Touring & Tasting's Wine Lounge
A forum for wine lovers to share their thoughts and experiences...
July 17, 2015 | Mikayla Molinaro
The hot summer months are upon us, and July and August are taking no prisoners this year. It’s easy to get sucked inside where the air conditioner is cranked to arctic temperatures and an ice-cold beverage is only a short walk to the refrigerator, but we think it’s time to get out and get yourself a big lung-full of good ol’ fresh air. Summer is a time for adventure and exploration, and we challenge you to get out of your perfectly chilled office and into the great outdoors! We’ve come up with some wine country spots that we think will leave you feeling relaxed and recharged this summer…and a little buzzed of course!
El Dorado County | Sierra Foothills, CA
If you’re an adventure seeker, history buff, foodie, or wine lover, El Dorado County should be on the top of your list for your next summer vacation! In 1848, gold was discovered in the American River near Coloma, and today with a name like “Gold County,” this rich history remains in the rustic mining towns and historic sites that dot the landscape. Aside from a vibrant history, here are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, over 70 wineries to taste, and a number of culinary treasures to explore, ‘Gold Country’ is a must-see destination this summer!
Sullivan Wine | Napa Valley, CA
It all started as a wedding gift of grape vine cuttings to founder Jim Sullivan and his wife Joanna, and quickly turned into the fuel that fed his passion for producing superior quality wines. Sullivan Vineyards in Rutherford, CA is a gorgeous estate that provides guests with a casual and welcoming atmosphere and beautiful vineyard views. Visitors to the winery are welcome to enjoy their tastings in the outside courtyard while admiring a collection of contemporary artwork and classic cars on display.
Bouchaine Vineyards | Napa Valley, CA
This summer, take a guided vineyards walk or grab your bike and cruise along the rolling hills of Bouchaine Vineyards, dedicated to planting the very best of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The beauty of Bouchaine goes far beyond the stunning landscape, but also in their use of sustainable practices that are used to give back to the land they are blessed with. Make sure to stop by their tasting room to taste their award winning wines, and join their wine club to taste on a private terrace overlooking the vineyards.
Keenan Winery | Napa Valley, CA
If you are looking for an outdoorsy tasting experience in the Napa Valley, look no further than Keenan Winery in the mountains of St. Helena. The 180-acre property boasts the stunning green and dusty brown landscape of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, and will make you feel like you’ve taken a summer getaway deep into the woods while still remaining in the world-famous Napa Valley wine country. Keenan is a well-known name in the Napa region, with 62 wines in the last 12 vintages earning ratings between 90 and 97 points by wine critics. For outdoor relaxation and incredible wines, visit Keenan Winery this summer!
Oak Farm Vineyards | Lodi, CA
Residing on a beautiful and historic 70 acre estate, Oak Farm Vineyards offers their visitors an elevated tasting experience and the opportunity to truly get a feel for Lodi wine country. Their tasting room includes floor to ceiling windows with breathtaking vineyard views, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and a cozy outdoor terrace where you can taste their portfolio of handcrafted, small-lot and single vineyard varietals. You won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to visit Lodi wine country this summer!
Calcareous Vineyard | Paso Robles, CA
Outdoor adventure is a given when you visit a winery like Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles, a winery dedicated to their land and the importance of “place.” Father and daughter Lloyd Messer and Dana Brown had a dream of expressing their passion for wine and this love for the craft remains evident in their delicious estate wines produced from their 3 vineyards. Guests are invited to enjoy a flight of their award winning wines at Lloyd’s Lookout, their hilltop tasting room, for a delectable tasting and breathtaking 180-degree views of Paso wine country.
Westerly Wines | Santa Barbara County, CA
The Santa Barbara County wine region is extremely diverse, and this complexity is reflected in the impressive portfolio of Westerly Wines. The Westerly name is a well known one in the Santa Ynez Valley, and their limited-production wines never fall short of the high standard that they have set for themselves. They do not have a public tasting room, but they do offer private tastings on a limited basis for a truly exclusive one-on-one tasting experience. Summer in Santa Barbara is beautiful, and only gets better with a glass of Westerly wine in hand!
Moshin Vineyards | Sonoma County, CA
Whoever said all those hours of sitting in math class would never pay off in the real world obviously never heard the story of Moshin Vineyards. Rick Moshin, a former San Jose University math instructor, put his math skills to the test and designed a four-tier gravity flow winery for small-lot wine production, and this year Moshin Vineyards is celebrating this dream having become reality, with the 10 year anniversary of their tasting room and the family’s 25th anniversary of wine growing! If you are looking for a reason to celebrate this summer, head on over to Sonoma and raise a glass with Moshin Vineyards!
Cathedral Ridge Winery | Columbia River Gorge, OR
Those looking for a unique outdoor experience this summer should make a trip to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This region is home to Cathedral Ridge Winery, and provides a distinctive microclimate that allows for almost every variety of grape to ripen to perfection, building an extensive portfolio of wines that have received outstanding reviews over the years. The winery in Hood River offers visitors a scenic and serene tasting experience filled with stunning views and delicious wines, or if you are planning a trip to the famous Willamette Valley, be sure to stop by their other tasting room in Dundee!
Ironstone Vineyards | Sierra Foothills, CA
While visiting El Dorado County be sure to stop by the beautiful Ironstone Vineyards in the charming gold rush town of Murphys, CA. This family owned and operated winery is the perfect opportunity for visitors to learn about the history of the Sierra Foothills wine region, while tasting their delicious portfolio of wines. Their massive oak tasting bar was even once a saloon bar in New York! The rest of their property will not disappoint, with 14 acres of stunning gardens waiting to be explored, guests are welcomed to stroll along the grounds and find the perfect place for a picnic from their gourmet deli.
July 13, 2015 | Mikayla Molinaro
We've selected some of our favorite stand-out wines for you to try! Check out the Noteworthy Wines from our Summer/Fall 2015 issue of Touring & Tasting Pacific Northwest.
Made from 100 percent sustainably farmed estate grapes, this elegant wine smells like blueberries, blackberries, dusty leather, and freshly cracked black pepper. On the palate, you taste raspberries, black currant, and olive tapenade. Its elegance is further noted in the mouthfeel with proper acidity, complex tannin, and a lengthy finish. Enjoy with barbecued meats, roasted lamb and chicken, and ratatouille.
2013 Vintner’s Select Estate Pinot Noir
Made from the best barrels of the 2013 vintage, this wine consists of 100 percent estate fruit. It has a big, elegant start with toasted nuts, Bing cherry, plum, licorice, and rich cinnamon and cardamom that carry into the lush palate, where the aromas carry over leaving you eager for another sip. The ripe tannins are integrated for a long finish. Pair with lavender crusted lamb chops, Tandoori chicken, or chocolate.
