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
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.