I used to joke that the Gallo of Sonoma was my house wine. What could be wrong with that decision and who doesn’t need their own house wine?
It’s a consistent performer, available for ~$12 and it’s nice to have something reliable. Well, that was 10 years ago and I’ve branched out quite a bit since then, but it’s nice to come back to things from the past and the PA Chairman, within the much maligned PLCB made that happen. For $8.99, this could be a powerhouse of a cabernet sauvignon – - had you paid $25, you might feel otherwise, but for the price, this is great. It’s a fruit forward, smooth cab without much pretense or complexity. We enjoyed this earlier in the week with a grassfed sirloin from white oak pastures which on a side note was perfect! The wine matched well and provided exactly what we wanted. Cheers!
Bubbly goes well with summer and this J Cuvee from Sonoma fit the bill perfectly. As my favorite bubbly from Sonoma that I’ve tried thus far, this brut has a lemony citrus edge to it which I believe makes it more approachable than many bruts I’ve had in the past. And, for ~$18-$20, it doesn’t require a lot of thinking. Enjoy this with food or by itself as it’s a very versatile sparkler.
I’ve had many friends tell me to go out and buy this Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet and ignore the fact that it’s a big producer (I like to find the small ones with unique stories). So, I finally gave in and I must say that for $17 (or even up to $35), this is an INCREDIBLE Cab! It’s bursting with ripe red fruit like, dare I say: a Napa Cab? The vanilla is strong on the finish and makes this a great “by itself” or with anything else sort of wine. This is great for Tuesday night wine and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday too.
We had the St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon on our cruise 2 weeks ago on the NCL Pearl. Since we had the wine package which provides a 20% discount if you purchase 6 bottles or more at the beginning of the voyage, we chose this bottle for our meal at Cagney’s (the steakhouse) on our first night. This Cab comes from a widespread solid vintage, and offers a balanced, fruit forward, but restrained flavor profile that went well with steak and seafood equally. If you like Cabernet and prefer a more subdued wine, this is a reasonable choice.
Yes, it’s a long name for a vineyard specific wine, but this Arista Bacigalupi is a wonderful Pinot which showcases its Russian River home. We visited Arista on our December 2010 Sonoma trip, and it’s a must-do for anyone doing wine tasting in the Russian River Valley. Their wines are wonderful, across the board, people are welcoming, and the scenery is gorgeous.
We enjoyed this Pinot on Friday night with dinner at Caffe Casta Diva and this balanced, slightly fruit forward Pinot complimented our dinner well. There isn’t much in the way of earth undertones in this Pinot, but I found some mild raspberry and dark cherry; it’s on the richer side of Pinot and quite enjoyable. This was the last of our Sonoma trip Pinots…maybe it’s time to go back!
On our visit to Sonoma, specifically, our stay in Healdsburg and the surrounding valley, our first stop was at Dutton Goldfield in Sebastopol. The staff was great and the wine really shines here. Their Pinot Noir is the star and this Sanchietti was our favorite of the bunch. It’s a bit floral (think rose garden) on the nose and then it opens up to a black-blueberry roundness without being too fruity. The thing we really like about the Sonoma Pinots is their lack of earthiness found in many other Pinots (especially those from the “old world”). I also find Pinots like this to be very food friendly without the ‘risk’ of taking away from that meal you’ve been working on all day. If you’re lucky enough to find the DG Pinot in a store near you, grab it; if you’re even luckier and your home state allows direct shipping – - order this one and see how patient you can be…
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Bartholomew Park is one of our must-stops when we’re anywhere near Napa or Sonoma. While we first went there for their Zin, their other wines are solid as well. Tonight, we enjoyed the 2006 Desnudos Merlot which left a very fresh spearmint taste on my palate. Sure, there were other lightness to it, with some predictable vanilla and stone fruit, but the mint was really catchy (and I love mint), and provided a nice balance. Cheers to a Merlot with some backbone!
We gave my cousin a bottle of the Ghost Pines cab a while ago and have since enjoyed it on our own. Ghost Pines is a venture by the Louis Martini winery with grapes from both Napa and Sonoma. It’s interesting as the Napa grapes bring the big fruit and Sonoma the more dry tannic properties leading to a very balanced Cab without the pretense of a true Napa Cab. It’s widely available in Pennsylvania (for those who live in the commonwealth) and in other states too for around $20 and it’s a great value for that. This is a drink by itself wine and one that will work well with food due to it’s greater balance than the typical big Napa cab.
