Jeep.  I was walking down the sidewalk for a bite to eat paired with a Diet Coke.

Other Comments

Overall, it was definitely not at the top of my list of tasting experiences.  But, I wouldn’t expect it to be since it turned out to be just a tasting at a tasting bar.  We didn’t get into all of the details about production, fermentation, aging, clones, terroir, or any of those topics I’ve been geeking out over.

I’ve definitely found some winery winners in my attempt to fill in the holes in my calendar by branching out.  But, I’m quickly learning that recommendations far outweigh google searches – which really shouldn’t be a surprise!


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 23: Stewart Cellars

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Before this journey, I’d never heard of Stewart Cellars or their NOMAD wines.  But, as I’ve done with many, I turned to my Wine Spectator magazines for help in finding some wineries in Napa to explore.  I’m assuming it was a California Cab focused edition.  But, I stumbled upon Stewart and saw that they offer a private tasting of six Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignons.  Sign me up!  Sure, I was familiar with some of Beckstoffer vineyards before this trip.  Being that I’m a pinot girl, I hadn’t ever really tried them.  Stewart’s private tasting seemed like the perfect opportunity to try some of them – side by side!

My tasting host for the day, Andi, met me in their public tasting room right in Yountville.  Their space is amazing and gorgeous.  She poured me a welcome taste of their 2018 Sonoma Mountain Rose.  I was hesitant at first.  I was like…..umm….I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be tasting at that private library across the way.  But, I didn’t say anything.  I wasn’t in love with their Rose.  However, I was thrilled when they offered to taste some of their other (non-NOMAD) wines before my official tasting began.  I had seen that they produced some Pinot Noir – a Russian River and a Sonoma Coast.  I thought they were both nice.

And then Andi led me across the sidewalk to that ultry-luxe library.  They sure know how to pamper their guests.

My Visit

A friend asked me recently if there was a reason I don’t share photos of myself on my blog.  There is.  I travel alone.  I’m too shy to ask someone to take my photo.  I forgot my selfie stick.  And, by the time I usually remember to take a selfie, I tend to look a little drunk in the photos.  However, Andi immediately offered to take my photo!  I figured it might be safe at this point in the tasting.

Stewart-Tasting-MeThe inside of their NOMAD library was insane.  A fire was going, my tasting was set up and waiting for me on the table.  And I was surrounded by a perfectly-appointed room.

Being that I’m in my fourth week of wine-tasting, Andi asked me what some of my favorites have been.  Sitting in tasting spaces like this one certainly rocket the experience to the top of the list.  But, I shared that my favorites are the smaller wineries where the owners/winemakers have conducted my tastings like Flambeaux and Smith Story (so far).  In a few more days you’ll read about a super fun experience I had with the winemakers over at Radio-Coteau and Davida asked me if I preferred a seated or standing tasting.  The wines are obviously the focus of any wine tasting.  But, I enjoy the opportunity to sit back, relax, and have a conversation.  That doesn’t happen as easily at a standing tasting, in my opinion.  Stewart’s comfy library made it very easy to settle in and make myself at home.


The Tasting

Sitting in front of me were six Beckstoffer vineyard specific cabernet sauvignons.  From left to right were the following:

  • 2017 Las Piedras
  • 2017 Bourn
  • 2017 Dr. Crane
  • 2016 Georges III
  • 2016 To Kalon
  • 2016 Missouri Hopper


Andi suggested I taste through all six before diving into that incredible cheeseboard which was probably enough food for 4-6 people.  I’m regretting not bringing a zip-lock bag for my leftovers – especially the almonds.  There’s a small coffee shop/cafe onsite as well.  Apparently they roast/smoke those amazing almonds.  The plate contained grilled bread, apples, brie, monterey jack cheese, blueberries, a berry jam/compote, and blueberries.


