19 Mar 2012
In seven years, I get to re-evaluate my relationship with perhaps one of the best dessert wines I’ve had since first hitting the Sonoma border 10 years ago. One little bottle of Criolla from Wellington Winery remains in our pseudo wine celler…aka…the dark closet in the back of our bedroom. The winery has now placed this stellar wine in their library reserve. If I wait another seven years I get to taste their next production.
Criolla ,which is also referred to as the “mission grape”, was brought to California in the early 18th century by Franciscan missionaries. Most of what has survived of the mission grape has been made into dessert wines or more commonly produced as a brandy fortified dessert wine called “Angelica”. A resurgence of this grape started in the early 1990’s.
Wellington is located in one of my favorite places in Sonoma County, Glen Ellen. Not only does Glen Ellen have a rich history including a history of inhabitants like Jack London, but it’s still a place you can go and have a peaceful and not to so pricey wine country experience. Wellington is a hidden gem located off Dunbar Road between Glen Ellen and Kenwood and what locals call “Glenwood”. Prepare yourself for the amount of varietals. The winery was originally an old Italian vineyard and there are 24 different varietals in their old vineyard which includes varietals such as Zinfandel, Carignon, Alicante Bouschet, Grenache, and Syrah. Every tasting has something unique, however, the stars of the show are definitely their dessert wine.
So, when is a good time to open a dessert wine that’s only produced every 7 years? When the mood strikes you is my motto. But so far so good and that one little bottle remains in our closet. However, I think back to Wellington’s tasting counter and how John Carmer and his team had plenty of other options to keep us occupied in the meantime, including their deep ruby Old Vines Estate Port and White Port made of 13 different varietals and tasting of cake batter. I’ll be back for a visit soon.
Happy wine tasting!
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11600 Dunbar Road
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
My favorite thing to do in the wine country: Wine Taste
My least favorite thing to do in the wine country: Wedding Venue Hunt
After several long weekends of hunting for wedding venues, my fiancé and I realized the mystique of the wine country ends once you say that you are hunting for a wedding location and all of a sudden cha-ching (insert cash register sound here) , dancing dollar signs suddenly appear over your head.
16 Oct 2011
On one Sunday afternoon while scouting wineries in the Temecula Wine Country, I found myself in an unlikely place–in a bathtub on a mountain top with a bottle of “Old Gus”. Shadow Mountain Winery is located about a half an hour drive outside the continuously growing Temecula Valley Wineries, but it’s worth the stop for its beautiful location and quality, affordable wines. Nestled at 3200 feet , the winery is located on a coastal mountain range in San Diego county.
There seems to be a mascot for every winery I hit these days. There is the typical winery cat that lounges around outside the tasting room and adminently avoids the buzzed patrons that try to pet the “kitty kitty”. Then, there is the vineyard dog that usually is, more often than not, happy to greet guests and looks as confident running through the vines as the winemaker himself.
At Eberle Winery, a bronze boar greets each guests with the promise of luck if you drop a coin into the Eberle or “small boar” fountain. As my boyfriend Joe and I walked in, we made sure to plop a quarter into the fountain and say hello to this bronze beast. But as we soon discovered, Eberle Winery certainly does not need the luck of the boar to appease its vistors. The vast selection and quality of wine here alone is worthy of a stop.
As we entered the Redwood building housing the tasting room, I was glad to find a casual tasting room counter and pleasantly surprised to find a complimentary tasting that allowed six tastings from a list of 15 different wines! My experience has been that in most cases a winery not specializing in a few varietals usually means that most will not be great. This was not the case with Eberle Winery. Almost all their wines had something complex or flavorful to enjoy.
2007 was a standout and some of my favorites were the 2007 Sangiovese, 2007 Zinfandel, 2007 Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard and the 2007 Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangiovese surprised with a full bodied burst of spice, cherry, raspberry, and licorice. The Zinfandel was earthy with rich color and ripe blackberry flavor. The Vineyard Cabernet was another winner, with wild berry flavors and a good tannic finish. The Vineyard Cabernet is a great pick if you have the time to age it a bit. At $19 a bottle it is a real deal! The Syrah had a rich bouquet of blueberry, cherry, oak, vanilla, and pepper. Another great one for aging. Before leaving, the wine room respresentative spoiled us by pouring a reserve 2003 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon that would have been a sin to not drink to the last drop.