2012 Janus Pinot Noir
“Root beer, bacon, blackberries, dark fruits, smoked meat, rose petal, plum, and damson cherry. Clove and Chinese five spice over a lush mouthfeel of ripe cherry, red plum, and strawberries. The Janus is rich and full bodied, fruit forward with round velvety plushness and a finish of bright acidity and ripe red fruits.” Chris Blanchard, Wine Spectator, 92 Points.
Cathedral Ridge Winery
2011 Bangsund Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve
This single-vineyard Pinot is sourced from the Bangsund Vineyard in The Dalles, Oregon, where the vines receive more sunshine and less rainfall than most Oregon Pinots. This wine exudes notes of pie cherries and wild strawberries alongside earthy notes of tea leaves, white pepper, and dried herbs, finishing with raspberry fruit leather and soft vanilla. 2014 Oregon Wine Awards, Double Gold Medal
Cliff Creek Cellars
2009 Cliff Creek Claret
With inviting amethest jewel tones, this wine blossoms with fresh baked berries, violets, and wildflowers. Its body, complex and delicate with dark fruits, clove, and white pepper, finishing long with a hint of vanilla. 2015 Florida State Fair International Wine Competition Double Gold; 2015 Cabernet Shootout Gold; 2015 Pacific Rim International Gold; 2015 Sunset Magazine International Wine Competition Silver.
Foundry Vineyards is proud to introduce its first vintage of Sangiovese. One hundred percent of the grapes for this limited-release wine were sourced from Seven Hills Vineyard on the south end of the Walla Walla Valley. This exciting wine exhibits bright fruit and balanced tannins through the mid-palate that leads to an array of soft spices and herbs with an elongated viscous finish.
Henry Estate Winery
2014 Pinot Gris
Henry Estate Winery releases its wines two years later than most to ensure the proper balance and character for which the winery is known. This medium-bodied vintage has a perfumed nose with hints of peaches and pears and flavors of tropical fruit and honeysuckle. It pairs well with turkey, chicken, shellfish, salmon, pasta, and foods with mild spice.
Hood Crest Winery
2012 Columbia Valley
Merlot Bringing Merlot back! A ruby red wine with hints of caramel, cherry and cassis on the nose bringing complexity to this bold Merlot. Originating from Raptor River Vineyard in the Columbia Valley and crafted by Winemaker Tess Barr, this varietal has a long finish with white pepper spice that completes the balance of the wine. 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Gold medal.
2011 Brut, Columbia Valley
Winemaker Craig Mitrakul is crafting some of the Northwest’s most delicious sparkling wines along the south shore of Lake Chelan in North Central Washington. This bright, dry bubbly opens with aromas of white flowers, mango, and brioche, followed by flavors of lemon yogurt, cream, and pineapple. The silky mouth feel is backed with refreshing acidity that takes us on a long, endearing finish.
A brilliant red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère. This wine has exceptional balance and nuance. Its aromatic and flavor profile displays light herbal tones that lend an air of complexity to dried cherry, cassis, and subtle oak. The tannins are soft, and, on the palate, it finishes with a blend of mineral and sour Bing cherry. 2015 Seattle Wine Awards, Double Gold medal.
Deep ruby in color, this Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend has black cherry and white pepper aromas accented by a touch of violet and vanilla. Well-balanced with chocolatly tannins and a long, luxurious finish. It is worthy of cellaring or suited now for fine dining. Great Northwest Wine’s 2014 Wine of the Year; 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, 92 points.
Aromas of ripe cherries and blackberries are laced with hints of warm baking spices. The lush fruit flavors are framed with supple, velvety tannins and balanced acidity. Well integrated oak adds a touch of complexity to the nose and roundness in the mouth. This lovely wine is both powerful and elegant, making it a perfect wine to pair with a meal. Wine Enthusiast, 90 Points.
Pepper Bridge Winery
This vintage is the first, since the inception of this Bordeaux-style blend, to feature Cabernet Franc as its predominant varietal. The elevated aromatics of red fruit and fresh crushed berries with hints of rose petal and oak are followed with underlying layers of earth and graphite. The mouthfeel is concentrated, refined, and elegant with notes of Bing cherry and ripe plum on the palate. The Tasting Panel, 94 points.
2013 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley
The nose of this Chardonnay makes one think of cool tropical breezes with gentle aromatics of passion fruit and guava. The mouth texture is “oh, so creamy,” but has a definite crispness to its edges. This is a beautifully balanced wine with just the right core of acidity. Its profile is broad and round with a finish of elegant oak. Wine Enthusiast, 91 points.
The structure of this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carménère is rich and balanced, with layers of soft polished tannins. This wine exhibits pronounced flavors of ripe cherry, blackberry pie filling, mocha, chocolate-raspberry truffle, and sweet toasty oak, which integrates nicely with the subtle background notes of pepper, leather, and cedar.
2012 GSM Reserve Riviere Galets Estate Vineyard
Tertulia’s debut Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre vintage is layered with fruit aromas of raspberry preserves, pomegranate, and red currant. As the wine opens, notes of dusty rose petals and orange blossoms give way to a hint of minerality. On the palate, this GSM is round and viscous with soft smooth tannins that lead to a warm finish. Drink now or till 2020. Sean Sullivan, Wine Enthusiast, 91 points.
The Four Graces
2012 Yamhill-Carlton Reserve Pinot Noir
An initial earthy, loamy nose gives way to blackberries, Rainier cherry, dark red fruits, and faint peppery notes. The palate of cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry starts soft and silky and is buoyed by youthful, taut tannins. Sassy acidity cleanses the palate, offering flexibility with food pairing. The patient will be rewarded with a few years of cellaring, but this wine has plenty to offer now. The Tasting Panel, 95 points.
Three Rivers Winery
2013 Steel Chardonnay
These grapes were pressed immediately upon arrival at the winery. The juice was inoculated with varietal-specific yeast and fermented at 53 degrees for two months and then sat on the yeast lees for a few weeks longer. Without oak or malolactic fermentation, this wine shows crisp, clean Chardonnay characteristics, with aromas and flavors of green apple, Asian pear, and citrus. Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy” 89 points.
2012 Estate Reserve Syrah
Dark red and purple in color with aromas of vanilla, chocolate covered cherries, and hints of black pepper. On the palate, flavors of black plum, boysenberry syrup, and tobacco. A big, soft, juicy red wine that is nearly a meal in itself. Pair with barbecued pork, bacon blue cheese burger, and over-buttered corn on the cob. 2015 Seattle Wine Awards Double Gold; 2015 Northwest Wine Summit Gold.
We've selected some of our favorite stand-out wines for you to try! Check out the Noteworthy Wines from our Summer/Fall 2015 issue.