After some great wine in Napa, we headed up to Healdsburg for our maiden visit. We stayed there at the H2 Hotel which we really enjoyed (read my review on tripadvisor). Our visit yielded some wonderful Pinot Noir and some other great finds too. Sonoma County has a very different personality than Napa both in its wine and overall feeling; I recommend doing both.
Dutton Goldfield: This was our first stop and the tasting room is relatively new. We started with a Chardonnay and as I expected, I wasn’t a fan which isn’t anything against DG, I just don’t really like Chard. The Pinot here is what brings in the rave reviews and you can see why. Also, Sarah in the tasting room was very helpful and provided some great vineyard and lunch suggestions as well. We visited most of the spots she recommended which proved fruitful.
Merry Edwards: They welcome you into the winery version of a board room to do the tastings here. While they suggest reservations, we didn’t have one and they accommodated us completely. Their website suggests that you’ll receive an abridged tasting without reservations, but I can’t imagine trying anything beyond what we had. Either way, they are known for small production Pinot and offer many styles from relatively fruit forward to more dry and earthy. It’s hard not to find one you like. Their staff is friendly and is happy to answer your questions, but doesn’t shell out much information without inquisition. Definitely worth a stop.
Marimar Estate: This quaint estate has a small tasting room pouring a nice variety of Pinot. Marimar Torres, the owner is from Spain where her family is also in the wine business. She’s been surrounded by it all of her life which is evident in the finished product. Their Pinot we enjoyed showed a wonderful balance throughout the palate. Their tasting room is pleasant, but had a bit of a strong push towards their wine club. Beyond that, it was a good spot.
Arista Winery: Along a curvy road and up a hill, you’ll find Arista. This picturesque spot has a cozy tasting bar with space for about 10. The staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and outgoing. Their wines were very enjoyable across the board and provided a nice variety of options throughout their tasting menu. Their small production allows them to keenly focus on their craft, yet still provide a reasonable price/value in comparison to other vineyards. A must go.
Iron Horse: There was significant rain leading up to our visit, so we had to enter Iron Horse through their back entrance. This took us past their stables and down a single lane, unimproved road to a hilltop with a spectacular view. Their tasting room is completely outside with some propane heaters (like you’ll find at restaurants & bars) for the colder months. On our visit, it was pretty chilly and the single staffer struggled to keep up. She provided little information beyond the name of the champagne and minimal tasting notes, adding little value to our visit. Their claim to fame is that their bubbly was served during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit and hopefully it tasted different then. I’ve had my share of bubbly and this wasn’t my favorite or terribly remarkable – it was the one stop we made where we didn’t buy anything.
Gary Farrell: Go for the view and stay for the wine. Gary Farrell produced a somewhat mass market Pinot that you may find at home, but the juice they pour (with a sensational view behind them) is unique to their tasting room. From a light Sau Blanc to their Zin, each choice showed the personality of the winery. Scott in the tasting room was great and also provided some solid restaurant recommendations in the Healdsburg area. More on our dinner soon.
Bartholomew Park: A visit to wine country isn’t complete for us without a visit to Bart Park. We stopped here on our way to the airport the following day and bought 1 more bottle than we had spaces in our wine packer for. We found Bart Park originally on a recommendation from another winery who told us that “Bartholomew Park has the best Zin in the valley”. We couldn’t agree more which is why we stop by to try each Zin vintage. Their staff is great and each visit is always educational. Beyond Zin, their Cab, Syrah, and Merlot are also wonderful.
Last night, the wife and I took my mom out to dinner to celebrate her birthday. We brought the 2008 Cline Cashmere, a GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre. This is a silky smooth wine as the name suggests, but with a little spicy kick on the finish. It’s definitely got a bit of raspberry and stone fruit, but the pepper on the finish is quite noticeable…not very cashmere-like after all, but enjoyable nonetheless. We visited Cline on our last Sonoma visit and while they’re probably best know for their Old Vine producing Zinfandel (which is very good), this is a good find too. It’s a relatively balanced wine, so if you’re planning a dinner with someone who isn’t a fan of overly tannic or even dry wine, this is a good pick.