I absolutely loved the opportunity to play around with the foods and wine.  Immediately a couple of favorites jumped out at me – first was the 2017 Bourn.  It was hands down my absolute favorite.  I also enjoyed the 2016 Georges III quite a bit.  The 2016 Missouri Hopper and 2017 Las Piedras were probably my least favorites.  But, again, all were absolutely amazing.  I’m totally splitting hairs here between great wines and really great wines.  In reality, in this case, it was probably a difference  in terroir and clone.

The price point on their wines is pretty incredible comparatively.  I even asked about it.  It’s not uncommon to pay significantly more for a Beckstoffer cab.  For example, I’d just seen the price sheet at Paul Hobbs at my tasting there.  Their Beckstoffer cabs were all over $100 more per bottle more expensive.  Their To Kalon was almost triple.  I’ve heard stories about how Andy Beckstoffer commands certain prices for wines made from his grapes.  If you charge too much, he’ll come back after you for more money!  Due to the value of that brand, I would have expected that they would ask wineries to charge a minimum price.  You can pick up the NOMAD Beckstoffers for $150 per bottle if you’re a wine club member.  That seems like a real steal!  This is where I could get lost down the rabbit hole of wine production macroeconomics.   Maybe that’s where I should work in the industry – if only I didn’t suck at economics in college.

Other Comments

Andi and I spent two and a half hours together chatting about the wines, other wineries, restaurants, and all sorts of topics.  She also brought out a few library wines and their Chardonnay.  The value on that Chardonnay is incredible!  I picked up quite a few.  The cabs age magnificently.  I loved the 2009.  They price their library wines great, too.  I believe their library wines are only $25 more than their current releases.  I’ll pay $25 more for a perfectly stored/aged wine that’s 10 or so years old!  Though, their current releases can be enjoyed right now.


Stewart offers a very flexible wine club that is hard to turn down.  I hesitate to share about it because I want to keep it all to myself.  Ha Ha!   However, after a member has been in the club for a certain duration, they’re invited to stay in the private apartment above the tasting lounge in Yountville.  Think they’d let me stay for five weeks in January?

Since I was so blown away by the space, here are a few more photos.  Also, one more closing thought – I woke this morning to an email from Andi.  She’d been trying really hard to think of the name of a winery she thought I’d enjoy.  She could have just left it at that.  But, she took the time to drop me an email when it came to her.



Want to read more about my 30 Wineries in 30 Days experience?  Click here to view all of the wineries I’ve visited!


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 22: Smith Story

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Smith Story has been on my list for quite awhile.  They were first recommended to me by some fellow tasters last summer.  We seemed to have similar tastes and shared our favorite wineries.  Then Smith Story came up over and over in conversations.  I knew they produced their wine at Grand Cru Custom Crush.  And, while on a tour there last November, we saw some of their folks working in the winery – maybe Ali.  Someone else recently commented in conversation that Smith Story should be a case study of how to start a winery.

Smith Story offers two different tasting experiences.  Because they produce wine at the custom crush facility, reservations can be made at that location for tastings.  But, I’ve been there and done that.  I noticed they also offer tastings up in the Anderson Valley in their very own tasting room.  No appointment is required!  Sure, it broke a rule, but I was excited to try their wines and I preferred their tasting room over one at GCCC.

My Visit

I was pretty excited to see owner and winemaker Eric Story behind the counter pouring the wines!  I’m pretty sure Smith Story is probably the only winery to have been crowdfunded!  It makes you think anyone could open a winery.  Granted, the two have over 40 years of combined experience in the industry.  So….maybe not anyone.  And when I mentioned the case study idea to Eric, he just laughed and joked that it would be a story of what not to do or something along those lines.  Take a look at their website and read their story!


We started our tasting with their 2018 Sauvignon Blanc.  It was a delightful with a great pricetag of $25!  All of their wines were underpriced, in my opinion.  Which brings us to the second wine – a 2016 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.  For only $38!  I love Dutton fruit.  That’s no secret.  But at $38?  Some of that was definitely going home with me!  Only 150 cases were produced.