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This is a classic Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with pure aromas of lavender, sweet red cherry, and just a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, the bright, juicy, red fruits are layered with roses, root beer, Bing cherry, and a hint of nutmeg. A go-to wine, this Pinot Noir is consistent year after year. Pinot Report 94 points; San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Best of Class, Gold.
B.R. Cohn Winery
2011 Select Block 3 Cabernet Sauvignon
Planted in 1973 by the winery’s founder Bruce Cohn, Block 3 is the oldest vineyard block at Olive Hill Estate. This elegant wine has pretty aromas of cherry, raspberries, salmonberries, and mint surrounded with a bouquet of sweet spicy French oak mocha, cedar, and coffee. On the palate it is warm, full of rich supple tannin, and luscious cherry and berry flavors. Finishes with a soft, flavorful finish.
2012 Carneros Pinot Noir
At Bouchaine, the simple, yet ambitious goal is to ensure that every wine—from vine to bottle to palate—is never ordinary. This seductive Pinot Noir has a silky, lingering finish. It opens with an intoxicating nose of dark cherry, wild strawberries, cola, fresh roses, and cigar tobacco. A sweet, vibrant cherry palate opens to layers of dark fruits, brown spice, and cinnamon with floral notes on the finish.
Janus Pinot Noir
Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard describes this wine as “root beer, bacon, blackberries, dark fruits, smoked meat, rose petal, plum and damson cherry. Clove and Chinese five spice over a lush mouthfeel of ripe cherry, red plum and strawberry. The Janus is rich and full bodied, fruit forward with round velvety plushness and a finish of bright acidity and ripe red fruits.” Wine Spectator 92 Points.
2011 Acquaintance Vineyard Cabernet Franc
In the glass, this wine is a clear medium red with dark pink edges. On the nose there are fruit aromatics of cherries, blackberries, and cassis, with hints of tobacco, pepper, and violet and subtle medium toasted oak. On the palate, this wine is round and lush, finishing smoothly with a touch of spice. 2015 American Fine Wine Competition Double Gold Medal/Best in Class/Best Red Wine in Show.
Cathedral Ridge Winery
2012 Barbera Reserve
Grown in the Eastern Columbia River Gorge, where there’s a perfect amount of sunny, warm days and cool, breezy nights, the grapes for this wine ripened perfectly. The wine expresses this with beautiful notes of blackberries and plum preserves and soft hints of violet and toasted vanilla spice. A wonderful complement to pasta with red sauce, hard cheeses, or just to sip on its own.
Deep color, firm tannins, and a fine-grained texture set this wine apart. It smells fresh and sophisticated, with bright cranberry and rich black cherry notes shaded by cinnamon and nutmeg. This should stand up to the richest rack of lamb and age well, too. It’s tempting to drink now, but should improve through at least 2018. 2015 San Francisco Wine Competition Gold; 2014 Orange County Wine Competition Gold.
Fantesca Estate & Winery
Sir Winston Churchill said, “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” From these words Fantesca’s “All Great Things” red blend was born. This wine allows worldclass Winemaker Heidi Barrett to select fruit from any Napa Valley vineyard, crafting a wine that is an expression of her style. This vintage is dedicated to Duty.
Gary Farrell Winery
2012 Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Chardonnay
From two renowned Russian River Valley vineyards, this full-bodied wine has great structure, creamy texture and an oily, citrusy persistence. The smaller, more concentrated Allen clusters lend massive golden apple, apricot, and lemongrass flavors while the fuller Rochioli clusters add balance with honeysuckle, lime, savory herbs, and bold spices. Wine Advocate 94 points; Tasting Panel Magazine 95 points.
Harney Lane Winery
This wine was crafted from grapes cooled by coastal breezes funneled through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from San Francisco Bay. The vintage expresses scintillating flavors of lime, lemon curd, and peach blossoms that are lifted by a fresh and lively acidity. Brilliant color and lighter bodied, this crisp, satisfying white wine is bright and clean, with a pleasant mineral texture in the finish.
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
2012 Napa Valley Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon
Classic Napa Valley aromas jump out of the glass with this expressive Cabernet. Notes of anise, currant, and toasted walnuts on the nose complement the lusciously fruit-forward palate and voluminous mouthfeel. The Double Lariat Cabernet is highly elegant, yet accessible for any occasion and any connoisseur. Wine Enthusiast 90 points, 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition Platinum Medal.
Klinker Brick Winery
2012 Farrah Syrah
This delicious wine expresses blackberries, currant, and plum on the nose with hints of smoky oak, spice, and pepper. On the palate, it has balanced flavors of berries, dark chocolate, coffee, and anise wrapped in a velvety texture. Integrated, supple tannins lend structure, with a long, lingering finish. Enjoy with grilled meats or mushroom risotto. Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice, 91 points.
LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards
2011 Centennial Zinfandel
Concentrated flavors of raspberries and black licorice seamlessly meld together with tones of warm spice and vanilla from 24 months in fine-grained American Oak barrels. With a velvety texture and supple tannins, this is an elegant, single vineyard Zinfandel that celebrates Lodi’s long history of this exceptional varietal. Wine Enthusiast 90 points; Tasting Panel Magazine 90 points.
2012 Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir
Family-owned Moshin Vineyards specializes in small lot, handcrafted wines that express a truthful view into the heart of the vine. This Pinot Noir is playfully aromatic and bursting with layers of flavor. Big aggressive fruit bouquet, cherry, cola, rhubarb, and lavender. Full and lush, with a smooth mouth feel and subtle vanilla finish. 2015 American Fine Wine Competition, Double Gold.
2012 Micro-Lot Reserve Malbec, Ghielmetti Vineyard
Indicative to its varietal, this Nottingham Cellars Malbec is lush with purple and dark fruit aromatics of plum and blackberries integrated well with notes of oak, cinnamon, and cloves. A savory, mouthwatering wine with flavors of dark fruit and tannins that increase toward the finish, coating your mouth and leaving you with a lovely lingering aftertaste. Enjoy now or lay this wine down for years to come.
Oak Farm Vineyards
Delicate and clean, with fragrances of lime zest, citrus blossom, and jasmine. With its pleasantly fresh acidity, dry finish, and mineral overtones, this wine is a palate cleansing experience. Perfectly suited for lighter seafood dishes, light summer pasta dishes, medium-bodied cheeses, and mildly spiced Asian foods. 2015 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition 94 Points, Platinum, Best in Class.
2011 Cork Jumper Blanc de Noirs
This sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir is deep, complex, and suitable for the most elegant occasions. In its inaugural vintage, it’s full of pretty berry flavors— strawberries and raspberries, with a hint of Sicilian blood orange. It’s clean but not angular, with gorgeous acidity and a finish of pink grapefruit and tangerine. Like the women of Champagne, this sophisticated wine is all about making a statement.
