25 Jan 2015
To say that Ridge Vineyards is an icon in California wine country is an understatement. Tradition and consistency have made this winery one of California’s favorites. And a visit to Ridge winery only confirms what is true about this winery–they don’t settle for anything less than the best. Its beautiful grounds, famed Monte Bello Series, and courteous staff have brought me to their Santa Cruz Winery tasting room on many occasions.
19 Nov 2014
Robert Frost once wrote, Two roads diverged in a wood/and I—
I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.
In this case, the wine road less traveled led me to Treasure Island where besides an old naval base and the location of the World’s Fair in the 1930’s there is not much afoot except fantastic views of San Francisco that await a snapshot from its next tourist. This island can be an oasis or wasteland whichever way you choose to see it, but several unique wineries have sprouted up making it their home here, including
30 Sep 2014
I never advocate drinking in sweltering heat. But, on labor day weekend while revisiting Shadow mountain winery in San Diego county there was no way to resist the great wines this small, down home winery serves – even in 100 degree heat. Alex McGeary, winemaker and owner , greets us and
As I prepare for my trip to Arizona, I ask myself two very critical questions? What should I pack and where can I locate great wine in the desert? Not water, but wine. So, I look in my handy Frommers guide and three towns are listed: Cottonwood, Jerome, and Sedona. These three magical, ghostly, and mystical places weren’t on my radar as prime wine tasting regions and I feel instantly aware of my lack of wine travels outside of California. I know where every Vortex site is in Sedona, even a Psychic center for New Age, but apparently I need a Frommers guide to tell me where wine grows in Arizona. Although, the vortex visits and red rock hikes yield some good feeling energy, my real enlightenment comes while passing through Jerome on our way back from Sedona.
At Passion Cellars, a small boutique winery at the start of town, Cody Burkett, Gentleman Adventurer (listed on his business card and very apropos), shares his extensive knowledge with us about Arizona wines. The first critical information that Cody points out to us is that people tend to think of Arizona as all flat desert when in fact most of the varietals being produced are in regions with elevations of more than 4000-5000 feet. The very hot days and cooler temps at night mimic regions such as Mendoza, Argentina or even places in Italy where wine has been produced for centuries with success in these extreme temperatures. With low water crops like grapes, a little more struggle yields a happy, plump grape. Makes sense.
From the wine tasting list we choose 5 different wines to sample. My favorites include the Syrah 417 which Cody describes as a “1950’s pinup model – rich, voluptuous and vivacious.” I’ll have to agree there. Most notably the rich flavors of blueberry and chocolate that are present are remarkable. Another favorite and unusual wine is a greek white varietal, 2011 Freitas Vineyard’s Malvasia Bianca which has a syrupy, silky texture and notes of melon, pear, and opens with a bouquet of florals. If your’e not an intense red drinker, then the Jerome Red is a wonderful Syrah blend that’s smooth and light. This is great with food or just sipping alone. And lastly, a spicy 2012 Black Hills Zinfandel that’s aromatic and filled with ripe flavors of plum and raspberry is memorable on the palette. The overall wine list is well balanced and each wine on the list has it’s own unique character, which I look for when reviewing wineries.
Next door, and part of the same tasting room,is Echo Canyon Wines. Tasting room attendant, Lundon Crow, introduces us to an eclectic collection of wines that are mostly 2003 vintages or older. The wine list here is a hit or miss depending on each pour, but my favorite is a 2003 Crop Circle Merlot (call for info) with great rich flavors of blueberry, coffee, spice, and a smooth finish. Being on this side of the tasting room is like going on a wine treasure hunt and pulling out some of the last great bottles from unknown places. And for this reason, I highly recommend a stop to both tasting rooms at Passion Cellars if you are driving through.
So finally, I can say I’ve tried Arizona wines and in fact, I even managed to smuggle two bottles home in my suitcase free and clear of any unfortunate breakage.
Happy Wine Adventures!
Where to Taste
417 Hull Ave.
Jerome, AZ 86331
13 Mar 2014
I love finding the most relaxing and most charming spots in wine country. This month I focused on garden wineries. What better time than spring to locate some great places to have a glass of wine, stroll through a lush landscape, and put your weekday worries aside. From a garden winery l visited in Carmel Valley that housed chirping blue birds and a rustic gold gate covered with wisteria to another in
It’s the end of summer and what better way to celebrate the harvest than to revisit a favorite winery of mine in Calaveras County in the Sierras over Labor Day weekend. Previously named Laraine Winery, Four Winds Winery sits just off of HWY 4. The road leading into to Four Winds winery is called Six Mile Road and you wind your way through beautiful scenery including rolling hills, old barns, and roaming horses. The winery itself sits on a
12 Jun 2013
It’s not often that I step into a tasting room and feel right at home. There are too many wineries that have become double c’s – corporate and cold. But that isn’t the case at Big Dog Vineyards in Milpitas where owners Sandy and Mark make their guests feel welcome with their charming tasting room and wonderful wines. This small, family run winery rests atop a 1200 foot scenic hillside next to their beautiful residence. A large courtyard patio overlooking a hillside of vines offers a great place to sit and have a glass of wine and relax.
