Our start in Healdsburg……..

There is no shortage of wine here!  For those of us who totally enjoy the hunt for, and discovery of, wonderful wines, Sonoma County is one of the greatest places to land!

Sometimes it seems like candy land ………………

The experience visiting a winery is special, relaxing and almost always unique.    Visiting the Bottle Barn is more like a run to Total Wine only on steroids!  You’ll be tempted to stay for hours looking over the massive inventory.

We were here maybe a week and we headed off to Preston for their famous jug wine only to remember when we arrived that Sunday is “jug day”.  But, for our first outing, its a great winery to revisit.  I purchased a bottle more for the creative labeling than anything (something John typically frowns upon).  It’s kind of a habit of mine! I expect it will be pleasing when opened at home.

The winery and its organic farm are linked. You can buy eggs, produce, and some excellent polenta milled at the farm. The winery and farm offer a more than great picnic space.

The day we were here field workers were beginning the laborious task of hand trimming the vineyards.  And….their infamous cats were easy to find over the sprawling grounds.

For our second outing we chose a dog friendly vineyard – Dutcher Crossing in Dry Creek Valley.  Remember, this is winter, the very best time to visit.   You receive the most attention and often the opportunity to interact more with staff, winemakers and owners.

Collyn Scott poured for us and provided a wealth of information about the wines, the winery and the area.  Their wines, and they make many, are wonderful. We picnicked there with a bottle of Dutcher Crossing’s 2015 Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel.

We also had the chance to taste, with staff, Collyn and Lily, a Sauvignon Blanc the winemaker was putting the final touches on. I picked up notes of grapefruit – others not so.  We’ll see when its released!

Before leaving the winery we had the pleasure of meeting owner, Debra Mathy, Dutchess her canine sidekick, and winemaker, Nick Briggs.It was a great afternoon!  We’re looking forward to returning and to attending some of their upcoming member events.




A Time to Help………..

Photo credit -SFGATE


The residents of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties want you to know they are open for business.  The fires were devastating. The lives of 42, over 6,000 homes and nearly 50 commercial buildings were lost. All businesses have taken a huge financial hit.  So, how can you help?………Their message for you is simple.

“Come,” … “Sonoma needs you.”  says winemaker Sara Roach

  • Visit Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties
  • Buy the region’s wine
  • Drink wine!

And, if you can do more ………….

The fund will serve to assist ag workers who lost their homes in the fires by helping to fund the re-establishment of new households.

100% of your donations to the Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief fund will go directly to support those affected by the fires.


Reeve’s fundraiser:

Buy a ticket for this drawing!  The prizes are incredible!!!!

+ By donating money you have a chance to win a Healdsburg vacation package valued at over $15,000 that includes unique experiences you can’t buy.

+ RUNNER UP PACKAGE: Three night stay at the Montage Laguna Beach, in a suite, with dinner and wine pairings at their restaurant Studio, and massages for two.  $4500 value.

+ 100%—every penny—of all the money raised will go to help fire victims, with a focus on giving to the most vulnerable and those who were uninsured.

+ A series of donors who will match DOLLAR for DOLLAR all the money Reeve raises here.  That means this DOUBLES the impact of your gift.

D O N A T I O N S:  All funds raised will be divided to three different organizations—the Redwood Credit Union FundRedwood Empire Food Bank, and to a local to Healdsburg organization called Corazon.

C O S T:  Tickets are 1 for $25, 5 for $100, 15 for $200, 50 for $500.

W H E N:  Drawing will be held on Facebook Live at 11AM PST, November 1.


100% off all funds raised will be donated. $185,819 raised so far!

Today, 98% of the wineries are open for you to visit and taste.  I encourage you to make it out there.  I’m ready to go!!!




Returning to the Anderson Valley……..



The weather is not perfect in January for exploring the Anderson Valley..  Could be nice. Could be rainy.  Could be snowing.   We got the rain and a hit of snow this visit however, in any weather, this valley is gorgeous.


We drove from the Sierra Foothills to the Anderson Valley.  There is a route between the two around Clear Lake.  We opted for the quicker route through Sacramento west to 101 and up.


Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley



We stayed at the south end of the valley at the Boonville Hotel.  Accommodations are in the hotel and in cottages on the grounds. The grounds are extensive and appeared to have lovely outdoor facilities for use in good weather.