2011 Monte Rosso Zinfandel
Red bramble fruit, brown sugar, and dark cherry are accented with fresh cracked pepper and sweet black licorice notes. The cooler 2011 vintage exposed a more elegant and refined side of the ancient Zinfandel, supplanting its characteristically burly and brusque profile with a more feminine genility. With higher acids in the wine, this vintage will age well for many years.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
2012 Home Ranch Zinfandel
In 1895, Edoardo Seghesio planted the Home Ranch vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley and began the Seghesio winegrowing tradition. This wonderful wine expresses blackberries, raspberries, and other brambly fruit characteristics of Alexander Valley with graham crust undertones typical of the Home Ranch terroir and subtle hints of oak, briary acidity, and soft, ripe fruit tannins.
Golden hues swirl in the glass releasing tropical aromas of pineapple, guava, and banana that intertwine with spicy vanilla characteristics. On the palate, flavors of apple and lemon add to the undertone and complexity while a hint of honey gives the wine a viscosity that is lush and lasting. Fresh, clean, and inviting, this wine is sure to make you ask for a second glass.
Tamber Bey Vineyards
2013 Trio Vineyard Chardonnay
Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this is a bright, fresh wine. As usual with the Trio unoaked Chardonnay, the nose delivers a bright fruit cocktail of banana and pear that evolves into floral notes of arum and lily. The mouth carries the same fruit profile, with added apple flavors. The wine is very focused and sharp with a sappy, seamless texture that finishes with refreshing kiwi flavors.
Thorn Hill Vineyards
2013 Old Vine Zinfandel
History in a wine glass, Thorn Hill’s Old Vine Zinfandel was planted in 1886 and is still producing an unparalleled ancient vine Zinfandel with dark plum aromas, remarkable depth, and jammy flavors. Dark berries, plum, and chocolate culminate in a long peppery finish. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Pairs beautifully with grilled sausage, triple-cream and aged cheeses, spicy sauces and gingerbread.
2011 Suendero, Paso Robles
Suendero is a Meritage bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The 2011 vintage is a nuanced wine of depth and balance that mirrors the evenness and elegance of a modern style blend. Boysenberry and cedar on the nose with hints of licorice and mocha spice, followed by medium to fullbodied flavors of dark fruit and rich, structured tannins that linger into the finish. Enjoy now through 2022.
April 14, 2015 | Mikayla Molinaro
It’s not too late to secure your spot at the 2015 Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend! What could be better than a weekend away in the beautiful Santa Barbara wine country filled with endless amounts of local foods and delicious wine? This is your chance to enjoy a taste of vino from all 120+ Santa Barbara Vintners! Don’t miss a few of our favorites:
Italian for “Five Stars,” their name represents not only the five family members who share the passion for the winemaking process, but also for the high quality small-lot wines that they produce. Be sure to visit them on Saturday and get a taste of these delicious wines!
The Westerly name is well-known in the Santa Ynez Valley, representing one of the most diverse portfolios of wines in Santa Barbara County. Westerly doesn’t have a public tasting room, so this is the perfect opportunity to taste their exceptional wines and chat with winemaking experts about their winery!
Refugio is a rustic 415 acre estate perfectly suited for growing delicious Rhone varietals and Sauvignon Blanc. Their wines are produces in small lots from 100 percent estate grown grapes. You won’t want to miss out on tasting the best from Refugio!
Blair Fox Cellars
Blair and Sarah Fox are Santa Barbara natives who share more than 30 years of experience in the wine business, making them experts on all things wine and all things Santa Barbara! The Blair Fox Cellars label specializes in Rhone varietals that routinely score 90 points or higher by wine critics. Stop by and visit them at the festival to taste their award-winning wines!
...and many more!
Calling all wine lovers…this is a weekend you won’t want to miss!
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: sbvintnersweekend.com
March 31, 2015 | Mikayla Molinaro
Looking to getaway and enjoy some much needed wine therapy? The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend is the perfect combo of an ideal destination & endless amounts of vino! Take part in this opportunity to explore all that the Santa Barbara Wine Country has to offer, one tasting at a time!
Start the weekend off on Friday, April 24th by dining with many of the big names in Santa Barbara Wine Country at the historic Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos. Mattei’s Tavern is a historic landmark built in 1886 that original served as the Central Hotel and a favorite railway stop for travelers. Today, its historic charm remains with a new modern and local focus. Spend Friday with Mattei’s for local foods, local wines, and the true spirit and history of Santa Barbara wine country!
Be sure to save room for the Grand Tasting the following day, Saturday, April 25th at Buellton’s River View Park for your chance to taste all the wineries in one convenient location! There will be 100+ wineries paired with the best of the best regional cuisine from dozens of local restaurants, caterers and food purveyors. And if that hasn’t quite yet satisfied your thirst for Santa Barbara wine, purchase a Vintners Visa ticket to visit 12 tasting rooms of participating wineries from Thursday April 23rd through Sunday April 26th!
Calling all wine lovers…this is a weekend you won’t want to miss!
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: sbvintnersweekend.com
February 9, 2015 | Mikayla Molinaro
We've selected some of our favorite stand-out wines for you to try! Check out the Noteworthy Wines from our Spring 2015 issue.
2011 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
This vintage is from only two sources: the Steinhauer Vineyard on Howell Mountain and the St. Helena Home Vineyard. It is
a beautiful Cabernet which demonstrates Beringer’s commitment to quality. Ripe and medium-bodied with chocolate, red and black currants, graphite, and spring flowers. “This is a lovely, soft, round, juicy wine to drink over the next decade.” Robert Parker, 91 points, Wine Advocate
Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
Unmistakably “Sauvignon” aromas pulse with a swirl—citrus peel, garden herbs, and honeydew melon—along with a whisper of raw almond from the Semillón. The palate is expecting tangy, nervy, zesty and is not surprised at first sip, but the Semillón tames the raciness with an integrated mix of lemon-lime, apricot, honeycomb, and fig. A lovely yin-yang of acidity and fruit. Pair with goat cheese or chile rellenos.
