Two favorite wineries…..

Bella Vineyards and Unti Vineyards

 

Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves is at the very north end of West Dry Creek Road.  They’re a small producer – around 8,000 cases.  Bella’s tasting room is located deep in the caves under one of their vineyards. I think it is one of the friendliest tasting rooms we’ve experienced in Sonoma County.

This visit Alex Pena poured for us. He has a wealth of knowledge about the wine region and an obvious love of the product!  We had a great tasting thanks to his attention.

Bella has beautiful grounds that beg you to relax in and enjoy the fantastic view.  For us it was a perfect place to picnic with a bottle of the 2015 Bella Collier Falls Vineyard Zinfandel and enjoy a little time with our dog and the winery dog.

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Unti is a little closer to Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road. Their wines are unique in the area. They specialize in creating Mediterranean varietal wines and they do it exceptionally well. If I had a not-to-be-missed list of wineries Unti would definitely be on it.

The tasting room is by appointment but don’t be put off by that. It’s always good to set up an appointment in advance but we called as we were leaving Bella and they welcomed us 15 minutes later.

 

We not only tasted the wines on the menu but we were also offered a taste of the sold out 2016 Grenache Blanc. Thank you Audriana Gregaru for a wonderful tasting experience!

I should mention, Unti is also dog friendly and offers a picnic area with vineyard and mountain views. They do not have a wine club but instead offer a newsletter to let you know of new releases and events.

You can read a bit more about earlier visits to Bella and to Unti  in our post “Healdsburg Adventures”.

Salud!  Debbe

Over to Napa……..

Even in the rain its hard to have a bad day tasting wines!  We headed to Napa to lunch with friends at Brasswood.  Leaving early gave us the chance to add some tastings to the visit.

Just a rec…….If you are driving from Santa Rosa over the mountains to Napa there are a number of routes.  Our GPS rerouted us off our planned Calistoga Road route onto Spring Mountain.  If you like narrow, twisting roads then you’ll enjoy this route.  It drops you right into downtown St. Helena but, if you prefer a more modern, less windy road, stay on Callistoga and enjoy the drive south into the valley from the town of Callistoga.

Our first stop was at Clif Family Winery in St. Helena.  They just reopened their tasting room after an extensive remodel.  The space feels fresh and cozy. They’ve created a terrific balance of wine tasting bar, coffee /espresso, lunch, artisan foods and of course, Clif Bars.  And, their Bruschetteria Food Truck is parked right outside!

We chose to share the Jersey tasting and the Mountain tasting along with trying their most popular wine, the Rosé of Grenache. Tom Inners engaged us in great conversation over the wines while pouring.

 

Along with the wine nuts, cheese and relish were served made by the Clif Family (not the cheese). The almonds with smoked pimento and the relish with the cheese were my favorites.

We left with an armful of their wines and a pledge to each other to return.  The 2017 Rosé, the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2014 Kit’s Killer Howell Mountain Cab came homecwith us.  Oh yeah, and bags of their toasted almonds.  I’m definitely going back for the relish and to try their lunch fare.

 

 

Lunching at Brasswood Bar and Kitchen is exceptional! Everything our party ordered was outstanding.  Not to be missed as an appetizer is their mozzarella……..

 

We followed our relaxing midday break with a visit to Frog’s Leap.  Frog’s Leap is one of the very first wineries we visited in the early 80’s.  It’s not a surprise that it is no longer the small place off Highway 128 in St. Helena with wood benches to sit and taste alongside the vines.

It’s been off Conn Creek Road for quite awhile but it’s owned and loved by the same laid- back guy we remember who started Frog’s Leap with Larry Turley and poured for us 30 + years ago – John Williams.

John was kind enough to join us and reminisce.  He’s built a special place with respect to the environment and sustainability in Rutherford.

 

Our host, Laura surprised us with glasses of an amazing library wine, the 2004 Merlot to  try alongside the 2015 making the tasting extra nice. And yes, on the way out we found ourselves stocking up on the 2015 Rutherford Merlot and the 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winery has an excellent website.  The very best page is a totally good read – The Story of Frog’s Leap.

Great days have to end but we’re planning another! Salud!

Debbe

Making a better day………..

This morning our day was clouded by bad news.   Sooo…. we set out to pick up some wine and everything just got better.

We headed to Carlisle Winery to pick up their current releases.

Winemaker, Jay Maddox (right) and Paul Wendy were pouring some terrific wines and Franchettis’ was serving wood fired pizzas to compliment the wine.  It was truly a simple and relaxed event.

Jay explained co-fermenting to me when I incorrectly described The Integral they were pouring as a blend. John knows this stuff but I’m still in kindergarten when it comes to wine production.  I really appreciated being corrected and having a conversation with the winemaker!

 

From Carlisle we headed off to Westside road.

We’d been to Bacigalupia for a special event a few years back and decided to swing by and try their wines today.  This is the grape growing family that provided their grapes to Château Montelena to make the 1973 Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris tasting!

 

Janice poured for us and kindly let us bring our dog in, leashed of course.  Its a great friendly tasting room.  We didn’t leave empty handed.  The 2017 Rosé Pinot Noir ( very easy to drink!) and a bottle of the 2015 Fondare followed us home!

Salud!

Debbe

 

In Kenwood………

Kenwood is very quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Sonoma County.  I am purposely trying to time my days so I can end up near Kenwood to catch lunch at Cafe Citti .  The town along Route 12 has some of the county’s best restaurants, tasting rooms and wineries.

When friends took us to Cafe Citti for the first time we parked in front of the En Garde tasting room.  Curiosity about the winery and the wines brought us to make a future appointment to taste.

