With the holidays just around the corner, we thought we’d offer up a few ideas for wine country getaways that are sure to please even the most discriminating travelers and palates.
Set in the hillsides of picturesque Livermore Valley and just a quick trip from downtown San Francisco, the Purple Orchid Resort and Spa offers ten beautifully appointed guest suites, each with a fireplace and Jacuzzi tub. The stunning 9,000-square-foot log cabin-style resort, nestled amongst 24 acres of Manzanillo olives, exudes a sense of Old-World charm. Whether gathering poolside with friends, enjoying a treatment at the Purple Orchid’s world-class spa, or simply cozying up to a fireplace with a glass of wine, guests get a new sense of rejuvenation. Each evening, guests are invited to the Gathering Hour, where olive oils and products made from the resort’s own Livermore Valley olive orchard are served with local wines.
Tasting Tip: Be sure to visit Murrieta’s Well and immerse yourself in Livermore Valley history at an Estate that was discovered in the 1880s and purchased by the incomparable local vintner Philip Wente in the 1930s. You’re sure to savor not only the charming setting, but also some truly unique wines.
Located less than an hour from Sacramento, you and your beau can escape to an environment that’s as romantic as its name. The Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa offers visitors to Lodi wine country a splendid retreat. From the moment they arrive, guests feel they’re in good hands. The Wine & Roses staff has a knack for sensing just how much pampering one requires and proceeds accordingly. Garden Rooms boast rustic luxury, while Spa Rooms emanate a Zen-like feel, and the Signature Suites are abundant with custom details and amenities. No matter where they land, guests feel right at home at Wine & Roses.
Tasting Tip: While in Lodi, be sure to visit Harney Lane Winery’s warm and inviting tasting room, where you’ll sample a portfolio of unique, memorable estate varietals including Old Vine Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, and Albariño—along with classic Chardonnay.
If you’re looking for the quintessential wine tasting getaway with your favorite wine lover, look no further than Napa Valley’s own history-steeped Rutherford appellation. The Rancho Caymus Inn stands on land once awarded to pioneer George C. Yount as part of the Napa Valley’s first land grant. Today, the 26-suite inn provides guests with an elegant retreat in the heart of the world-famous Rutherford Bench wine country. The beauty of the natural springs and hillside caves of the Flora Springs estate inspired the design of the Inn’s unique tasting emporium. An appointment is not necessary for those wishing to drop in for a wine tasting flight or wine and food pairing. But for those able to plan ahead, tasting on the scenic Rooftop Lounge and Barrel Cave Room tastings are both possibilities, as are lunch or a delightful picnic served in a charming wine country table setting in the picturesque Vineyard Courtyard picnic area.
Tasting Tips: While in Rutherford, be sure to add the following wineries to your route:
- Grgich Hills – co-founded by the winemaker famous for crafting the Chardonnay which upset the 1976 Paris Tasting. Mike has continued receiving international awards for his estate grown wines since that unforgettable day and has also been recognized as a leader in natural winegrowing and sustainability.
- Peju – this beautiful oasis in Rutherford Estate also holds the distinction of being one of only 21 certified organic wineries in the Napa Valley. Wine tasting is taken to a new level at Peju, where its 50-foot French Provincial tower serves as the expansive tasting room and centerpiece of the property.
- Artesa Vineyards + Winery – While it’s a little outside of Rutherford, the excellent wine, epic family history, dramatic views and stunning architecture, and one-of-a-kind artistic installations by artist-in-residence Gordon Huether make Artesa Vineyards & Winery a destination-worthy experience. Fifth-generation Napa Valley winemaker Mark Beringer contributes his award-winning skills to Artesa’s lineup of handcrafted wines which bring the true flavor of the Napa Valley alive on your palate.
While the country roads of the Paso Robles AVA less than an hour from San Luis Obispo are winding, one never has trouble finding HammerSky Vineyards & Inn or trouble recommending it to friends after staying there. HammerSky is distinguished by a strikingly beautiful century-old farmhouse, which sits regally alongside the entrance driveway and where guests can enjoy an overnight getaway. Beyond the gates beckon a panorama of rolling vineyards, a New England-style barn, and an ultra-modern tasting room where intriguing Paso Robles wine awaits. Winemaker Rich Hartenberger’s blending talent is evident in the winery’s Open Invitation, a Meritage blend of the best of the harvest; and The Party of Four, a fun, complex mélange of four varietals. It’s no wonder the HammerSky wines have an enthusiastic following and sell out every year.
Tasting Tip: Should you choose to leave your HammerSky haven and venture further into Paso Robles wine country, make a note to stop at one of Paso’s true jewels: Villa San-Juliette. This slice of heaven is the brainchild of Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe, childhood friends and producers of some of television’s hottest programs including American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. More than 100 winemakers were considered to craft VSJ’s wines and Ken and Nigel staged a blind tasting to select the winner. Their top two favorite wines were both crafted by one very talented winemaker, Matt Ortman.