Castello di Amorosa
2010 Don Thomas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Amazingly complex and refined, this Cabernet Sauvignon is tuned to a mix of red and dark berry that’s elegant and graceful without sacrificing Cabernet’s power and torque. It ends with classic Bourdeaux-like cedar and cigar box touches, gliding along the palate with fine-grained tannins. Drink now, or cellar up to 2028. 94 points, James Laube,
Harney Lane Winery
2011 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel
Beautifully balanced, this concentrated Old Vine Zinfandel offers lush aromas of raspberry jam, anise, and fig compote. Sourced from Harney Lane’s 110-year-old estate vineyard, the wine is structured with deep, sweet flavors of currants, nutmeg, and warm cinnamon. Lizzy James is an elegant wine from a cooler vintage that will age gracefully. Gold Medal, 2014 American Fine Wine Competition
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
2012 Napa Valley Double Lariat
Classic Napa Valley aromas jump out of the glass with this expressive Cabernet. Notes
of anise, currant, and toasted walnuts on the nose complement the lusciously fruit-forward palate and voluminous mouthfeel. Rich black cherry and leather reflect the terroir with integrated and deep oak tannins reflecting the influence of exceptional French Oak barrels. 90 Points, California Grapevine; 90 points, Tasting Panel Magazine
Klinker Brick Winery
2012 Old Ghost, Old Vine Zinfandel
The Old Ghost represents the best Zinfandel that Klinker Brick produces each year. Brambleberry fruit aromas intermingled with anise and exotic spice echo previous vintages. Smaller berries harvested from this vineyard block, tend to offer more “skin to flesh,” providing a greater level of tannin and structure to this wine. Pair with your prime porterhouse or grilled lamb.
LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards
2010 Centennial Zinfandel
This wine is a true reflection of the historic head-trained, spur-pruned Lewis Vineyard, now more than a century old. Concentrated blackberry notes give a sense of ripeness that is balanced by dark cocoa. Toasted oak is present, but the fruit is driving flavor. This is a refined Zinfandel crafted with restraint to express the vineyard’s high quality. 90 points, Wine Enthusiast and Tasting Panel Magazine
Ledson Winery & Vineyards
2010 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This Cabernet Sauvignon gets you straight away with its liveliness and purity. The spiciness emerges and leads into a generous palate of plums, Red currant, and black olives with the typical Ledson rustic edge. Small, intensely flavored berries from this spectacular site produce plenty of power and concentration, but it’s not too heavy. 92 points, Gold Medal & Cellar Selection: 2014 World Wine Championships
2012 Micro-Lot Reserve Petite Verdot
Lush and inviting, this wine begs
for both the hors d’oeuvre and the main course. Evolving aromatics of berries, apples, and lavender are complemented by mouthwatering tannins, and a soft grip that will leave you wanting more with every taste. This vintage will be fantastic for years to come, or on your dinner table tonight. Better yet, get two so you don’t have to decide.
Mettler Family Vineyards
2012 Petite Syrah
Pleasing aromas of red licorice, sweet berry, and mocha are balanced by traces of mineral and earth. As it unfolds, the wine offers a beautiful swirl of juicy black currant and blueberry flavors with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and spice, reminiscent of a luscious berry cobbler. The tannins are big and supple tempered by vibrant acidity and the pure, concentrated flavors linger through the finish.
2007 El Dorado Syrah
This wine has exotic aromas of blueberry, blackberry, grilled meat, graphite, smoky vanilla, and violets. Firm and well-structured on the palate, this beautiful wine will keep good company with the richest of dishes, including curry beef, rib eye steak, lamb shish-kabob, and savory cheeses.“Very dry, tannic, and peppery, this complex young wine is crying out for a good steak.” Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast, 90 points
Mitchell Katz Winery
2011 Crackerbox Vineyard Sangiovese
Dried cranberries, cinnamon, and red cherries greet the
nose. Dark caramel, bittersweet chocolate, and anise open into a very bright profile for this wine. Fresh red raspberries, walnut, and sandalwood also unfurl with time. Enjoy with aromatic clove or rosemary braises, Italian antipasti, or fennel sausage pizza. Drink now, or cellar for a few years. Best of Class over $40, 2014 California State Fair
Papapietro Perry Winery
2012 Leras Family Vineyards Pinot Noir
This beautiful ruby-colored Russian River Valley wine has bright aromas of cherry, strawberry, and cola. With great structure, refreshing acidity, and a complex blend of cherry, strawberry, cola, and earth, this perennial favorite does not disappoint. Well-integrated oak provides a subtle, sweet toastiness that lasts through the long finish.
Winemaker Charles Thomas describes this wine as “an inviting nose of fresh cherries, currants, and red plum to accentuate the complex aromatics of crushed wet rock, sandalwood, and clove.” This is a vibrant and elegant wine with all the hallmarks for which Quintessa is known. 2011 was a classic vintage and the vineyards provided beautifully ripe grapes, perfect for making this fresh, aromatic wine.
2012 Estate Syrah
With five acres of second-generation Beaucastel vines resting on the highest hill overlooking Rideau’s Santa Ynez Valley estate, Syrah is the winery’s most widely planted red grape. The wine embodies all the qualities that make the region so perfect for the varietal. Balanced alcohol, age-worthy tannin, and focused black pepper with dark cherry aspects all show wonderfully in this memorable red. Gold, 2014 Sommelier’s Challenge
Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
2012 Estate Pinot Noir
A showcase for Riverbench Vineyard. Each year, the clones and lots are carefully selected to demonstrate the best qualities of all different parts of the property. The signature of the 2012 harvest was small berry size, resulting in low yields and complex flavors. The result is a full bodied Pinot Noir boasting juicy red fruit flavors and the signature Riverbench smoke and clove. 90 points, Connoisseurs Guide to CA Wines 2014
2011 Rockpile Road Zinfandel
The power and grace of this wine is a culmination of its unique climate, soil, and pedigree. Bold, dark fruit, redolent with blueberries and boysenberry jam, shapes the core and establishes its masculine, mountain character. Black pepper, cocoa, and toasted oak spices weave through the multiple layers, joined by big, chewy tannins. Low yields in 2011 further enhanced its concentrated flavors and elegance.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
2012 Old Vine Zinfandel
Although “Old Vine” is often loosely interpreted in the wine industry, Seghesio’s benchmark is 50 years. A blend from the finest lots from vineyards planted between
1920 and 1950 on the benchlands of Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, this wine has raspberry and briary aromas with intense flavors of dark cherry, spice
box, and sandalwood. It is rich mid-palate, finishing long with a refreshing lingering acidity.
2011 SOLO Cabernet Sauvignon
Both old school and new school techniques were used to blend this vintage. As a result, the wine has a core of fresh, crushed red raspberry flavor. The nose is accented with aromas of anise and earth. As the wine opens, lovely floral and violet notes begin to appear. Pleasing acid refreshes the mid-palate in advance of a long finish marked with essences of mineral, stone, and flint.
Tamber Bey Vineyards
2012 Deux Chevaux Vineyard Rabicano
The complex nose reflects the blending of the four varietals; very elegant and fragrant. Aromas of red fruits of currant, raspberry, cherry with sweet oak, a very delicate smokiness, a touch of bay leaf, and barley water. The mouthfeel delivers medium body and elegance. Red fruit flavors, some nice spices, including white pepper, and delicate truffle notes, evolve into a long finish with cherry pit and cola.