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It was definitely a good choice.  En Garde focuses on Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  The coveted grapes from the vineyards on Diamond Mountain in Napa for the Cabs and the Russian River for their Pinot Noirs make many of the wines created by owner and winemaker Csaba Szakál true standouts.

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Our host for the tasting was Paul Morand. I still have a grin on my face from meeting him!  Humor and ancedotes aside, He is an excellent host!

I found these wines to be the most appealing:

  • 2013 Malbec Alexander Valley
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain
  • 2014 Gold Ridge Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Le Bijou Du Roi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

They are not everyday wines.  They are quite amazing and most definitely worthy of serving with a special meal, special friend, or for a special occasion.

I am looking forward to going back for another taste and with hopes of having the chance to try their Magdalena berry port.

Thank you Paul and En Garde for a great tasting experience!

Debbe

 

Sonoma Underground……..

This past weekend we attended the first ever “Sonoma Underground” event held at Longboard Winery in downtown Healdsburg.  Elizabeth Schneider and Laura Perret Fontana created Underground to” help family-owned, unique producers thrive.”

The event showcased 15 small, independent wineries. Owners, winemakers and their families were there to pour.

Some of the standouts as determined by our group of seven were….

Kieran Robinson Wines was pouring Sparkling Brigade which was delicious.  Sadly they don’t sell it. You have to visit their winery to try it.

Longboard had an eye-catching Woody parked out front that was pretty irresitsible.

The vehicle warning was pretty catching too!

I’ll look forward to more events from Underground as this one was extremely well done.

Salud!

Debbe

Events in the Wine Country……..

We’re on our way to Truett-Hurst’s New Release Party. There is an endless schedule of wine events this time of year.  Picking and choosing is tough!

Truett-Hurst is in the Dry Creek Valley and has a great property along the creek for picnics and gatherings.

This release party featured Got Ball’s meatball sliders and some amazing chocolate brownies!

The brownie was the perfect accompaniment to a glass of Truett-Hurst’s 2015 Burning Man Petite Sirah.

Good wines, good food and wonderful music on a sunny day in the vineyards – It doesn’t get much better than this!

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The next weekend we headed off to Copain Winery. The drive alone through the county to wineries is beautiful this time of year with the Santa Rosa Plum trees in bloom.

Copain Winery has a majestic location.

Their newly released rosé was being showcased for the party……

and there was no shortage of Copain’s other wines to taste!

Sharing wine and wood fired pizzas with great friends at a spectacular winery makes my day!

This was a winery member /guest event.  Every weekend there are one or more of these scheduled throughout Sonoma.  There are also larger ticket events scheduled.  One coming up in April is Passport to Dry Creek Valley.  This will be our first year attending Passport.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out here, I’m told by many this is the event to come for.

Salud!

Debbe

 

 

Westward Ho!

The next adventure in our lives begins……..

Knowing our latest renovation project is in the hands of great owners……… We’re off on a 3,000+ mile cross country trip with a destination of Healdsburg, California.

We packed in the dog and the wine and headed out.

In the Panhandle of Florida – This is pretty darn amazing!  It goes on and on! The Old Spanish Trail in Milton – built between 1919-1921.

The drive through Louisiana and east Texas was rice fields and refineries.   It reminded me of how important a crop rice is to the south.

Our third day we cruised into Austin, TX for a relaxing lunch on S. Congress Street.

South Congress on Martin Luther King Day. Lunch at Güero’s was fantastic.

We drove on to San Antonio for the night and spent some time on the River walk and The Alamo!

When in Texas – try the Texan wine!  We ate at a terrific place – Zinc Bistro and Bar. The wine was a disappointment but the food was fantastic.

 

There was a winter ice and snow storm moving in.  Schools and business were closing the next day in preparation for bad road conditions.  We opted to make a run for it at 5:30 am.  It was our first encounter with freezing rain and 28 degree weather in decades!

Our car was an icicle! BUT an hour and a half outside of San Antonio we were on clear roads.  We were crossing the state of Texas, not exactly on our planned route but we were safely out of the winter’s worst storm to hit the south in 2018.

The first of too many trains to count from this point on.

Not many towns on the route but when we did come across one it inevitably had some terrifically crazy additions among its buildings!

And…..signs like this one – “Hitchhikers May be Escaped Inmates” –  This one definitely made you want to pick up speed!

 

This requires no comment.  Heading into Marfa……….

Marfa, TX

 

On the way to White Sands National Monument out of El  Paso, which had to be our best detour of the trip……….

The Military area is full of some weird sightings!

White Sands National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert, NM

Honestly,  it was cold enough to believe this was snow!

The park service sells sleds to hit the dunes on!

Look closely!  There is yet another weird site in this field!

Another town that may have been worth spending some time was dotted with donkey statues colorfully emblazoned with paint- Carrizozo, NM.

On our way to Santa Fe…………..

It was frigid cold!

We had a reservation at Luxx Boutique Hotel. It’s a challenge to find great accommodations when traveling with a canine.  This one was very nice and just 2 blocks off the Plaza.

We dined that night at Geronimo’s sharing a terrific 2015 Gigondas with a Wild Mushroom Bisque that rivaled my favorite at Indigenous, along with Wagyu Beef Carpaccio and Elk Tenderloin.

Before heading out in the morning we had coffee and a quick breakfast at The Famous Plaza Cafe.  It’s been there forever. The all time favorite in Santa Fe is Café Pasqual’s which we will have to catch on a return trip.  I can’t wait!

The ever changing landscape is so awesome.  How can mountains take on so very many different shapes and colorations?

Poisonous snakes and insects? We didn’t go too far walking the dog!

Crossing the Mojave Desert……..

Rocky was ready to give up the car!

A welcome sign!

And truly a nice surprise welcome from good friends after 8 days on the road!

Salud!

Debbe