We drive up to the winery to enjoy super bowl festivities and watch the San Francisco 49ers play. Though there are about 10-15 people in the tasting room and courtyard, the staff is extremely attentive from the moment we walk in. Dick, one of the tasting room managers, greets us for a tasting and reminds us to take our time sipping each wine. He is knowledgeable about the wine list and genuinely wants to hear our feedback. Mark sets up a big screen in the tasting room and Sandy prepares appetizers and snacks for guests, including very delicious teriyaki meatballs. I stop counting after the 10th meatball I pop into my mouth. I even enjoy some Cheetos with some Cabernet, which is a first for me! During half time, we stand outside and enjoy the views and sip wine next to tall heaters. It’s hard not to take photos as the sun starts to set and the soft light cascades over the vines.
The duo is modest about their wines, but the red wines are no joke and it’s evident how committed and passionate they are about wine-making. The Cabs are a must taste. Standouts are the 2006 and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – both with a sophisticated bouquet loaded with vanilla, spice, and dark berry flavors. Their Zinfandel Port Style Dessert Wine is also stellar and has a great balance of sweetness and flavor. Think of a field of plump blueberries.
The winery is open to the public the first full weekend of each month. A complete schedule is available on their website. If you want a warm, welcoming and peaceful wine tasting experience, Big Dog Vineyards is a great place to visit.
Big Dog Vineyards
4545 Felter Road
Milpitas, CA 95035
Cheetos and Cabernet – who would of thought?
16 Dec 2012
I enter the allegorie tasting room and can’t help but feel allegoric in my pursuit of some of the best of this small town’s Spanish varietals including a spicy Tempranillo. The tasting counter here is unlike any other on the main street of Murphy’s. It doubles as an art gallery and local artists display contemporary works as well as beautiful designed jewelry in cases. The tasting room attendants are friendly, informative, and passionate as if every bottle has it’s own narrative. Owen kindly helps us through the tasting list and out of the five wines we tasted
30 May 2012
I find that at the very moment I’m spouting that I do not know very much about champagne or nor do I care to drink champagne is the very same moment I’m sitting in wine country drinking champagne. Like it or not, champagne has an effervescent charm that goes beyond just serving it for celebrations.
On a late Saturday afternoon, I am sitting at the patio of Domaine Carneros enjoying the sunlight deck overlooking the vineyards and Carneros region. I order a tasting of three champagnes including a Brut Cuvee, Brut Rose, and Vermeil Demi-Sec. The Brut Cuvee is a toast color with flavors of baked pear, melon and vanilla. The Brut Rose has notes of wild strawberries. But my favorite is the Vermeil Demi Sec with its crisp fruity flavor and long creamy vanilla finish. The wines here are proudly labeled on the bottle with the words “Methode Champenoise”.
Methode Champenoise or also called Methode Traditionelle is the traditional way of making champagne and sparkling wine. Basically, champagne is kept in the bottle for a second round of fermentation, which can last anywhere from 6 months up to 6 years. When shopping for champagne, I recommend purchasing a bottle with “Methode Champenoise” listed on the label for higher quality.
So what makes the bubbles in bubbly? The famous bubbles in champagne are a result of carbon dioxide staying in the bottle during fermentation. Champagne is served in flutes to preserve the bubbles. The most commonly used varietals to produce champagne are Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Blanc de Blanc is generally made from Chardonnay grapes and Blanc de Noir from Pinot Noir. Often times Pinot and Chardonnay are combined along with other varietals so a wine maker can create his own style of champagne.
Domaine Carneros not only offers a great variety of quality champagnes, but they are one of the only few wineries where you can sit and order food to accompany your tastings. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon in Napa.
Where to Go:
1240 Duhig Road
Napa, CA 94559
What to Drink:
2008 Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvee, $27
2008 Brut Rose, $36
2007 Vermeil Demi-Sec, $35
Not into bubblies? Try this:
2008 Famous Gate Pinot Noir, $70