A treasure in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, the sumptuous Santa Ynez Inn welcomes guests with elegance and grace. Its authentic Victorian-era architecture and antique furnishings are so genuine that first-timers are surprised to learn that the Santa Ynez Inn was built from scratch just a decade ago. The inn has been honored with the AAA 4-Diamond award rating every year since opening and was named in Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Small Hotels list in 2013. The Santa Ynez Inn offers an ideal oasis after a day of touring, tasting, and exploring the quaint towns of Santa Ynez, Solvang, and Los Olivos.
Tasting Tip: Nearby, Zaca Mesa embraces the California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing to achieve balance in the vineyard and view the estate as one living, breathing system. Zaca Mesa wines have enjoyed the spotlight often and have been served both by President Clinton at a White House state dinner and at President Reagan’s 80th birthday party. The 2006 Estate Syrah was listed #29 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010.
This “V” shaped Willamette Valley is home to Oregon’s largest city, Portland, making it easily accessible to out-of-town wine lovers. Bordered by the Columbia River to the north, the Calapooya Mountains to the south, the Cascade Mountain foothills to the east, and to the west by Oregon’s Coast Range, wine lovers are sure to swoon when they discover that around 200 wineries call it home. Quaint B&Bs and cozy, romantic hotels can be found throughout the Valley.
Tasting Tip: Tasting Tip: While in Willamette, be sure to visit Domaine Drouhin, which The Oregonian newspaper named Domaine Drouhin as Oregon’s Best Winery for Tastings in 2012. The winery itself is a four-story gravity flow design, built into the hillside. Fourth-generation Winemaker Veronique Drouhin-Boss gently oversees the entire Domaine winemaking process using traditional techniques, learned from a lifetime in wine.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
Merlot has been bashed for quite some time now. I personally feel too long. It is a great grape that makes very nice wine when done well. You will not get as many 90 pointers out of Merlots, but you will get a lot of smooth, friendly, and easy to drink wines that are very good. That is what you will find below after the first few terrific top scoring options. I would strongly suggest that you revisit this grape if you have left to explore others. Merlot has remained and will always remain a significant player. Try some and you will see for yourself.
Our first two options both scored 92 points. They are both on the higher end of the price spectrum, but they also show how good top notch level Merlot can be. Our first recommendation is the 2010 Steven Kent “Small Lot Offering” Merlot from the Livermore Valley in California. Even at $50, these 70 cases will disappear quickly. I would call the winery fast if you want to try a bottle or two of this gem. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, and coats the mouth with flavors. It displays ripe black cherry flavors with notes of black pepper and hints of oak, plum, cola and touch of cinnamon. The finish is dry and its moderate, yet unobtrusive tannins stick around for quite some time. This is a Merlot you can enjoy with a nice steak. A New York strip came to mind first.
Our second 92 pointer comes from Mt. Brave. Their 2010 “Mt. Veeder” Merlot is very impressive. It is pitch black colored and opens with an inviting black cherry bouquet with a hint of blackberry. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced, juicy and rich. I loved its ripe black cherry flavors with notes of blueberry and hint of faint cola, oak and minerality in the background. The finish is dry and its fine tannins linger for a little while. At $75, this Merlot should be saved for a special occasion. That said, it is a very food friendly Merlot and it would be a perfect pairing for a filet mignon.
Two of the four Merlots that scored 90 points are two of our best values. We start with the 2010 Beringer Merlot from the Napa Valley. At $20 this wine is a real bargain. It was one of our top finishers in our recent blind tasting. It opens with a pleasant boysenberry bouquet with a hint of black cherry, menthol and oak. On the palate, this wine is full bodied, balanced, dense and albeit bit rustic for a Merlot. The panel described its flavor profile as concentrated blackberry with notes of oak with hints of black raspberry and black pepper. They suggested pairing this Merlot with comfort foods. Pot roast was their first choice.
Next up is the 2010 Joseph Carr Merlot from the “Napa Valley”. This wine is also a good value at $20. It opens with an attractive black cherry bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, and savory. I really enjoyed its mineral infused plum flavors with notes of gentle oak and dark chocolate. It finishes dry and its fine tannins make it rather food friendly. I would also pair this tasty Merlot with comfort foods. Beef bourguignon came to mind first.
Next up are two premium Merlots. Both are 90 pointers, but do carry a much higher sticker price than the two previous options. The 2010 La Jota “Howell Mountain” is a very nice follow up to last year’s 2009 vintage that took first place in our blind tasting. The 2010 is medium bodied, refined, and smooth. I found that it displays some really nice flavors. Those flavors are a mild mineral infused black cherry with hints of faint oak and black plum. In the end, this wine drifts away nicely with its fine grained tannins. That smoothness makes it very food friendly and versatile. Choose something nice to eat and enjoy. The 2009 Mt. Brave “Napa Valley” Merlot for $75 is a very limited production offering. Only 121 cases were made. It is not quite as good as the 2010 listed above, but was one of our top finishers in our recent big blind tasting as it did stand out. The panel described it as medium bodied, slightly acidic and savory with oak infused black plum flavors. They also picked up hints of black cherry, oak and black pepper. Given its bigger style, the panel suggested pairing this bold Merlot with tender grilled bourbon steak tips.
