Fort-Ross-Winery

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).

Fort-Ross-Entry

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

Fort-Ross-Winery

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!

Littorai-Wines

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.

Littorai-Wines

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!

Dehlinger-Wine

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.

Dehlinger-Porch

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!

Dehlinger-Packet

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

Dehlinger-Tasting

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.

Dehlinger-Wine

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

Paul-Hobbs-Bottling-1

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.

Paul-Hobbs-Bottling-2

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.

Paul-Hobbs-Tasting

 

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.

Pairing

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.

Talisman-Glasses

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)

Talisman-Wine

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

Talisman-Glasses

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!

Talisman-Map

RAEN-Wine

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 16: RAEN

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RAEN was a winery that was on my radar for a couple of months.  I’d stumbled upon a bottle at the wine store and picked it up because it was pricier and because it was Sonoma Coast.  I’m fairly certain it was their 2017 Sonoma Coast Royal St Robert Cuvee.  And I wasn’t overly impressed.  I then dined at Saison last fall and now that I look at the menu, I see that I was served the exact same wine – and vintage!  And I loved it.  I guess it was my mood or the food or some other factor.

Anyway, RAEN (pronounced like “rain”) made the list.  What I didn’t know about RAEN until doing a bit more research is that two of Robert Mondavi’s grandsons decided they wanted to make Pinot Noir.  With a backing and knowledge of the Mondavi family, how can you go wrong?  But they wanted to make Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  And that’s what they did!  They found some Sonoma Coast growers and leased some acreage and were off and running.

Their wine is made in Sebastapol along with Pax.  They have a nice network of winemakers who help and support each other.  They make extremely limited production wines.  Fewer than 3000 cases.  And they now make a Chardonnay, too, that is quite nice!

My Tasting

I don’t really want to call it “My Visit” because there’s not much to visit.  They’re new and small.  Their tastings are held in the Vintage House hotel in St. Helena.  When I walked in the front door, I had a feeling that Emily – the person I’d made my reservation with and had spoken to – was sitting in the lobby waiting for me.  And, I was right.  So, we headed upstairs to a small seating area and I tasted through all four of their current releases!

RAEN-Wine

I don’t have many photos because there’s not much to share.  There’s wine and a hotel lobby.  Ha Ha!  But, it doesn’t matter the setting.  They have snazzy almost tech sheets with tasting notes.  They actually look identical to the labels on the bottles with tasting notes on the back.  Here’s a fun tip – if you’re ever popping the cork on a bottle of RAEN, look at the cork!  Each one is unique to that particular bottling and vintage.  You’ll find the time the grapes were picked along with the cycle of the moon.  Maybe you can use that as a trick at a restaurant – take the cork, quickly look at the side, sniff it, and declare you can tell from the scent those details!

The Wine

The guys started out doing a partial cluster fermentation and have worked up to whole cluster.  I believe 2017 was their first vintage of 100% whole cluster.  Tip for my wine girlfriends who – like me – thought they hated whole cluster pinots!  I think we were trying the wrong pinots.  I discovered this a little while ago as so many are whole cluster but don’t market that piece of info.  These were delicious.  Whatever it was that made us not like whole cluster had something else that caused us to not like it!

My favorite of the wines was hands down the 2018 Sea Field Pinot Noir from the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA.  I love the Fort Ross-Seaview wines.  If you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry – it’s a pretty new AVA that was only approved in 2012.

Anyway, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on one of their wines.  Only the Sonoma Coast Royal St Robert Cuvee makes it out into the market.  I’m honestly surprised that I even found it in a wine store where I live.  The rest of their wines are only sold to their allocation list members.  I’m excited to see these guys build this label in the future!  They have plans to buy a vineyard property, start growing estate fruit, and build their own winery.  It’ll be fun to watch!

They do offer tastings by appointment.  I didn’t have to trick anyone or beg.  If you’re in town, schedule a tasting with Emily!

Kistler-Roadhouse

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 15: Kistler

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I had a blast at my tasting appointment at Kistler.  Once again, it was the experience that made it great.  Don’t get me wrong, the wines were all spectacular.  But my THREE HOURS spent at Kistler were so much fun.

I arrived a couple of minutes late for my appointment – very rare for me.  But, my appointment time was for 2pm right when I was scheduled to finish work.  Kistler is located only about 7 minutes from my Airbnb so I left at the last possible minute.  Why does this matter?  You’ll see.