Eric then surprised us with a sampling of their 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir.  But this wasn’t just any Russian River Rose of Pinot Noir.  Nope, it was from Rheingau, Germany!  It’s grown and produced in Germany and brought over.  Eric spent quite a bit of time in Germany and still has connections.  So, a couple of his wines are from Germany.  Sadly, he’s not sure when they’ll be available again due to the European tariff increases.  I’m not going to go and get all political on you.  But, GRRRRR.

Then we dove into Pinot Noir.  First up was the 2017 Helluva Vineyard Pinot Noir.  It’s 100% Pommard Clone and is from the southern end of the Anderson Valley near Boonville.  The next Pinot was the 2016 Nash Mill Vineyard which is on the opposite end up past Philo.  Eric helped to plant this vineyard and identified a sweet spot that contained Pommard 5 and 115 clones which is the section of the vineyard from which he sources his grapes.  Both were lovely.  I preferred the Helluva.

Next up was the 2016 Pickberry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Mountain.  Its crazy drinkable now .  Eric surprised and delighted us a bit more by pouring the Lord Sandwich Red blend (Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Syrah).  Lord Sandwich is their Goldendoodle.  And a really adorable one at that.  Sadly, Sandwich wasn’t at the winery.  But he has his own label, non-profit, and just had a photo shoot in the vineyard as he’s going to be featured on the cover of the latest Wine Dogs book.  Check out his Socks for Sandwich website.

We finished out our tasting with 2018 off-dry Riesling also from Rheingau, Germany.  That is going to taste incredible this summer!

I don’t know about you, but I have a large collection of corks.  I loved the way they displayed their corks and special bottles.  It was fun to see what was in their collection.



30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 21: Fort Ross Vineyard

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By this point in my 30 Wineries in 30 Days Journey, I was getting a little exhausted.  While this may be winery number 21 according to my blog, I’ve actually visited 40 different wineries at this point – and one of those I visited twice!  It’s a rough life!  However, the majority of these visits are appointments that are private, one-on-one tastings that last between 60 and 90 minutes.  Some have lasted as long as 3 hours.  They typically include tours of the wine facility and in depth discussions around their wine making techniques.  I’ve woken up a few days and thought – I don’t feel like going wine tasting!  But I always enjoy it when I arrive.

So, when this day was approaching, I canceled my appointment for the day (a couple of days earlier).  I figured I would just do whatever made me happy.  I had enough tasting appointments that I could certainly still hit and blog about 30 wineries (and then some).  It was a nice day so I thought I might drive up the coast with the tops off of my Jeep.  And then I realized that it might be the perfect opportunity to visit Fort Ross Vineyard along the way.  It’s the only tasting room that’s located in the Fort Ross Seaview AVA.  Other wineries like Flowers and Hirsch have tasting rooms in Healdsburg.  And, technically, Fort Ross Vineyard is appointment only AND I’ve never been there!  I’d still have a qualifying winery.

My Visit

Like I mentioned, the drive was gorgeous!  You drive up the coast from Jenner then up through the forest.  Having just rained the day before, the smell was glorious!  I snapped the photo below just after driving through their second gate on the property (no codes or calls needed – the gates open automatically).


You eventually pull up to the winery.  The photo isn’t the greatest due to the position of the sun.


It was a pretty small tasting list – just four wines of pretty small production wines.  The first was their 2017 Bicentennial Chardonnay.  It had a nice amount of acidity, but was nothing like the Chardonnays I’d tasted over at Littorai yesterday.  We then moved to a side-by-side tasting of Pinot Noir – 2015 “Top of Land” and their 2014 “Reserve”.  I definitely preferred the Reserve Pinot Noir.  And, I was excited about some variety with the last wine – their 2014 Pinotage.

If you’re ever out that way, I highly recommend a visit to Fort Ross Vineyard to get a better feel of the coastal terrain.  It’s a gorgeous drive with some nice wines at the end.  The tasting offered no extra bells and whistles.  It’s a standing tasting at their tasting bar.  But you’ll enjoy a friendly staff and great views!

Click here to continue to follow along on my 30 Wineries in 30 Days journey!