Our cottage at the Boonville Hotel



We dined our first night at the hotel sharing a wonderful 2014 Navarrouge from Navarro Vineyards. It’s Navarro’s house red.  They coin it “gluggable” as it is intended to be enjoyable upon release.


Apple orchards still dot the landscape in the valley


This was our third visit to the valley so we were looking to try some of the newer wineries to the area.  Witching Stick was a truly pleasant find.


Winemaker, owner, Van Williamson was on hand to pour. He had a full line up of his wines to taste.  Our two favorites and the favorites it seemed of everyone tasting with us were  the 2015 Zinfandel Rosato and the 2013 Fashauer Vineyard Zinfandel.



Van Williamson


Domaine Anderson was another stop. Owned by the Roederer family, the property was purchased and vines planted in 2009.  They produce still wines – Pinot and Chardonnay.




Sheep tending the vineyard at Domaine Anderson


Stone and Embers is a new dining spot in mid valley open for lunch.  Very popular with exceptional pizzas and a terrific starter on the menu of a bowl of olives served hot in oil and spices.


Toulouse was another stop on our visit.


While there are images of geese everywhere, the lively bird in the tasting room is of a different variety……….


Their Pinot was a good find.



We stopped in to Lichen, formerly Breggo Cellars.   We did visit on a previous trip but the change to Lichen who, is now making the wine, brought us back. You can read Lichen’s story. It’s interesting!


We had a terrific visit, with a great host.  I rather liked the sparkling wine they are producing from pinot gris grapes called Blanc De Gris.



Hard to  miss the Navarro General Store at the north end of the valley


It’s a great wine region to discover, or rediscover, and its close to the coast for combining with a trip to Sea Ranch or Mendocino.  If you go, it is definitely a bit tough to find dining choices in the valley off season. There are not many to begin with, and a number of them take a break in the winter.



Van Williamson 
Witching Stick Wines
Enjoyed your wine and travel blog. Please stop in again on one of 
your visits to the Anderson Valley. It was funny how everyone liked 
the same wines that day. The Zinfandel is always near the top in the 
monthly sales but usually is followed by one of our Pinot noirs and 
Thanks again,


Checking out Trader Joe’s Wine Shelves….

Our daughter asked for some suggestions on wines to purchase at Trader Joe’s so on a recent trip to stock up on some of their food goodies we took a look at their wine selection.

I was surprised to see a number of the wines on the shelves priced higher than what we normally pay.  I was not surprised to see many unfamiliar bottles at rock bottom prices.

I have listed the wines we find enjoyable that were priced fairly.  I have no idea if Trader Joe’s stocks the same wines throughout their chain.

I hope this list is of some help to our daughter and our friends who often pick up a bottle or two at Trader Joe’s.





The Inside Story Behind a Wine List’s Creation……..

This article appeared in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal and I found it to be an excellent read.

Nov. 19, 2015 12:35 p.m. ET
Putting together a restaurant wine list requires more than a few famous names and popular grapes, as Lettie Teague discovered when she followed the opening of New York restaurant Quality Eats.

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HOW HARD CAN it be to put a wine list together? A few famous names, some popular grapes priced at a profit, and the job is done. But a really good wine list—one that excites and challenges diners (but not overmuch) and offers great bang for the buck—is much harder to pull off. It takes time and effort. In the case of Quality Eats, a new restaurant in New York, it took almost three months.

That’s how much time I spent, off and on, in the company of restaurant owner Michael Stillman and wine director Marc Passer, both 35, as they created Quality Eats’ wine list, menu and the restaurant itself.

The Greenwich Village eatery, conceived as an “affordable steakhouse,” is the most recent addition to the seven-restaurant portfolio of Fourth Wall Restaurants, where Mr. Stillman is president and Mr. Passer has been corporate wine director since 2011. The two men have put together many notable wine lists over the years at the group’s other Manhattan restaurants, which include Smith & Wollensky New York, Maloney & Porcelli, Quality Italian and Quality Meats.