Kistler-Roadhouse

Kistler is also a winery behind a locked gate.  I love their little roadhouse (former brothel) up on the hill.  I’ve driven by many times so I was excited I was finally able to pass through that gate!  I apologize for the rainy, through-the-window photo, but I loved the scene even if it was a yucky, rainy day.

When I called up to the Roadhouse, I was told to pull up to the white house and someone would come get me.  Ummm….okay.  So I sat in my Jeep.  And out came my tasting host of the day with an umbrella.

My Visit

Once inside, I was delighted to see I wasn’t alone!  I even said so.  Two lovely women were seated and already enjoying their 2013 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast.  When I came in they each stood up and shook my hand.  I assumed these were winery employees.  No other customers would stand and shake my hand.   They’d stay seated and continue sipping on their wine.  But, they told me they were friends.  One was visiting from North Carolina for the week and the other was up from Carneros.  Okay.  Whatever.  I didn’t give it another thought.  Though, I did think it was weird that the gal from North Carolina didn’t have any idea what other wineries she might visit.  But, everyone is different.

Kistler-Wine

We moved into the tasting room which probably has gorgeous views on sunny days!  But the view still wasn’t bad.  I’d signed up for the 7-wine chardonnay and pinot noir tasting paired with “dips and butter”.  I’ve been making fun of that pairing ever since I booked it.  It wasn’t a cheap tasting and there was no refund or credit if you purchased wine.  In fact, I knew that I would only be allowed to purchase up to 4 bottles of wine as their wines are so highly allocated.

The woman next to me quickly asked if she could keep the pen because it was so nice.  I giggled as I’ve been swiping winery pens everywhere I go.  I’m building quite the collection!  And the Kistler pens were nice with just a “K” written on the barrel – perfect for someone whose name begins with a K!  The tasting host said we could take anything that would fit in my purse.  And I was pretty sure I could squeeze one or two of those Riedel Veritas Oaked Chardonnay or New World Pinot glasses in mine!

The Wines

Kistler-Bottles

The tasting began.  And, in the style I like, all wines were poured rather quickly side-by-side.  Here’s the lineup:

  • 2013 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
  • 2017 Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)
  • 2017 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
  • 2015 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
  • 2016 Stone Flat Vineyard Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
  • 2015 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay (Carneros)
  • 2016 Cuvee Natalie Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)
  • 2016 Laguna Ridge Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)

I found it interesting that, similar to Williams-Selyem, they use the same barrels for every bottle and vintage.  Though, they do use two different coopers.  They also use only one chardonnay clone in every vineyard.  So you’re really going to see how the terrior and vintage and aging impacts the wines.  All other factors are the same (barrels and clones).  Well….I guess there’s one other difference that was shared.  The Durrell Vineyard and Stone Flat Vineyards are separated by a path – so they’re essentially the same.  However, they have different rootstock.

For Pinot Noir, they have two different clones.  I believe he said they were Swan and Pommard.  Look at me knowing clones!  I’m learning something on this journey.

Between the three of us we discussed the similarities.  I was really intimated by the gal from North Carolina.  She seemed to know wine and asked some great questions.  I decided that the 2015 vintages of the Durrell and Hyde were my favorite.  I’ve come to learn I like Hyde fruit.  When I see that vineyard on a label, I wouldn’t be afraid to buy that wine without tasting it.  Everyone wanted to know my favorite producer of Hyde.  Ummmm….who would ask that?

My Visit Continued

As is usual in a group setting, we chatted about lots of things – restaurants, lodging options, etc.  I’d mentioned that I had a super fun experience at a restaurant the night before when I was seated next to some winemakers.  I won’t dive into that story here as I hope I’ll have a reason to share it later!  But, they agreed that you never know who you might bump into in wine country.

Then something was mentioned about Gwyneth Paltrow.  I missed what was said.  But, the gal from North Carolina shared the she had the opportunity to host Gwyneth once.  Ummm….who is this person?  She was dressed very stylishly.  She knew her wine.  She travels for wine (like me).  And, she has some pretty famous friends.

It was then that they came clean.  They were in fact Kistler employees!  They had decided to deceive me (their words).  But everything they’d said was completely truthful.  They were the ones who had designed that pen.  They were also the ones who had designed this tasting experience!  Normally for this tasting experience you need to have at least 2 people.  However, I really wanted to taste Kistler wines and I wanted to taste as many as I could.  So, I picked up the phone and called the winery.  And they accommodated me!  I wasn’t surprised I wasn’t tasting alone.  I assumed they’d add me to another party doing the same tasting as they were pretty specific with which dates were available.