Trione Vineyards & Winery
2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Rich aromas of honeycomb, baked apple, and toasted bread. The palate is firm yet rich—a seamless expression of restraint and elegance. The silky texture extends through a lingering finish with hints of Mandarin orange peel and sweet Asian spice. This Chardonnay will continue to develop over the next five to seven years.
2011 Tache le Verre Syrah
From Santa Barbara County’s Alisos Canyon, this impressive vintage exhibits aromas of wild blackberry, black currant, and pipe tobacco with matching bold flavors of wild blackberry cobbler, sweet black currant, lavender, and a hint of licorice and baking spices that come together with good acidity and a bit of earthiness on the palate. Drink now or over the next five to seven years. 93 points, Wine Enthusiast
Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery
2012 Chorum Red Wine
While Bordeaux and Rhône varietals are not historically combined, this harmonious blend represents the essence of the vineyard’s fruit. Chorum is a coming together of the best wine lots from the vintage. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah create a rich and complex backbone fleshed out by the spicy attributes of Cabernet Franc, Grenache, and a touch of Petit Verdot. Pair with equally flavorful foods like baby back ribs.
2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
The fruit for this wine was selected from three of the winery’s estate vineyards in Paso Robles. While most of the wine was aged in French oak, some American and Hungarian oak barrels were also used for added nuances and complexity. Aromas of dark currants with hints of fine tobacco and sandalwood are followed by the medium-bodied taste with notes of dark fruit and a complex, yet structured creamy finish.
2012 Riva Ranch Pinot Noir
The Single Vineyard Riva Ranch Pinot Noir is sourced exclusively from the Wente family’s vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. The wine boasts rich aromas and flavors of cherry, strawberry, and vanilla, with subtleties of toasted oak, earth, and cigar box. This Pinot Noir is bright with crisp, natural acidity, delicate tannins, and with a long fruity finish —a true and elegant expression of Monterey’s finest grapes.
2010 Fletcher’s Red
Here is a beautiful example why the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara is quickly becoming recognized as the perfect place to grow Bordeaux grape varieties. Rich layers of dark black and blue fruits coat the palate and fine, firm tannins linger for a long finish. Complex and approachable now, this structured blend will continue to evolve and will drink at its peak from 2015 to 2020.
October 31, 2014 | Touring & Tasting
I know what you’re thinking, Oktoberfest means beer. You suddenly feel the urge to throw on your favorite lederhosen & knock back a bucket-sized mug of sudsy Hefeweizen while shouting “Noch ein Bier, bitte!” Before you inevitably end up with those questionable Facebook photos Monday morning (Wow those suspenders looked a lot better after a few cold ones, didn’t they?) let Touring & Tasting switch up your usual Oktoberfest routine this year…with wine! Germany is also famous for delicious wines, and you can even find a special wine tent at the famous Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. We might not all get to make it out to Germany this year, but here are a few of our favorite wine country destinations to make this October worth celebrating. Prost!
Brian Carter Cellars, Woodinville, WA
Calling all foodies: Brian Carter Cellars wines are extremely food friendly and are favorites of many of the top chefs in Woodinville as well as other chefs and sommeliers across the country. Tasting through their portfolio of wines is like taking a tour around the world, with delicious notes of famous wine regions in Bordeaux and Southern Rhone, France, Tuscany, Italy and even notes from Portugal and Spain. Each varietal is made separately in a small lot to fully enhance the complexities of each different grape, and then blended beautifully into the delicious final product you can taste in their tasting room today. Learn more about their winemaking process at their tasting room located in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country’s Hollywood District!
Le Boat, Various Regions, France
Have you always wanted to visit France, but never seemed to find the right opportunity to plan the trip? Well we’ve found your perfect moment, and Le Boat is ready to do all the planning for you! Le Boat offers a variety of self-guided canal boat vacations in their three hand-selected regions: Canal du Midi, Nivernais, and Loire Valley, each offering a unique gastronomic experience, incredible wines and beautiful countryside views to make your ‘tour de France’ unforgettable. Follow one of their many exciting itineraries or set sail on your own, whatever you decide, a vacation with Le Boat will be the one of a lifetime. Book your trip before November 30th to save up to 12% and to secure your choice in boat and dates! Check out the special offer here.
Le Cadeau, Willamette Valley, OR
“Le Cadeau” means “the gift” and while you may assume after tasting their incredible wines that the name refers to the Pinot Noir, owners Tom and Deb assure their guests that the true gift is the opportunity to pursue their dream with the beautiful land they have been blessed with. They believe the vineyard itself is the single most important aspect of the winemaking process, and have dedicated themselves to upholding the highest farming standards. Guests can taste the quality of their delicious Pinot Noir and other varietals at their brand new tasting room in Dundee!
Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, Pismo Beach, CA
At Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach, every room is a suite! Every single one of their 62 one-bedroom suites have all the features of a home away from home, including a modern living room, gourmet kitchen and dining room. They also feature private laundry facilities, many include fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs, and best of all they have a terrace or patio with an unbeatable view of the Pacific Ocean. If you can find a reason to leave your luxurious suite, you may choose to wade in the infinity-edged pool, visit the fitness center, or get a rejuvenating treatment at their amazing Spa. Dolphin Bay is the ideal spot for luxury and relaxation in Pismo Beach!
Santa Lucia Highlands, CA
Just 35 miles inland from Monterey is the famous wine region of Santa Lucia Highlands. It is an agricultural heartland, offering a rural wine country experience with a unique authenticity that will have visitors feeling proud of their travel decision. Enjoy the winding drive through the beautiful valley where you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetable stands, citrus orchards, and cattle ranches, and pull over at one of the many small family run wineries to taste a glass of delicious wine poured by the winemakers themselves!
Lucas Winery, Lodi, CA
The Lucas Winery team prides itself on their commitment to the quality of their wines. Perfect clusters are handpicked from their certified organic vineyard, and individually hand-sorted to ensure the highest quality in every single grape that goes into their wine. After this meticulous routine, they enter the winemaking process which is 100 percent solar powered. The patient process of Lucas Winery wines results in true star quality and admirable respect for the environment. Visit their winery for a unique adventure including helping punch grapes, or enjoy an intimate tour of their property!
Hope Family Wines, Paso Robles, CA
When thinking of Paso Robles wines, Hope Family Wines should be on your short list. Following his family tradition & passion for winemaking, Austin Hope has been making a name for the family business, as well as for the Paso Robles wine region as Chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Hope Family Wines has a rich history that fills the pages of every chapter of Paso Robles wine industry history, but also continues to pave the wave into innovation by embracing new technologies and non-traditional marketing methods. It is their vibrant history and hunger for constant improvement that will continue to keep Hope Family Wines at the top in Paso Robles!