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 20: Littorai

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Here I go again, I don’t remember how Littorai made my list.  But, I’m glad they did!  I may have been looking for Sebastapol-area wineries.  But, they checked my boxes:  Pinot Noir, appointment only, and I’d never been there.

It was a lovely drive out to their winery.  Getting through the gate is always fun!  I’ve made so many reservations that I forget which ones have given me a code, which ones automatically open if I drive up to the right spot, or those I need to call to get in.  I also really struggle getting back OUT of the gate.  It’s hilariously embarrassing sometimes requiring me to call for help (Williams-Selyem).  Littorai had apparently given me a code.  Lesson learned – if you’re doing something like this, put notes on your calendar so you’re not sitting at a locked gate desperately searching through emails like I am – at almost every winery!  The wineries give great instructions on getting to them.  I’ve never had a problem (except for Merus whose gate was actually broken) once I located the reservation confirmation email.

My Visit

Several times on this journey I’ve been grateful I was driving my lifted, modified, Jeep Wrangler over the bumpy, muddy, dirt roads.  So many people have commented on my Jeep at the various wineries.  It is NOT a road-trip friendly vehicle.  Despite what you might think, it does NOT have a lot of room for transporting wine (especially if I’ve removed the front roof panels and they’re in the back).  And, it is NOT a comfortable ride.  But, it sure is fun!  Littorai was one where I was grateful I had my Jeep.  It had a bumpy dirt lane that led back to the winery.


I reserved the Single Vineyard Tasting Experience skipping the vineyard tour.  The tasting was held right in their production facility.  We tasted through two Chardonnays which were really not my preferred style.  They had tons of acid and little oak.  If I was tasting these blind, I may have confused them with a Sauvignon Blanc.  My tasting host noted that after my thoughts on the first Chardonnay I was likely to not like the second.  He was right.  And that’s totally okay!  I’m no longer too shy to admit that I’m not a fan of the style.  There’s a wine for everyone.  And, you’re not likely going to find what is yours unless you taste through a bunch.

I was relieved to move onto Pinot Noir!  I was able to taste three of their 2017 vintage and then one 2013 library wine.  Sadly, I didn’t get to taste these side-by-side as that would have been fun.  The 2017 “The Return” and 2017 “Savoy” were both from the Anderson Valley.  I’m beginning to recognize the Savoy vineyard which he explained is one of the more famous Anderson Valley vineyards.  The 2017 “The Haven” and 2013 “Mays Canyon” were both Sonoma Coast Pinots.

As a parting gift, I was given a small sachet of lavender which grows on the property, they dry, and package.  So thoughtful!  Definitely a nice touch.

30 Wineries in 30 Days

To read more about my 30 Wineries in 30 Days Journey, click here for links to all of the wineries!


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 19: Dehlinger

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I know exactly why Dehlinger was on my list!  One of my friends had recommended them.  He’d explained back in the day when he was visiting many of these same wineries, Dehlinger was impossible to get into.  He said that the way to get on their mailing list was to call Tom Dehlinger (who was wandering around the winery the day I visited), hope you caught him in a good mood, with some spare time, and an empty spot available on the list.  Unless all of the stars aligned, Tom usually just said things looked pretty full and to give him another call next year.  I shared this story with Julia, my tasting host for the day, and she said – that sounds about right!

These days they have a great website, a couple of wine experiences (by reservation only), and a link to request a reservation.  I chose the Pinot Noir Retrospective – Dehlinger Pinot noirs, sourced from our estate vineyards on Vine Hill Road, are considered a reference point for the variety in the Russian River Valley. We aim to produce Pinot noirs that showcase the special features of our property – be it soil type, vine age, or vineyard block. Our wine making approach centers on studying individual sections of land and the wines they produce.

This winter, we are pleased to offer a special Pinot noir only tasting for a limited time during January and February. This private, seated tasting will feature Dehlinger Pinot noirs from recent vintages as well as older selections from our library cellar.

Other months they offer similar experiences for Syrah and some of their other varietals.  Since I’m a pinot girl, I’m glad my schedule aligned.