And then we relaxed and had fun.  The Gwyneth story?  They hosted her at the winery for a private tasting with her boyfriend.  She even got to sit by the fire and chat with them for awhile.

Now they could ask me questions about my opinions on the fact that they did not have a tasting sheet out for me while tasting.  They taste the wines side-by-side.  And, they do a “dip and butter” tasting.  Oh!  I haven’t shared that with you, have I?  Funny story – everything in the photo was for me.  I thought it was weird the other two had to share a board since it was served before they let me know they worked for Kistler.  Now it made sense and I  no longer felt guilty!

Dips-and-Butter

OMG!  That butter!  It was crazy incredible.  And, since I knew they were all employees who created this, I was honest with them – they need more dippers!!!

Remember how I said that the gal from North Carolina was pretty stylish?  Apparently she stressed over what to wear to our tasting.  They’d been planning this ruse for awhile.  Apparently all of the winery employees were in on this.  Someone else came in to ask a question of one of them.  They let her know I was now in on their secret.  She commented on the noise level of our laughter that it sounded like there must have been a dozen of us!  We were enjoying ourselves.  But one winery employee could have blown it.  He walked by outside and waved like a giddy school girl up to us.  Ha Ha!

I was so happy they came clean earlier rather than later.  I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my clock when I got into my Jeep.  I’d been there for three hours!  Yikes!

Sadly, even though they brought me extra pens, multiples of their engraved glass water bottles, and a Kistler canvas tote, I didn’t get any special treatment when it came to purchasing wine.  I opted for a bottle of each of the 2015 wines I’d tasted.  I was only allowed 1 bottle of each.  The 2017 wines I can get through my allocation, the 2013 isn’t available at all, and the 2016 wines didn’t excite me as much.  But look at that packaging!  Everything was just a little nicer than everywhere else.  And their wines are really reasonably priced by comparison.

Kistler-Bottles

Closing Thoughts

Kistler was one of the wineries I’d been most looking forward to.  Funny enough, they appeared on my radar last year when I was seeking out Green Valley wine.  I was pretty sad when I realized they produced mostly chardonnay.  But, last fall I really started to fall in love with chardonnay.  I was excited since they’d made an exception for me and allowed me to taste.  And, I loved the one wine of theirs I had tried elsewhere before my visit.  So, the lesson learned here is don’t be afraid to ask!  I wouldn’t have been upset if they didn’t let me sign up for the tasting since it had a minimum of 2 people.  I’m so glad I picked up the phone that day!  I’ve also already placed the order for my allocation – much more confidently now that I’ve had the opportunity to taste their wines.

Davero-Wines

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 14: DaVero

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I’m breaking one of my rules today.  I previously visited DaVero.  This winery was not on my original list – I warned you it may change!  But, I decided that it was close enough to qualifying that it deserved to make my lineup.  I initially visited DaVero two years ago as part of the 2018 Dry Creek Passport event.  And I was NOT impressed.  I loved their wines.  But they refused to sell to me at the event because I wasn’t a member.  I can understand that as part of their normal process, but at a passport weekend event?  Why is a winery participating???  Just to gain members?  I’ve vented about this with so many people, I’ve lost count!

DaVero has come up as a suggestion at least a half a dozen times over the past year.  Every time I explain that I’ve been there, but see absolutely no reason to go back.  However, while I had friends joining me in Sonoma for Wine Road’s Winter Wineland event (I’ll be posting about that in a couple of weeks), one of my friends wanted to sign up and become a member.  He really loves DaVero wines and wants to be able to purchase them.  So, one of the days he was here I treated him to a tasting at Flowers and he treated me to a tasting at DaVero with our member perks.  I haven’t decided if I’ll share about our Flowers visit as it, too, breaks my rules.

Oh, and I made sure to share my experience with DaVero who apologized up and down.  And at the end of my visit, our tasting host (I don’t recall his name) asked if my opinion changed – and it indeed has.

My Visit

DaVero is more than just a winery, it’s a farm as well.  In addition to wine, they also produce olive oils and jams.  We were given a brief tour of the farm and even met Boris, their winery pig.  Despite appearances, Boris isn’t soft and cuddly.  He’s really wiry and pretty dirty.  I mean – he is a pig!  I’m not sure he enjoyed all of the attention I gave him as he almost immediately got up and wandered out of his little barn.  I snapped all sorts of photos of the farm so I’m just going to dump them below for your viewing pleasure.  The building in the last photo is where our private tasting was held. I’ve visited in the Spring and their farm is gorgeous when it’s not winter!

