Woke up to a beautiful morning. Today I went up to Sonoma with my friend Ali and his mom Helen. Last time Ali was in town I took him to Sonoma, this will be his mom’s first time. So I wanted to be sure to show them the beauty of wine country, as well as have them tasting full bodied reds that they love so much.
First stop, Domaine Carneros for a glass of bubbly and enjoying the sunshine and views from their gorgeous chateau. We each ordered a glass and tried them all. It was the perfect way to start the day at 10am.
Up next, Gundlach Bundschu. One of their PR/hospitality folks was meeting us and giving us a tour. We found Katie and we kicked things off with a Gewurztraminer tasting at the bar. They are well known (at least in CA) for their Gewurz. We filled our glasses with some of their Pinot Noir and headed out for a mini tour of the property. Katie showed us around, highlighting the history of the property and the depth of their vineyards and also showed us through their caves. She brought an extra bottle with her, I believe it was the Merlot.
We eventually worked out way back to the tasting room where we tried the ’09 Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon. My faves of the lot were definitely the Pinot Noir and the Vintage Reserve Cabernet. Delish!
Since my friends are such Cab fans, I took them to BR Cohnnext. They make lovely Cabs and full bodied red wines. They also make super tasty olive oils and vinegars. The property is a great place to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the scenery. Often times on weekends they’ll have their grill going and/or an oyster half shell bar. We were focused 100% on wine today though. Their director of hospitality, Anthony, met us in the tasting room. The room was already bustling with wine tasters. We grabbed a spot in the back corner and began tasting.
I do like to begin with a white or two, just to rev things up. I think Anthony had us try literally everything, even some library wines. All together we tasted: ’11 Sauvignon Blanc, ’11 Pinot Gris, ’09 Pinot Noir, ’09 Zinfandel, a side-by-side tasting of the ’08 and ’09 Merlot, ’09 Estate Zin, and a bunch of their Cabs. Cabs tasted included the ’08 Napa Valley, ’08 Olive Hill Estate, and the ’08 Special Selection. Of those wines, I highly recommend the Pinot Noir, Estate Zin, Napa Valley Cab and the Olive Hill Estate Cab. Great balance in these wines with a smooth finish. I’m generally speaking not a Merlot fan. I like it blended in my wines, but not as a varietal on its own. But if you do like Merlot, BR Cohn would be a great place to taste.
No time to waste, next we go to Deerfield Ranch Winery. Deerfield Ranch is a very unique place to taste wines. They recently completed construction on their wine cave and their tasting room is at the back of the cave. Some places allow you to tour the caves, but Deerfield Ranch lets you hang out and drink in them. Plus the owners are just as nice as can be. Unfortunately Robert and PJ were out of town, touring their wine through the south and Caribbean. But that didn’t stop us from trying their wines. (If you want to read more about Robert and PJ and their incredible story, check out my articleon Deerfield Ranch posted in the Washington Times website.)
I love love love the Zins at Deerfield Ranch. I’m a Zin fan in general, and Robert really knows how to make them well. They make all sorts of other delicious wines, but the Zins here are definitely my favorites. We tasted: Red Rex (a 7 different varietal blend), ’99 DRX, ’07 Merlot Cuvee, ’07 Sangiovese, ’01 DRX, ’03 Cabernet Sauvignon, ’07 Old Vine Zinfandel. Of these wines, I’d drink a bottle of the ’99 DRX, Sangiovese and the Old Vines Zin. I’d have a glass of the Merlot Cuvee though. Pretty good for a Merlot in my book. And the Red Rex is a great everyday wine and is very drinkable now.
At this point, if we were to successfully continue wine tasting, we really needed to get some food in our systems. One of the best places in the Sonoma Valley to grab a quick lunch is at the Glen Ellen Village Market. They have a delicious deli and bakery at the back of the store. No matter what you like, warm sandwiches, cold sandwiches, salads, sides, baked goods…you can order to your hearts’ delight, then swing outside and sit at one of their many picnic tables. Fuel up on water and food, and we are ready for more wine!
Fully fueled up we head to our next destination, Loxton Cellars. I figure with my Australian friends, they might like to try an Aussie’s wine that’s moved across the pond. As you would imagine, Loxton is known for their Syrahs. I am also a fan of their Zinfandels too. We only tasted a few wines: ’08 Zinfandel, a Syrah and their Late Harvest Zinfandel Port. The winemaker, Chris Loxton, was busy entertaining guests, so we didn’t get to say hello, but we tasted quickly and were on our way. We had a few places yet to get to, and we were running out of time.
Back on the road and heading towards Paradise Ridge. Their winery is actually further north in Sonoma, but they have a Kenwood tasting room in the Valley, run by tasting room manager Annette. I love Annette. She’s the type of gal you want running your tasting room and the type of person us wine tasters like to meet. She is bubbly and down to earth at the same time.
If you are further up north, then the main winery tasting room is a must! It is spectacular. It is a perfect place to spend the afternoon drinking wine. In 2008 they opened a second tasting room and art gallery in Kenwood. And this is where me and my friends tasted. Tasting notes: ’11 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, ’08 Estate Zinfandel, ’11 barrel sample of the Rockpile Vineyard Zin, ’08 Monte Ross Cabernet and a barrel sample of the Monte Rosso Cab. I adore their Estate Zin. LOVE! I’d drink a case of that stuff. I’d also drink a bottle of their Sauv Blanc and the Monte Rosso Cab. Yum!
We are nearly at our limit for wine tasting today. One more stop though, I really like the wines at Ty Caton and Muscardini Cellars(they share a tasting room) and it is only a short walk to the tasting room.
This tasting room is a hoot riot. It feels a bit like Las Vegas when you roll in. They’ve got the tunes blaring and their small tasting room is always packed from end to end with people enjoying the day and their wines. I think they literally have everything open here. I don’t think there is anything that you can’t taste. So I’ll just focus on what I really enjoy here. Ty Caton tasting suggestions: ’10 George’s Dry Riesling (George is almost always there…say hello), ’10 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, ’09 Estate Tytanium. Muscardini tasting suggestions: ’09 Sangiovese, ’09 Tesoro, and the ’09 Zinfandel.
So the day is really behind us now and Ali and Helen have had about as much great wine as they can take (for now). They are staying the night in Napa and heading to dinner next. I need to get home.
So they dropped me off at the Vallejo ferry terminal and I grabbed the ferry back to San Francisco. Easy enough! It drops you off either at the Ferry Building downtown or at Fisherman’s Warf. As little as I enjoy being in the Warf, it is closer to my house than the Ferry Building, so I had my husband pick me up from there.
I got home, made some dinner and passed out watching a movie. Perfect day!