Quality Eats’ wine list would be a departure of sorts for the team, Mr. Stillman said when I met the men for the first time in September. Unlike their other wine lists, which are quite large (Smith & Wollensky’s list has almost 1,000 bottles) and full of fancy, four-figure selections that appeal to expense-account diners, the Quality Eats list would be small and modestly priced. The selection, Mr. Stillman said, would have “a real neighborhood feel,” mixing well-known wines that comforted diners with ones that challenged them, a formula designed to entice patrons to return again and again. For example, to nudge diners out of their comfort zone, Mr. Passer might offer a Cabernet but not one from a famous region like Napa, sourcing it instead from a less popular—and cheaper—place.

To encourage experimentation, Messrs. Stillman and Passer planned to offer all of the wines on the list by the glass and bottle. For fun, they’re introducing a new concept—“stackable wine”—three separate, small carafes that can be stacked to create a standard 750 mL bottle. This would allow diners to order one-third white, one-third red and one-third rosé. They decided they would include nine to 12 stackable selections of popular varieties, with a stacked trio costing $40.

But this raised questions about the wine list. Should the stackable offerings be on the regular list or on a separate card? Should all the wines fit on one page? What typeface should Quality Eats use? “We want a wine list that everyone will get,” said Mr. Stillman, meaning one with a familiar look and feel. “Maybe the list would be in a report binder,” offered Mr. Passer. But Mr. Stillman was more focused on the expense of reprinting the pages of the list after repeated use, which he said could “easily cost $10,000.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 6.32.20 PMWhat about pricing? The markup on some wine lists in New York can be high, up to five times the wholesale cost of a bottle, and Fourth Wall’s uptown lists aren’t exactly cheap. The partners insisted that they wanted to keep Quality Eats’ markup in check. Mr. Passer thought it would likely be two to 2.5 times the wholesale cost. And he especially wanted the wines at the lower end of the scale to be impressive. “I want to wow someone with the entry-level offering,” said Mr. Passer. “When someone says, ‘I want the cheapest wine,’ I want to make sure it’s legitimately delicious.”

A few weeks after our initial meeting, it was time for the first of several wine tastings. Mr. Passer had emailed a number of wholesale-wine sales representatives, asking each to suggest bottles that were unusual or challenging “diamond-in-the-rough wines” and not from usual-suspect wineries such as Cakebread and Duckhorn. Nine of those who responded were scheduled to meet us in a private room at Fourth Wall’s Park Avenue Autumn restaurant in the late afternoon. They brought red, white, rosé and sparkling wines made from both obscure and famous grapes grown in regions all over the world.

“We’re looking for wines that are approachable and delicious,” said Mr. Passer as we entered the room where sales reps were waiting like so many prospective blind dates. The tasting, which lasted less than two hours and included close to 100 wines, was an opportunity for each salesperson to give a short spiel on each selection.

Two salesmen noted their wines’ exalted provenance: “It’s a northern Rhône declassified Cornas,” said one salesman, as we tasted and spat. “It’s like declassified Barolo,” said another of a Nebbiolo from the Langhe region of Piedmont. One sales rep tried an interesting tack, noting that his Syrah from California’s Sonoma Coast was “made by Alice Waters’s ex-husband.”

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There were quite a few good wines and very few duds. None was particularly pricey; the most expensive cost about $40 wholesale. Most of the time, the three of us liked the same wine, although a few, like a California Tempranillo, left me cold. For Mr. Passer, it wasn’t just a matter of his personal likes or dislikes; he had to figure out where and how a wine fit in with the rest of his list and had to anticipate the preferences of his customers. For example, Mr. Passer needed two Chardonnays, one that was entry level (“never say cheap,” he noted) and one that was pricier (probably Burgundy). He also needed at least two Pinot Noirs, one that was rich and fruity and another in an earthier style.

After several weeks and tastings, Messrs. Stillman and Passer whittled the possibilities down to a final list: 34 bottles, plus 12 stackable offerings. The list was arranged according to color and grapes (i.e., Arneis, Ribolla Gialla, Kerner, Sauvignon Blanc). I recognized some of the wines I’d tasted and liked, such as the 2014 Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc from California and 2008 Château d’Arlay Pinot Noir, but others were missing—no Syrah from Alice Waters’s ex-husband? The partners had also decided to put the stackable wines on their own separate table card.
The restaurant was scheduled to open the following week, and when I stopped by for the staff training, it looked far from ready. There was no bar, and the bathrooms were unlit. But the men were unfazed. “I’ve never trained staff in a situation [where] there wasn’t some form of chaos,” said Mr. Passer. He was opening a number of wines for the staff, instructing them not only in how to taste but how to talk about them as well. He wanted them to describe wines in a relatable way, avoiding fancy words or excessive adjectives. “Use words like ‘bright acidity’ or ‘well balanced,’ ” Mr. Passer said over the whine of a buzzsaw.