My Visit

After passing through the locked gates and pulling around behind the winery, you are greeted with this cozy-looking porch.  Julia came out to welcome me.  I was thrilled that I was tasting with Julia.  We’d had a great chat the day I made my reservation.  She certainly remembered me, too.  We walked around the winery a bit, but it was a terribly yucky weather day.  So, we didn’t spend much time outside.  Instead, we walked through that open door in the photo below to a cute kitchen.


Yes, the tasting was held at the kitchen table.  It felt so homey and welcoming – like they were welcoming me into their home to taste their wines.  I loved it.  I also love it when wineries take the time to personalize the tasting sheets.  The brochure with the bottle pictured below is pretty awesome.  We didn’t talk much about it.  However, inside it provides a timeline and their history of Pinot Noir dating back to 1975.  The back side of the brochure shows a map of their estate vineyards with their corresponding soil types.

The sheet below was the tasting sheet for the wines I was tasting!  Note – there was no price list!


The Wines

I had the opportunity to taste seven of their Pinot Noirs side-by-side (yay)!  They were:

  • 1996 Octagon Pinot Noir
  • 2000 Old Vine Reserve Pinot Noir
  • 2006 Estate Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Altamont Pinot Noir
  • 2014 Champ de Mars Pinot Noir
  • 2017 Goldridge Pinot Noir


Julia and I spent the next 90 minutes chatting about clones and soil types and geeking out on that stuff.  I enjoyed tasting the differences in terroir between different bottlings.  They have two main soil types a tan “goldridge” and an umber “altimont”.  That altimont soil really looked like it could have come from the Moab or Zion someplace like that.  I like driving my Jeep in the red dirt and rocks.  I guess I like it when my grapes are grown in it, too.  Ha Ha!

Purchasing options were limited.   I could have purchased as much of the 2017 Goldridge Pinot Noir as I wanted.  However, they had 1-2 bottle limits on the 2012 and 2014.  The older vintages weren’t available at all for purchase.  For example, only 146 cases were ever produced of the 1996 Octagon Pinot Noir.  Understandably, they want to make sure they have enough for this fun retrospective experience.  Otherwise, their wines are still really only available by allocation.  A handful of their wines will end up in restaurants and a few, select wine shops.


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 18: Paul Hobbs

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Paul Hobbs is another winery that somehow made my list and I don’t quite remember why.  But, he is so influential when it comes to California wine, I’m glad they made my list!  He’s worked with so many different wineries over the last few decades and has his own wineries in California, Argentina, and Armenia, I believe.  He has a really impressive resume.

I’d signed up for their Signature Tasting which is apparently supposed to be a tasting of four of their wines accompanied by artisan cheeses.  We tasted six.  No complaints.  Upon arrival, we were given a taste of their 2017 Ellen Lane Estate RRV Chardonnay.  I was pretty excited not to be tasting alone today.  Someone from another winery was along for the ride as well as two women from Canada and Denmark.

My Visit


EJ, our tasting host for the day, took us on a brief tour once we were all gathered.  He led us down to their crush pad where I was excited to see a bottling truck!  This is definitely bottling season for the wineries.  But this was the first time I had the opportunity to see a bottling truck in action.  It was everything I expected it to be.


Ooops – I guess I got my thumb in that last picture!  Oh well.  I loved that you can see the case of wine moving down the conveyor belt into the winery.  The other boxes are empty and ready to be lifted into the truck to be filled with newly bottled wine.

My Tasting

I have zero bottle shots.  None.  EJ whipped those bottles out and put them away so quickly!  There were also no tasting notes or tech sheets.  Just an order form in what appeared to be a magnetic folder.  I was a little sad.  The presentation gave me so much hope.  I’m glad I snapped a photo of mine before handing it over with my completed order.  Otherwise I’d only have my memory to go off of.



Our first seated pour was the 2016 Edward James Estate RRV Chardonnay.  That one was really lovely.  It was paired with a fancy looking goat cheese (the one positioned at 12 o’clock on the plate below) – I think.  That information was completely missing.  The wines were great, but the experience was lacking in that regard in my opinion.