Fess Parker Winery, Inn, and Spa, Santa Barbara County, CA
The winery itself is located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, a winding road with stunning countryside views filled with cattle along the humble natural landscape. Tastings are available daily at the winery, where guests can taste the success of each current release, all of which have received 90 points or better in most of the major US wine publications. Just a short distance down the road in Los Olivos Is the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, the perfect balance between the sophistication of a renowned luxury hotel, and the friendly and warm atmosphere of a small rustic inn. Guests are welcome to enjoy plenty of first class amenities, including spa services, a fitness room, and Petros, their highly acclaimed restaurant. Fess Parker has the perfect winery and wine country inn combination to make your next trip to Santa Barbara County unforgettable!
Timber Cove Inn, Sonoma, CA
If you’re looking for an intimate, private getaway this month, we’re sure you’ll find just what you’ve been imagining at Timber Cove Inn on the Sonoma coast. The Inn is located on a seemingly untouched cliff overlooking the jaw-dropping California coastline, just a short and beautiful drive from over a dozen commercial wineries. They have maintained their rustic charm while adding modern amenities, making it the perfect cozy hideaway for your next wine country visit to Sonoma!
October 28, 2014 | Mikayla Molinaro
Meet "GarDoyle" by Fiddlehead Cellars
Congratulations to our reigning champion Fiddlehead Cellars for their outstanding decorating skills in our Hallowine Bottle Decorating Contest. They have shown that their dedication goes far beyond producing their delicious wines, but also in engaging with their audience in a fun and interactive way through our contests, coming out on top in both the Wine Label Contest and this month’s Hallowine Bottle Contest.
Fiddlehead is a happy family of hard workers who like to have a good time, love the challenge of making great wine, and thrive on sharing the pride of their handmade approach. With 26 vintages under her belt, Kathy Joseph (the “Head Fiddle”) and her Fiddlehead team take their winemaking very seriously, but do not take themselves too seriously! The joy of sharing their muse is their great reward.
Their Estate Vineyard “Fiddlestix”, the source of the grapes for their coveted Doyle bottling, is smack-dab in the middle of the prestigious Sta. Rita Hills AVA (and directly across the street from Sanford and Benedict). As one of the pioneer winemakers of the region, Kathy helped establish the boundaries of the Sta. Rita Hills, which officially achieved the AVA designation in 2001 and is now world renowned and recognized for its ideal, cool climate and its unique east-west oriented valleys, making it perfectly suited for Pinot Noir.
Every vintage, Kathy and her team tirelessly taste through each barrel of Pinot Noir in their cellar, looking for that one single stand-out barrel worthy of the “Doyle” name (and “GarDoyle” at Halloween time!), and crafting the blends that represent their other popular Fiddlestix bottlings – “728” and “Lollapalooza”. They continue to passionately and enthusiastically create stylistic Sauvignon Blanc and silky, textural Pinot Noir, believing the love of winemaking must be reflected in every sip!
Scariest Costume- Donati Family Vineyard
Donati Family Vineyard’s entry is a Zombie-fied version of their wine, The Immigrant. Great Grandfather Albino Donati has risen from the grave during the full moon in search of…wine! This Blood-Red Bordeaux Blend is sure to please all ghouls, werewolves and vampires.
Most Creative Costume- Talbott Vineyards
Talbott Vineyards is known for their renowned Sleepy Hollow Vineyard located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Using the Talbott crest, they created a knight costume for one of their Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay bottles!
October 6, 2014 | Touring & Tasting
In celebration of Califorania Wine Month, this unique contest gave wineries from all over the state the opportunity to show off their most loved wine labels. Over 25 wineries around the state were showcased. While some labels featured a fun or historical image, others paid homage to their winery’s founder. But they all had one thing in common—they all wanted to be named the Favorite California Wine Label of 2014.
The wait is over, the votes are tallied, and we have our winner!
Grand Prize WInner: Fiddlehead Cellars
Coming in first place is Fiddlehead Cellars with their Pinot Noir label. This label celebrates their 10th Vintage of the Estate Vineyard, Fiddlestix, and shows the evolution of vineyard, from flowers to vine plantings, to fully flourished Pinot Noir.
Runner-Ups: Rubin Family of Wines and Donati Family Wines
In a close second place is Rubin Family of Wines’ Un-Oaked Chardonnay label. In hopes of converting his wife, Pam, to a Chardonnay drinker, Ron Rubin created a wine he knew she would love. Now, Pam knows exactly which wine to grab when she’s craving something fresh and fruity because X marks the spot on this label!
Rounding out third place is Donati Family Wines with their Bordelaise blend label. This label pays homage to Albino Donati, who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1907 to create a better life for his family.
Congratulations to all of the winners, and thank you to those who participated in the 2014 Favorite California Wine Label contest. Remember to participate in October’s Wine Bottle Costume contest, and be sure to stay tuned for more exciting monthly contests!
September 8, 2014 | Tama Takahashi
If you love wine country travel as we do, making a checklist for an extraordinary experience is easy: a diverse selection of interesting wines that reflect terroir, plus nicely paired gourmet food—preferably both at reasonable prices, pleasing accommodations, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of other activities. One could optimistically add: no tasting room fees, access to winemakers and proprietors, and genuinely friendly people. On our recent trip, we found all these benefits in El Dorado County.
Between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado is in the rolling terrain of the Sierra Foothills. Golden, grassy hills lead to oak groves then pines at the higher elevations, punctuated with vineyards and fruit orchards. Shady country roads pass pastoral landscapes and fascinating landmarks from the Gold Rush of the 1800s. Winemaker Justin Boeger of Boeger Winery describes the topography, “The Sierra Foothills are made up of ridges and valleys, slopes of all degrees and exposure, and elevations from 1,200 to 3,500 feet, which provide infinite locations for almost any variety to grow. The terrain here means that over a 100-acre parcel of land, you might find 20 different microclimates or more.” The result is a tremendous range of wine varietals to sample.
For a panoramic understanding of the region, start your visit at Mount Aukum Winery at an elevation of 2,615 with an expansive view of El Dorado County. Many of their small-lot Rhône and Italian varietal wines are only available through their wine club or at their tasting room, so a visit is essential. Proprietors and winemaker Michel and Terry Prod'hon took us back to their barrel room to sample two vintages of their excellent Sangiovese. The Prod'hons will be sailing with Touring & Tasting on a luxury river cruise through Burgundy and Provence in November. They also will be hosting a seafood feast paired with their wines on September 14, 2014, at their winery. Just $45-$55 for lobster, scallop, shrimp and more. Visit their website for information.