As the staff tasted the bottles, Mr. Passer described the wines—from the grapes to the region where each wine was produced—and then quizzed them in turn. Did any of them drink Merlot? Did they know the flavors that oak-aging gave to a wine? And when a producer notes that a wine has been aged in 25% new oak, what does that mean anyway? A woman raised her hand: “A freshly killed tree?”

Quality Eats opened on time the following week. The bar was finished, the wine list was printed and the staff was conversant in proper winespeak. I had quite a few “well-balanced” wines on opening night, but I figured the staff would develop a larger wine vocabulary in subsequent weeks.

It hadn’t been easy or fast, and the locals who stopped in for a glass of Cabernet Franc from Domaine Philippe Alliet in the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley might never realize how much work went into the wine list. But then that’s the point. A really good wine list looks effortless.

Thank you Lettie Teague for such a terrific article!



101 Best Wineries in America for 2015

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The Daily Meal – Alll Things Food and Drink website has an article not to be missed on 101 Best Wineries in America for 2015.  Some of our favorites are front and center on the list – Peay, The Scholium Project, Grammercy, Evening Land, Saxum, and Ridge.   The list and the article are definitely worth a read.

Pey Vineyard


Peay Vineyard

What is interesting is the increasing amount of wine, good wine, being made in unexpected places across the country. Wineries in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and even Brooklyn, NY made the list.


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And who chose these?  The wineries on The Daily Meal’s list were nominated by experts in the field — sommeliers, wine writers, chefs, and restaurateurs, along with wine editors at The Daily Meal.





A Day in Napa……………



Nothing like starting your morning off with a 10 am tasting. We drove up Spring Mountain and began our day in Napa at Keenan Winery.


Keenan farms sustainably and in 2007 switched to 100% solar power for its facilities and homes on the property. The day we were there the winery was busy bottling using a mobile bottling contractor.


We were met by Amy, an engaging associate who got our morning off to a good start – pouring the 2013 Spring Mountain Chardonnay, a 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which I personally loved, and a 2011 Merlot Cabernet – Mernet Reserve.  Amy has family in Sarasota so we exchanged some stories and news during our tasting.


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Orin Swift was our next stop in downtown St. Helena. Their tasting room is on the main street.


David Swift Phinney began making wines in 1998.  He can easily be referred to as a global winemaker as his products, delicious wines, are produced from grapes grown in  California, Spain, France, Italy, Corsica and Argentina.

Orin Swift wines sell out fast at the tasting room. You can taste many of the sell outs which can be helpful, in the event you can find an outlet that still has them on the shelf to purchase.


Katie Gorham was our host. Katie grew up in the St. Helena area and plans to make it her home after finishing her education. She was comfortable showing off the wines and introducing us to a few of the wines we had never had the opportunity of tasting before.

Trigger Finger Bottle Shot

The 2012 Trigger Finger (sold out) was a big favorite of ours.  It is 100% Grenache and all of us tasting agreed it to be outstanding – very special!  According to the website the 2013 vintage is sold out as well.


The 2012 Papillon was another unavailable wine except in large formats  We grabbed a magnum after tasting it.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc.


A Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Mercury Head was yet another amazing wine.  At $95 a bottle, this wine is probably not considered outrageously priced for a Napa cab. It  is made from 100% cabernet sauvignon grapes and, it too, was sold out in every format.


The tasting room is a visual treat. It is modern and quite eclectic. The hosts are friendly and have created a bit of a party atmosphere in the room.

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We took a long lunch at Tra Vigne.  Their courtyard  is a beautiful place to relax and explore exceptional italian fare.  I dream about their Mozzarella “Al Minuto”and heirloom tomatoes!




Our day ended back in Sonoma at Tertulia with friends, family and more wine and great food.