The next set of wines were Pinot Noirs.  The first was the 2017 Goldrock Estate Pinot from the Sonoma Coast AVA.  I really preferred this one to the 2017 Katherine Lindsay Estate Pinot from the Russian River AVA.  It’s becoming more and more apparently that I lean towards the coastal pinots over the Russian River.  The Pinots were paired with Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagonwheel.  Again.  I’ve been served that cheese SO often these last few weeks.  I even have some in my fridge!

Next was Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was hopeful yet a bit pessimistic.   Our price list had four different Beckstoffer Cabs listed and a general 2016 Napa Valley Cab.  I was sure we were just getting the Napa Valley blend.  There was only one cab glass in the lineup.  And I wasn’t sure the cost of the tasting could possibly include $285-$425 wines.  However, EJ quickly brightened my mood by letting us know we would be tasting one of the others.  YAY!  The first cab was nice.  But I was chomping at the bit for that Beckstoffer.

Our final wine was the 2016 Beckstoffer Dr Crane Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.  OMG.  I’m sitting here wondering why I didn’t buy a bottle.  It was one of the many 2016 Cabernet Sauvignons that received a perfect 100 rating from Robert Parker.  It was super approachable right now.  I’m also wondering if I could wander back over and they’d let me purchase a bottle.

Closing Thoughts

Except for the Beckstoffer Cab, nothing really stood out as part of the experience.  The wines were all amazing – but most of the wines I’ve been tasting are amazing.  Paul Hobbs also offers a second experience that featured more food pairings.  EJ mentioned that he saw in my reservation request that I was hoping for that one.  I’m guessing scheduling or a lack of interest from others prohibited me from getting into that one.


30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 17: Talisman

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Talisman is a winery I’ve been really excited to try.  They made it onto the list pretty late in the game when I was filling in some blanks in my calendar with wineries in Glen Ellen.  But Talisman really interested me when I read about their wines.  They make really small batches of Pinot Noir (check).  And they even make some vineyard designate wines and bottle them by clone (geeking out).

I made a reservation but they’re also open to the public.  When I walked through the door, he knew exactly who I was and what brought me to them.  There were two other small groups tasting in their lounge with me.  My tasting host poured me a taste of their 2018 Dawson Vineyard Rose of Pinot Noir.  He explained that they sought out a specific vineyard just to make their rose.  I quite liked it.  He showed me around their small facility and then let me sit wherever I wanted.

So, I sat at a long table with room for lots of glasses.  He explained that we would taste a few pre-selected wines and then pull out some other stuff based on my feedback of the previous wines.  I was excited to hear that!  And noted that I was curious about these single clone bottlings.

Talisman Wines

I’m sad to say that the style of their Pinot Noir overall was not exactly the style I prefer.  I preferred smoother, more fruit-forward pinots.  But, I can still respect the wine.

My pre-selected pours were:

  • 2016 Sadie’s Vineyard (RRV)
  • 2014 Starscape Vineyard (RRV)
  • 2015 Adastra Vineyard (Carneros)


My favorite of the three was their Sadie’s vineyard. Interestingly, it was also their least expensive – that never happens!


The subsequent pours selected specifically for me were:

  • 2015 Wildcat (Sonoma Coast)
  • 2014 Gunsalus (RRV)
  • 2014 Red Dog (Sonoma Mountain)
  • 2007 Red Dog – Pommard Clone (Sonoma Mountain)
  • 2007 Red Dog – Dijon Clone (Sonoma Mountain)
  • 2015 Sadie’s (RRV)

I really enjoyed tasting the side-by-side 2007 Red Dogs.  I found I preferred the Pommard Clone version to the Dijon Clone version if we’re splitting hairs.  If you notice, they also design their pinots to age.  The winery is even hosting a “90s dinner” next month where they’re pulling out some of their original vintages to share.  I wish I loved their wine more – I was ready to sign up for the dinner!