With the exception of the 2003 Cabernet at $75 a bottle, all of the wines we tasted were $25 or less. This is less than you’d expect to pay in other regions like Napa or Sonoma. Look for Eberle wines at your local wine shop or some select grocery stores. We were told often times they carry them.
Eberle Winery is open to the public from September-March from 10a.m.-5p.m. and 10a.m.-6:00p.m. April-August. There is a scenic deck overlooking the Estate Vineyard. Private tours of the winery and wine caves by appointment.
Happy Wine Trekking!
04 Jun 2011
It never fails that when I’m in search of a perfect red wine to bring home with me, that somehow a white wine does a sneak attack on my pallette and blows me away. This was such the case this weekend in Amador and Calaveras Wine Country. Both Shenandoah Valley and Murphys offers some great small production finds.
I was hell bent on finding a red, particularily a great Barbera. By the way, the best Barbera thus far in that region I’ve tried is at Indian Rock Vineyards in Murphys . And for only $18, it’s a steal. Indian Rock Vineyards 2007 Barbera.
But this trip, I wanted to find another great red. At Wildrotter Vineyard in Shenandoah, the staff was friendly and when asked, would you like to taste whites or reds today?, I shrugged my shoulders and said oh, let’s go ahead and start with the whites, I guess. Boom, Viognier! Luscious, floral, and a great summer wine. I ended up purchasing a bottle. Wildrotter Vineyards 2009 Viognier. Priced at $21.
Down the road inMurphys, the main street is lined with tons of tasting rooms and it’s hard to choose which to try first. On prior recommendation, I stopped at Bodega Del Sur Winery tasting room, located in a little alley behind the main shops. The best white wine on their tasting menu was a portugal varietal grape called Verdelho. The wine has a wonderful grassy and herbal aromas and although described as equivalent to a sauvignon blanc, I found the wine to be much more luscious and complex. Bodega Del Sur Alta Mesa 2008 Verdelho. Priced at $18. Quantities limited.
Lastly, at Tanner Winery tasting room, you can pick up a magnificent Rose, crisp, not to sweet and perfect as an appertif with cheese and light appetizers. Tanner Vineyards 2009 Doux Rose. Priced at $17.
Happy Wine Hunting!
Coming here for the first time on an afternoon day for my birthday without knowing anything about the winery was certainly taking a chance. I had no idea what the quality of the wine was like and I had 16 yearning wine enthusiasts driving an hour from San Francisco to join me. The winery is noticeably located next to a housing track in the hills and not your usual winery sign after sign road. But, driving up the driveway and through the unique sculpture garden, we were transported into a completely secluded property and elbow free tasting room. We were greeted at the door by extremely friendly tasting room staff who seated us on two round tables on their shaded veranda overlooking their vineyards.
The tasting room hostess gave us a private tasting on the veranda of 5 wines; 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc-Grandview Vineyard, 2008 Estate Chardonnay-Nagasawa Vineyard, 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir, 2006 Estate Zinfandel, 2006 Convict Zinfandel-Rockpile Vineyard. The Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay had great floral bouquets, but the Chardonnay lacked body and creaminess I usually love in chardonnay. The Estate Zinfandel was a superb blend of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. It had a complex rich berry flavor with a lingering spicey finish, a tasty signature of Zinfandel. The Convict Zinfandel was equally rich with more tannins and roundness. The heartier stone fruit flavors are perfect for duck, lamb, and grilled meats.
The tasting room hostess was lively and recounted us stories to us of the history of the winery, including some of the origin of the wine names. The Convict Zinfandel was named after laborers from a local jail who actually carved a 15 mile road over the terrain of Rockpile. The Estate Chardonnay was named after the first Japanese winemaker in the world, Kenaye Nagasawa.
The winery also allows guests to take a self-guided tour of one of their vineyards. After our tasting, we were given maps and information and drove down to a gate on the property that led us onto a path with numbers and information about each varietal, the soil, and history of the vineyard and included the story of a 200 year old oak tree with a vast amount of poison oak underneath it! We avoided the poison oak successfully. Good thing everyone in our group reads signs well.
An insider secret that’s well worth the find, Paradise Ridge Winery is located in the rolling hills of Sonoma Country. The Santa Rosa property has stunning views of Russian River Valley and an expansive deck for sitting, sunning, and most importantly sipping! The winery property has been family owned and operated since 1991 and only produces about 5,000 cases a year. The estate varietiels include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel. Definitely worth a stop.