Boris-the-Pig

Boris-at-Work

DaVero-Farm

DaVero-Tasting-ShedThe Wines

After our tour, we headed into our little “shed”.  That’s the best term I can use to describe it.  It’s was cozy and comfortable.

Davero-Wines

DaVero specializes in Italian Varietals.  And we were here for their Sagrantino.  My friend absolutely loves their Sagrantino and scored some a few years back.  Apparently we have their Sagrantino to thank – it’s the reason they’re a winery and not an olive….orchard?  Is that what you call a farm that grows olives, an orchard?  You get the picture.  The story goes that their owner had a taste of Sagrantino and declared that his business was ruined.  I think that’s the word that was used.  He returned to his property and started planting grapes!

DaVero-Map

The map above illustrates why Italian varietals grow well in Northern California – it has some geographical similarities to Italy.  I’ve heard the same about Oregon and France when comparing Pinot Noir regions.

The tasting experience was delightful and paired with small bites that also highlight their olive oils and jams.  And, pretty unique for a winery, as a member you have the option to get some of their olive oils and jams in your club allocation.  I’m not a member but thought it was a fun feature – I enjoyed what I tasted!

Pairing

Closing Thoughts

I’m honestly glad I returned for another visit.  That’s what I love about passport or event weekends.  You have the opportunity to visit a winery and try a small selection of their wines.  It’s enough to give you a taste to see if you like their style of wines.  It’s then fun to return and try some of their other lineup during a more personal visit.  That’s exactly what happened here!

If you’d like to continue to read all about my 30 Wineries in 30 Days, click here to view them all!

Wines

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 13: Wheeler Farms

By 30 Wineries in 30 Days No Comments

Today’s visit to Wheeler Farms was the result of another Wine Spectator review while looking for non-Pinot Noir wines.  I’d initially stumbled upon Tor Wines and wanted to try some of their Cabernet Sauvignons.  I quickly learned that all of their tastings are held at the Wheeler Farms Custom Crush Facility in St Helena.  And, to my disappointment (or so I initially thought), they do portfolio tastings that feature their own wines and a few of their member wineries.  Hmmm…I wanted to taste Tor wines.

Like a few others, when making my appointment, they wanted to know my wine preferences and what I was looking for.  I honestly can’t recall exactly what I shared.  Apparently I didn’t share that I’m a Pinot Freak.  Sometimes when I make my appointments, I was purposefully leaving that out if I thought the wines I was hoping to try didn’t include Pinot Noir.  I don’t think that’s always a wise decision now that I look back.  There’s nothing wrong with being honest and wanting to branch out to try new things!

My Visit

After being welcomed into their gated facility and figuring out where to park (it’s not overly obvious), I was met in the parking lot by Patrick with glasses of the Wheeler Farms Sauvignon Blanc for us both.  He led me on a brief tour of their pretty high-tech crush facility.  I learned all of the ins and outs and pros and cons of optical sorting vs human sorting.  They also have technology to enable their wine makers to remotely monitor their wines.  It’s a very new facility.  The owners only purchased the property about 6 years ago and built the facility from the ground up.

Their tasting lounge is contemporary and fresh with a smallish kitchen where they prepare their food pairings.  They offer two different tastings – both of which feature food pairings.  I believe I must have reserved the Winemakers of Wheeler Farms experience.

Wheeler-Tasting-Lounge

My Tasting

Once seated, I glanced at the wine bottles that were sitting on the table and was instantly annoyed.  There wasn’t a single TOR wine on the table.  The Wheeler Farms tasting experiences are NOT inexpensive.  I wondered if I should mention it – ultimately, I spoke up.  Patrick explained that he was aware and we would be tasting some TOR wine.  Okay.  Redeemed.  Below is the initial lineup (listed from left to right).

Wines

  • 2018 Wheeler Farms Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2017 Vice Versa Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • 2016 Wheeler Farms Rutherford Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2016 Roam Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2016 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

I was so very excited about the second wine of the tasting – that Vice Versa Platt Pinot Noir.  I’ve had other pinots from the Platt vineyard and loved them.  Sadly, the winery that had been producing them is no longer getting from that vineyard.  I had hoped a Vice Versa wine would be on my tasting menu – and there it sat!  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next up was the Wheeler Cuvee.  I don’t remember much about it.  I don’t remember hating it.  But, it was quickly overshadowed by the next two.  I took my first sip of the 2016 Roam Sleeping Lady and almost fell out of my chair.  I quickly declared it to be my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon of the trip – and I’ve had some pretty spectacular cabs so far.  But lets first talk about that bottle!  It’s probably not evident from the photo, but that is a copper medallion on the front of the bottle.  Each one is struck, curved, and attached to each bottle by hand.  You can read all about the full process on Roam’s website.  If I recall, Roam only produces around 500 cases in total each year.  So, it is certainly a very small, limited, amazing wine.

