Auteur-Wine

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 30: Auteur

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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.

My Visit

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.

Auteur-Wine

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.

The Wines

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!

Closing Thoughts

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!

 

 

Hirsch-Tasting

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 29: Hirsch

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Hirsch is another winery that I sought out.  They’re located way out in the Fort Ross Seaview AVA.  Although, they don’t like to admit that for some reason.  I do not understand why they don’t want to be associated with that sub-AVA.  They’re located right in the middle of it.  I even asked and still don’t understand.  My tasting host says they just want to be known for being Hirsch.  There are some great cult wines from that region.  Anyway, lucky for everyone, they have a tasting room in Healdsburg which is much more accessible than driving all of the way out to the coast.

In the past they’ve sold fruit to a handful of wineries.  But, they’re pulling back and only sharing their fruit with a few these days and focusing on producing their own wines.  Failla is still lucky enough to be the recipient of some Hirsch fruit.  And, I had the opportunity to try their Hirsch Pinot Noir a few weeks back.  Interestingly, I didn’t buy any.  Boy would I love to do a side-by-side comparison now.

My Visit

I arrived pretty early to my tasting – by almost 20 minutes.  They were expecting three more folks to join us who apparently got caught in traffic.  So it ended up being a one-on-one, private tasting.

Hirsch-Tasting

We started off with their 2018 Hirsch Estate Chardonnay.  I thought it was a bit more acidic than I would prefer.  I do like my Chards full and creamy and only lightly acidic.  That’s more than I knew four weeks ago!  This girl has come a long way in this journey.  I didn’t dive into the snacks.  Maybe I should have.  This wine probably would have paired beautifully with food.

Interestingly, they only produce a Chardonnay because one of the wineries they provided fruit to in the past (Williams-Selyem) encouraged them to plant Chardonnay.  However, Williams-Selyem no longer sources fruit from Hirsch.

Then we moved into what I was here for – Pinot Noir!  First was their 2017 Bohan-Dillon Pinot Noir which is super easy drinking and yummy.  I fell over when I read the price is only $38 per bottle!  Their other Pinots were significantly higher – more than double.  She shared their 2016 East Ridge Estate and pulled out a 2015 San Andreas Fault that wasn’t on the list.  The East Ridge ended up being my favorite of their pinots.  We closed out the tasting with their 2015 Raschen Ridge.

Closing Thoughts

I had such a fun visit chatting with the tasting host whose name I’ve completely forgotten.  I really enjoyed an opportunity to taste more wine grown out along the coast.  I really enjoy the coastal wines these days.

The tasting contained no bells and whistles – and that’s fine!  The tasting room is small and intimate and perfect.  And, apparently if you catch someone working in the tasting room and they have availability, you might get the opportunity to walk in.  However, tastings are super easy to schedule.  And, I highly recommend putting them on your list if you enjoy coastal pinots!

Ramey-Wines

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 28: Ramey

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Ramey had to make my list for an assortment of reasons.  First, they’re a pretty big name in Chardonnay.  Second, they just placed 7th on Wine Spectator’s list of Top 100 wines of 2019.  Third, they make a Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay.  I love wines made using Hyde fruit.  It was also, coincidentally, their Hyde Chardonnay that was so respectably placed.  Plus, I’ve never been there.  And they’re not open to the public.  The only thing that made me pause – I prefer smaller production wineries.  I think Alan mentioned they make something like 40,000 cases.  Not small.

My Visit

Ramey has the least sexy entrance of any winery I think I’ve visited.  They’re located on the outskirts of downtown Healdsburg.  I’ve driven right by and had no idea they were there.  If they were located in Napa, I suspect it would be a very different environment.  But, environment doesn’t matter.  Yes, yes, I do recall my post about Stewart Cellars.

Ramey-Door

I was whisked away to their second floor tasting room.  It was very corporate.  Wines were already poured.  And my tasting host, Alan, explained a few others would be joining us.  Yay!  There was a lot of wine on the table.  Seven glasses per person – including a set for Alan.  I do love it when they pour all of the wines for us so we can compare and contrast.

Ramey-Wine

I was somewhat disappointed (but not at all surprised) that we weren’t tasting that 2016 Hyde Chardonnay.  It’s sold out on their website.  Though, I know where you can get some!  However, I wasn’t all that disappointed because I have a bottle of it that I look forward to enjoying in the kinda near future that I picked up at that source.

The other couple at my tasting were in the industry.  Well, the husband was.  He works part-time in a tasting room.  And then Alan made a comment that got me all excited.  He referred to his “dad”.  My tasting host was the owner’s son, Alan Ramey.  So we enjoyed some very first-hand stories and knowledge from someone who has grown up in this industry and brand.

The Wines

We had the opportunity to taste four of their Chardonnays.  Alan threw in a bonus wine for us.  Ironically the first Chardonnay was the 2016 Rochioli Chardonnay.  I’d just been to Rochioli the day before!  I believe my favorite was the second – 2016 Woolsey Road Chardonnay.  I drive by that vineyard almost daily!  The third was the 2016 Westside Farms Chardonnay which was pretty nice, too.  Finally, our bonus wine was “just” their Russian River Chardonnay which I thought I could very easily enjoy drinking.

Ramey-Wines

I probably would have bought lots of their Chardonnay if it hadn’t been for what was coming up in the reds.  We tried their only Pinot Noir – a Russian River blend from the 2016 vintage.   I liked it.  But, it didn’t really stand out.  Again, I’ve enjoyed a lot of really great Pinot Noirs.  This one was fabulous.  But, I have a lot of Pinot Noir at this point.