Visit Skinner Vineyards on the way down Fairplay Road towards Placerville to try their elegant Rhône-inspired wines which are produced sustainably and with minimal intervention. Turn left when you get to Pleasant Valley Road for Narrow Gate Vineyards’ carefully-crafted, biodynamic wines. During fermentation all punchdowns are done by hand, 2-3 times a day.
I was eagerly looking forward to our Miraflores Winery visit as I was familiar with their wines from the Touring & Tasting wine club and have often chosen their wines for dinner parties. It was a pleasure to sit on their sunny piazza with Events Manager Matricia Haigood, Touring & Tasting VP Paul Arganbright, and a bottle of the 100% Barbera Miraflores Rosé. Matricia described their monthly wine pairing dinners with eminent Northern California chefs, like Chef Christopher Caul of Christopher’s on Lincoln in Carmel. The 4-course plated pairings are complemented by Miraflores wines and are just $32.50-$40. I’m packing my bags and returning to Miraflores for one of these dinners as soon as possible.
Their wines will be “starring” in the film Last Weekend. Matricia explained this was not a product placement. The wines were provided in the cast’s “green room” and the actors liked them so much that they brought them on set to be filmed. Miraflores wines have received numerous 90+ point scores and accolades including a compliment from Wine Spectator’s Tim Fish: “Foothills wineries often have trouble getting the attention they deserve in the California wine industry, and none are more deserving of a higher profile than Miraflores.”
The Historic Cary House Hotel is in the perfect location for exploring the area. On the main street of Placerville, it has housed legendary guests like Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant and Bette Davis. We enjoyed two peaceful nights’ sleep on the extra-comfortable beds. The Cary House provides modern conveniences like free internet access and flat-screen TVs while preserving the past with beautiful antiques, silent movie nights, and talks on the hotel’s 157-year history. You can walk to several great restaurants like Bricks and Heyday Café as well as antique stores and the Nello Olivo tasting room.
We had such a fun time in the Nello Olivo tasting room chatting with Nello and his son Ivan that we ended up being there for two hours. They make wonderful wine and have a million stories to tell. The family had a restaurant for years and Nello made wine to go with their food. His winemaking hobby became his full time pursuit when he and his wife Danica bought a storied piece of property that once was home to a pre-Prohibition vineyard. Their first grape harvest was in 2005. The wines won many gold and double-gold medals, so Nello knew he was on to something great. In 2010, his Sangiovese was judged the best in California. Nello and Ivan poured us their Sagrantino, a varietal from Montefalco in Umbria, Italy. They may be the only producer in the USA making this cellar-worthy wine.
A scenic driving loop from Placerville takes you wine tasting on Apple Hill, named for the 60 apple growers. In autumn, a million visitors come for hayrides, pumpkin pickings, heirloom apples and fruit products of every description. On this loop, Boeger Winery was one of the state’s first producers of varietal Merlot and produces innovative blends from over 29 types of wine grapes including many Italian varietals like Moscato, Refosco and Aglianico. Further down the road, we visited briefly with Lava Cap Vineyard Manager Charlie Jones who sees the 2014 harvest shaping up to be a great one, with moderate temperatures allowing the grapes more hang time on the vine to develop further flavors.
The energetic Madroña Vineyards winemaker Paul Bush just finished a press of Gewürztraminer and was on his way out to an event. But, in keeping with the exceptional friendliness and generosity of the El Dorado wine community, he took the time to not only pour some of his wines, but take us into the winery to barrel sample Chardonnay and to give us a complete explanation of why pH is as important as brix in determining when to harvest grapes. Passionate and knowledgeable, Paul strives to create pure wines with superlative tipicity. He doesn’t enter his wines into competitions because the expression of a varietal should be influenced by terroir. Paul opined, “How can you compare Chardonnay from El Dorado with that of Amador County? Each should be different.”
Chances are rather slim, in the most famous wine regions, that one would have the winemaker or proprietor pouring wines in the tasting rooms. It seems fairly common in El Dorado County. Winemaker Paul Wofford has an impressive resume that includes making wine for Martin Ray and Bargetto Winery and consulting for numerous others. He poured us samples of his small-lot wine as well as a lovely hard apple cider. Crystal Basin Cellars is just off highway 50 on the loop back to Placerville. Proprietor Mike Owen poured us his fruit-forward Zinfandel, Bordeaux and Rhone blends. The winery boasts massive hand-hewn beams, an outdoor space for live music, an organic herb and vegetable garden and the adjoining Crystal Basin Bistro.
For the second half of our visit, we moved to Eden—Eden Vale Inn, that is, though you could drop the last two words and still be correct. On the way, one can find David Girard Vineyards where grapes for traditional Rhône style wines are grown on 80 acres of cultural significance. The land was part of a claim established in 1849, that later encompassed the first hotel and stagecoach stop and the site of the first Japanese colony in the US where tea and silk was produced. Many of the original structures are intact and the Japanese colony is on the National Register of Historic Places. David Girard named their their Côte-Rôtie-style premium Syrah for the first Japanese to be buried on American soil and the winery donates a portion of the proceeds of this wine to the conservancy group.
“It’s the attention to detail”, said Eden Vale Inn owners Mark and Gayle of their high occupancy rate and faithful repeat visitors. Make me one of those repeat visitors. This well-appointed B&B, set amidst a veritable Eden of verdant grounds canopied over with leafy trees and flowering vines, is a balm for the soul. With comfortable seating hidden among dappled pathways, a postcard-ready pond with a rowboat, a convivial fire pit for making s’mores under the stars, and much more, the Inn has everything one would need for a relaxing vacation. It was nearly impossible to imagine that the original structure was a plain barnyard in a grassy field when the owners first laid eyes on it. Between Gayle’s green thumb and Mark’s carpentry skills, they have created a luxury destination with every detail imagined, from the romantic inset lighting to the bubble bath and rubber ducky for the deep soaking tubs.
We had plans to drive to South Lake Tahoe, around 2 hours roundtrip, but being at Eden Vale, we asked ourselves why we would go anywhere else when it was so beautiful there. I spent a blissful afternoon resting in a hammock with a good book. Heaven. Then, after the impossibly long hours of hoteliers—who are up at dawn and checking in guests late into the evening—the innkeepers invited us to dinner. Gayle made a delightful meal with fresh produce and fruit from her extensive orchard and vegetable garden, which we topped of with a thick slice of olallieberry pie.
The outstanding wines, delectable food, affordability and scenic beauty were enough to draw us back to El Dorado County, but the warmth and hospitality of the people is what makes this region a top destination for wine and food aficionados. El Dorado may not be a household word—yet—but once people start learning of the treasures to be found there, the
gold rush rush to explore it will be on!
Avail yourself of our Touring & Tasting concierge service, providing personalized assistance, free! Our knowledgeable staff can save you hundreds of dollars and provide VIP perks while planning your perfect itinerary to El Dorado wine country.
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