The fifth wine in the official tasting was the 2016 Accendo Cellars Cab.  I had also hoped to get to try a wine of theirs.  Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Accendo.  I didn’t realize it was  created by Wheeler Farms owners who previously produced Araujo.  The Accendo wines are now produced by the next generation of the Araujo family.  I took one sip and forgot all about the Roam I’d just declared as the best wine of the journey.  Oh my gosh!  It was incredible.

The Pairings

The chef brought out bites at the beginning of the tasting that paired perfectly with the wines I tasted.  Because each visit is customized, the menu varies.  But, they have a bite for every wine.  Unfortunately, the menu recently changed so the first bite was new and I don’t have a description.  However, here are the three from left to right starting with the second bite:

  • Sonoma Lamb & Spring Vegetable Risotto
  • Pork & Duck Cassoulet
  • Roasted Beef Short Rib with Garlic Ponne Puree, Garden Broccoli, Thyme Jus & Crispy Onions

Food-Pairings

Now that Patrick had a better idea of my palate and preferences, we chatted about TOR.  Apparently many of their cabs are “punch you in the face” style.  That’s not my style.  So, he opted to pull out the 2017 TOR Cimarossa Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  I wasn’t overly excited about it.  I’m not afraid to say that.  It’s just not my style.  It made me appreciate that Roam and Accendo even more!

Here’s where it gets dangerous.  I had no idea how much any of these wines cost.  Well, I knew what the price point was on the Roam because I asked.  But, there was no price sheet.  No order form.  This didn’t feel like the other tasting experiences where I felt like I was in an MLM pressured sales pitch.  Apparently that was by design!  And I LOVED it.  I also loved that I tasted each wine without the knowledge that I should appreciate a more expensive wine over a cheaper wine.

The visit was very comparable to my visit at Spire that I visited a few days ago.  Both are higher end, luxury, hard-to-find wines.

I highly recommend a visit to Wheeler Farms.  You’ll taste some incredible wines.  The experiences aren’t inexpensive but will be waived if you make a large enough purchase.  I can’t wait for my next visit – Patrick even seemed to invite me back within the next few weeks while I’m still in the area.  He promised to pull out a completely new set of wines.  Oh, so tempting!

Lewis-Wines

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 12: Lewis Cellars

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I know exactly why Lewis Cellars made my list!  I was served a glass of their 2017 Reserve Chardonnay at The French Laundry last fall.  It was love at first sip as I enjoyed their super creamy and luscious chardonnay – one I would expect out of Napa.  So, when I sought out wineries to visit, Lewis Cellars quickly made the list.  Sadly, they’ve just run out of that 2017 Reserve Chardonnay.  The 2018 is being released in a few weeks and I’ve been promised I will love it.

Lewis Cellars is located on what I now call “race car lane” directly across from Andretti Winery.  If you’re into Indy car racing, you may be familiar with Randy Lewis.  I am not an avid follower, so I didn’t recognize the name.  But, Randy Lewis had a nice career racing cars for a living before retiring to make wine.  Their website didn’t provide a ton of history.  However, I enjoyed hearing all about it from David this morning.  Their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (not their reserve) was the #1 rated wine in 2016 by Wine Spectator.  The trophy is even on display in the tasting room.  I guess there’s a reason their wine is being served at The French Laundry.

Lewis-Wines

I found all four of the wines I was served to be wonderful and affordable for the quality.  However, I really enjoyed their 2018 Napa Chardonnay and 2017 Alec’s Blend the most.  They’re definitely daily drinkers in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought their cabernets were lovely, but I’m building quite the selection of amazing 2016 Cabernet Sauvignons.  And I don’t drink a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • 2018 Napa Chardonnay
  • 2017 Alec’s Blend (Napa Valley)
  • 2017 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

My Visit

When I made my reservations, David and I had the opportunity to chat about how I’d come to find them.  He asked my preferences.  And, I was excited to see he was doing my tasting.  We had a great visit and he provided some great suggestions that I look into researching.

It was a private, seated tasting.  There were no bells and whistles.  But it was relaxed, casual, and comfortable.  Their winery is easy to pass by!  In fact, I did…..twice!  I pulled out my reservation notes and quickly identified their location that sat back off of the road in a grey and blue chateau.