Then we moved onto a 2014 Cole Creek Syrah.  Let me be honest here.  I was initially really bummed that I was missing out on possibly another Chardonnay and being forced to drink this Syrah.  But oh my gosh, I was so very wrong.  I loved this Syrah.  It’s very rare that I love Syrah.  It’s a pretty limited production – only 135 cases produced.  I need some Syrah in my cellar!

Next was the 2015 Template from Napa Valley.  It was a blend of 70% Merlot (UGH), 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was not expecting to like this wine due to the amount of Merlot.  But, I was again oh so wrong!  I love being wrong when it comes to wine.

Finally, we tasted their 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  It’s made up of 80% Cab Sauv, 17% Cab Franc, and 3% Malbec.  I should have liked this one.  But I preferred the Syrah and Merlot blends more!

Other Thoughts

I’m so glad I added Ramey to my list.  I really enjoyed drinking such a wide variety of the wines they produce since I think of them when I think of Chardonnay.  While they may be  a pretty large production winery, it has a very intimate feeling.  I love that they’re not open to the public and rather focus on tasting for people who truly seek them out.  And I love that it was their son, Alan, who was doing the tasting for us.

The winery is located directly outside of our tasting lounge.  There has to be so much more to this winery somewhere.  Also an interesting note….Ramey and another winery co-own their own bottling trucks which makes scheduling the trucks a lot more convenient!  And, as you can see below, one was parked inside the winery but not running.

Winery1

Winery2

Rochioli-Gate

30 Wineries in 30 Days – Day 27 – Rochioli

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Rochioli is another winery that was not on my original list.  However, their name kept popping up that I decided they needed to be on the list.  I believe they source fruit to around six wineries.  I’ve been to or will visit five of the wineries.  Longboard is the only winery they sell fruit to that isn’t on my list.

I’ve driven by their winery countless times along the Westside Road.  I imagine I always thought they were open to the public so I didn’t consider them.  However, relatively recently they are now appointment only.  Since they meet both of my silly criteria for this series, I swapped them out with another winery that was really just “filler”.  I hope I’m not missing out on something amazing at that other winery.

The tasting was quite affordable, getting the tasting fee waived didn’t break the bank, but the selection of wines they offer you is relatively limited.  You see, for Rochioli’s Single Vineyard wines, there’s a five year waiting list!  And I hear it’s worth it.  In fact, someone lucky enough to have just gotten off of their wait list was in the tasting room picking up his very first allocation.  He was so excited.  It was adorable.

My Visit

Since I’m having fun trying to get through all of these locked gates at so many wineries, I got a kick out of the gate at Rochioli.  It wasn’t at the end of their driveway.  It was a walked gate at the start of the pathway leading up to the tasting room.  This girl couldn’t even figure out that gate.  There were two call buttons.  Sigh.  Of course it was the second button that worked.

Rochioli-Gate

Behind that gate and into their tasting room is a gorgeous view.  Maybe not quite as awesome as the view from Viader yesterday.  But, I wasn’t complaining.  While I was sitting there, we even watched Joe Rochioli putter on by in his car.

Rochioli-View

Since their Single Vineyard Wines are so desirable and limited, I tasted a flight of their Estate Wines – which are all super yummy.

Rochioli-Tasting

Also, it doesn’t happen that often.  However, there was a sparkling line in the tasting.  They’ve only produced a few vintages of their sparkling.  It’s not even mentioned on their website.  But, I was lucky enough to try one – even though I’m not the biggest fan of bubbles.  It was their 2016 Blanc de Noir.  And they were only allowing folks to buy up to 3 bottles.  I wasn’t bad for someone who doesn’t appreciate sparkling wines.  But, I didn’t pick any up.  The only sparkling wine I’ve gotten was gifted to me on this trip.

Next was their 2019 Estate Sauvignon Blanc.  2019.  Brand new.  This is the first 2019 vintage wine I’ve had the opportunity to taste.  One of my allocations included a 2019 Rose of Pinot Noir from another winey.  But, I haven’t tasted it.  I really liked this Sauvignon Blanc.  I didn’t think it was as acidic as others I’ve tried.  And, it seems everyone these days greets you with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s kinda hard to impress me there.

Next up was their 2018 Estate Chardonnay which I really enjoyed.  It really makes me excited to see what they do with their Single Vineyard Series.  The 2018 Estate Pinot Noir was also lovely.  It didn’t necessarily stand out to me as something extra special.  I’ve had plenty of those recently.  But, without me ruining my palate on incredible wines every day, this is probably a great Pinot Noir!

Closing Thoughts

I’m so glad I popped in to learn more about the winery, their history, and their vineyards.  It was a relatively brief visit just at their tasting bar.  But all of the wines were super enjoyable!  I’d definitely recommend them!

To read more about my 30 Wineries in 30 Days adventure, click here to see who else I’ve visited!

Viader-Wines

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.

Viader-Winery

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.

Viader-Tasting-Table

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.

Viader-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.

Viader-Wines

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.

The-View

Kosta-Browne-Wine

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.

Kosta-Browne-Gate

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…..like 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.

Flooding

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.

Kosta-Browne-Barrels

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.

Concrete-Egg

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!

Kosta-Browne-Barrel-Tasting

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!

Kosta-Browne-Wine

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!

 

Adobe-Road

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.

Adobe-Road

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!

Other-Wine

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.

Stewart-Fireplace

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

NOMAD-wines

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.

Stewart-Cheeseplate

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.

Other-Wine

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.

NOMAD-Library-2

NOMAD-Library-2

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

Smith-Story

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!

Smith-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.

Corks

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!