Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wine Country, part deux and trois

Day 2 in Wine Country.

We started the morning with a nice breakfast at the B&B, met a couple from Texas and a couple from upstate New York, both nice to speak with. We took the 10:30 Ravenswood tour which takes you through the winemaking process from start to finish. We went out into the vineyard to taste the grapes on the vine (surprisingly very sweet), see the different varieties and see how they grow all the fruits. We saw the harvesting equipment and then went into the barrel room to sample a few wines that were about a year away from bottling. Sara and I agreed they needed the extra year, not very good quite yet. Then we hit the tasting room to taste the same wine, but with the extra year added on… it was vastly different and much better on all points. We tasted most of the Ravenswood wine they offer direct from the winery, some good ones, but on the whole most were just average, even the reserve line at about $35/bottle. Keep in mind that the Ravenswood we buy in the grocery store (vintners blend series) is so far down on their totem pole, they barely acknowledge it even exists. After Ravenswood we hit a few more wineries as we headed up Highway 12:

-Valley of the moon – cool place, weird staff, we didn’t really like many of them.
-Chateau St. Jean – Terrific wines and great historic buildings and grounds that provided a nice place to picnic
-Blackstone – not so good, nice staff
-Arrowwood – great wines, nice staff, a phenomenal cabernet sauvignon from 2002 which retails at $100/bottle!
-Castle (across from the street from the B&B, I like walking home)… Sara had gone off shopping at this point, and the lady could tell I wasn’t going to buy anything. I think she may also have been missing her soap opera that I could hear in the back room, so she put me through 10 wines in 4 minutes; it was like playing power hour.

The evening was topped off by the Sonoma Farmers Market that is set up in the square every Tuesday night. Live music, lots of stands with the usual fruits and veggies, flowers, and honey, and several nice hot food vendors. We took the chairs, a nice bottle of wine, got some food and sat in the town square, people watching until the sun went down. Sonoma has a great hometown American feel and this was on full display Tuesday night, as you could tell when the locals are able to enjoy their paradise-like town and stock up on goods before hiding from the tourists each weekend.

Day 3 – Napa

We headed over to Napa today to sample some wine from a different part of the area. Napa lives up to the hype. Although the traffic was bad, even for a Wednesday, the wines were just about all terrific. The tasting assistants at most wineries were extremely knowledgeable and very professional. We had to pay for just about all of them to taste (10 bucks for a 5 wine flight) and several we needed appointments, but we managed to weasel our way in without one. Overall a class-A place for wine and tasting experience.

Clos Du Val (not Clos du Bois) – we basically opened the place up at 10AM so the guy was waiting for us at the door. He showed us the trellising systems and then did a very thorough tasting on several great chardonnays and bordeaux style reds. Sara loved the Pinot Noir.

Stags Leap – the winery that beat the French in 1976 and put California wine on the world stage. Terrific, heaviest pours we saw in three days, practically an entire glass with each taste, yikes, it was 11am. Luckily we were sharing the tasting.

Sterling, owned by the Disney Family… nice view, fine wine, annoying staff.

Plumpjack – A recommendation from Tara & Matt. Terrific wine, great experience with no crowd hidden off the highway… two here that Sara and I declared the best for a particular varietal tasted thus far (Syrah and Merlot)

V. Sattui – an original wine maker to the region. A nice place for lunch with a deli, although it was over 100 degrees at lunch time today.

Robert Mondavi – the father of Napa, we didn’t taste any wine but the grounds were cool.

Cakebread – great wine with a tasting focused on food pairing… excellent.

We decided to do what most tourists here probably do when finished tasting their 60 dollar bottles of wine and discussing things like a citrus nose, jammy color and soft tannin finish… we spent the evening at the town laundromat, reorganized our car (home) and got pizza and beer. Ahhhh, wine country.

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