Friday night Dan and I went to this super cute tapas restaurant and wine bar called Willi’s in Santa Rosa. We got an inside tip from the guys at BR Cohn to give it a whirl. Whenever I go out to dinner, I feel the need to work out the next morning to burn off the extra calories consumed.
I brought my Brazilian Boom Boom work out with me. Woke up, strapped on my workout shoes and started the burn. Dan claims he wasn’t awake enough to do the Bum Bum part of the workout. But he did join me for the abs workout. We showered up, cleaned up and grabbed some breakfast at the hotel. Then off to Graton Ridge Cellars, the first stop on our Sweet 116 wine tasting event.
My new friend Michele (not the one I’ve mentioned several times so far in my posts), met us up there. We picked out our hand painted unique, souvenier glasses and bellied up to the wine bar.
Russian River is primarily known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They were definitely the featured wines everywhere we went. Graton’s 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2009 Estate Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are worth tasting. They also have a very unique, never seen it before, Apple Port that’s a must try.
Next we ventured north up 116 to Dutton Estate Winery. From the outside, it is clear that Dutton’s tasting room used to be someone’s home. Different tasting areas set up in different parts of the house. Of four wines being poured, I liked the 2009 Karmen Isabella Pinot Noir and 2004 Gail Ann’s Syrah the best. Liked them so much I bought a bottle each.
We continued north towards Russian River Vineyards. We pull in and it looks like we went back in time. Back to the gold rush era. Rustic mining like buildings with rolling vineyards for the backdrop. The tasting event was set up outside and the sun decided to come out just in time for our arrival. This was the first location pouring a sparking wine. A little too sweet for my palate. I moved on to their reds… Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah. I loved their 2008 Marin County Pinot Noir. And it was 30% off!
We’re making great time! Usually I get hung up talking to the owners/winemakers/managers, but we’re on pace to be able to hit all 6 participating wineries. Since Graton was in the middle, we had to head back down south to hit the remaining 3 vineyards.
Marin Ray Winery is next on our list. The property is manicured and gorgeous. You can easily picture yourself buying a bottle and picnicking here. Martin Ray was pouring a large number of their wines. We started outside and tasted a few. Pinot Noir, Cab Sauv and this wonderful Italian-style red table wine appropriately named “Red.” At $13 a bottle, I bought two! They also had super yummy treats from a bakery 20 miles north of the winery. Sadly we didn’t have time to make a special trip there. But it’s certainly on our list for next time!
On to Taft Street Winery, who proudly refer to themselves as “Garagistes” since 1979. Garagistes is a name the French came up with to refer to the unfathomable practice of making wine at your home, garage and basement. The people at Taft (and all of the wineries for that matter) were very nice. They also pumped us full of sugary treats that paired nicely with the wine. Their 2008 Russian River Valley “Cobblestone Vineyard” was my favorite wine they poured.
Finally we are on to Balletto Vineyards & Winery. Balletto has a wonderful outdoor patio that is fit for events such as this. Sweet and savory food pairings. And a fun young vibe in the tasting room. These guys haven’t been around long, but with a great winemaker at the helm combined with a love for the land, look for great things from them in the years to come.
Phew, all 6…and time check, its only 3:00! How on earth did we manage that??? Let’s take a look at the map and see where else we can go.
I see a familiar name on the map, Merry Edwards. Merry was one of America’s first winemakers and got her start in the 1970. She’s made wine for many of the greats. Now she’s making wine exclusively for herself and nearly 100% Pinot Noir. Very high end Pinots. I loved her 2009 Meredith Estate. I got to chatting with the tasting room manager Jill, and asked her advice on where else we should go. Keeping in mind we are nearing 4:30, and many wineries close up shop between 4-5pm.
We have a lovely list of what to hit next time we come up. Iron Horse, Dutton-Goldfield, Woodenhead, and further north, Preston and Papapietro Perry. There’s one on the list we might actually make… Joseph Swan Vineyards. We raced up the road and pulled up with about 20 minutes to close.
Rustic tasting room with young, friendly and knowledgeable guys in the tasting room. I liked a lot of what I tasted. This might be my favorite of the day. 2010 Saralee’s Vineyard Viognier, 2008 Trenton View Pinot Noir, 2009 Trenton Estate Pinot Noir and my absolute favorite, the 2008 Matthew’s Station Tannat. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a Tannat before. I’ve certainly never bought one, until now.
We stayed about 20 minutes past closing time, but the guys were having as good a time as we were.
This tiny tour of boutique wineries in Russian River was educational, fun and inspirational. I look forward to returning and finding other gems in the middle of enormous Sonoma wine country.