Here Are Some Quick Hits On Our Very Good 89 To 87 Point Offerings
Franciscan 2010 Merlot “Napa Valley” (CA) $21 (89)
Medium bodied, smooth and a little bit thin. Mild black currant flavors with a touch of mineral, tart black cherry and oak. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins build up and linger. Pair with a juicy Angus bacon burger.
Sbragia 2010 Merlot “Home Ranch” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $25 (89)
An everyday drinking Merlot to be enjoyed with food. Medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Blueberry and cherry cola flavors with a hint of cedar plank and plum. The Panel suggested pairing with a tangy pulled pork sandwich.
Kendall Jackson 2010 Merlot “Grand Reserve” (Sonoma County, CA) $30 (89)
This midnight blue colored Merlot from KJ is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. The flavor profile is a mild black plum with hints of minerality, faint oak and a touch of red currant. Pair with homemade meatloaf.
Freemark Abbey 2011 Merlot “Napa Valley” (CA) $34 (89)
This Merlot is medium bodied, balanced and very easy to drink. Tasty black cherry flavors with notes of plum. I also detected a hint of oak and gentle boysenberry in the background. Pair with slow cooked pulled pork.
Peju 2010 Merlot “Napa Valley” (CA) $35 (89)
Medium bodied, balanced and smooth. The flavor profile is a black currant and plum blend with hints of milk chocolate, black cherry, and mild oak. The finish is dry and sticky. Decant and serve with braised pork belly.
Blue Rock 2010 Merlot “Best Barrels” (Alexander Valley, CA) $60 (89)
A fruit bomb! It opens with a fragrant and inviting blackberry bouquet with a hint of anise and black cherry. Medium bodied, slightly acidic, and savory with juicy blackberry and black raspberry flavors with notes of anise and black plum. It paired nicely with a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds.
Joseph Carr 2011 Merlot “Josh” (CA) $15 (88)
This California Merlot is medium bodied, balanced, and fruit forward. Its flavor profile is a ripe red raspberry with notes of plum and pomegranate with a hint of oak. It would pair well with pork tenderloin.
Candor NV Merlot “Lot 5″ (Central Coast, CA) $20 (88)
This Merlot is medium bodied, balanced, lush and appealing. I enjoyed its ripe black cherry and blueberry flavors with nicely integrated mild oak in the background. It would pair perfectly with juicy burgers topped with blue cheese and caramelized onions.
Chateau St. Jean 2010 Merlot “Sonoma County” (CA) $25 (88)
This Merlot is slightly acidic and fruit forward. It displays ripe blackberry and boysenberry flavors with hints of mild black licorice and gentle oak. Its moderate tannins are sticky. Pair with barbecue steak tips.
Merriam Vineyards 2008 Merlot “Windacre” (Russian River Valley) $29 (88)
Merriam’s Merlot is medium bodied, balanced, and savory. It displays black currant flavors with notes of black pepper, minerality, and old oak. It finishes dry, with dusty tannins. Try it with a pulled pork sandwich.
Reininger 2009 Merlot “Helix” (Columbia Valley, WA) $29 (88)
This Merlot from Washington State is medium bodied, balanced, and juicy. I enjoyed its plum and black cherry flavors that blended nicely with gentle oak and a touch of black pepper. A bit sticky and shows nice length.
Gundlach Bundschu 2010 Merlot “Sonoma Valley” (CA) $30 (88)
This Merlot is medium bodied, balanced and slightly rustic. Its flavor profile is a slight tart black cherry and black raspberry blend with integrated old oak and a hint of black pepper. Pair with a mushroom burger.
Reininger 2008 Merlot “Walla Walla” (WA) $39 (88)
This Washington State was well received by the panel. It is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. They liked its red cherry flavors with notes of gentle oak and a touch of red raspberry. They suggested blackened tuna.
Chappellet 2010 Merlot “Napa Valley” (CA) $40 (88)
This deep purple colored “Napa” Merlot is also medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. The panel enjoyed its mild black cherry flavors with hints of black currant and very light oak. They suggested pairing it with Hungarian goulash.
Our last suggestion is a Good Merlot that is also a Good Value. The Red Rock 2011 “Reserve” Merlot from California is only $14 and received 86 points. There were 76,000 cases made, so it should be easy to find. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy with ripe black cherry flavors and some integrated oak and blackberry. It is a good weekday Merlot that would pair well with an Italian sausage sandwich with sauteed onion and peppers.
We hope you enjoy these food friendly Merlots as much as we did. Please share your favorite Merlot discoveries with the group by posting a comment. Enjoy – Ken
With harvest in full swing, it’s a great time to visit wine regions across the country—but watch out for those grape trucks! The Premier Guide to Wine Country, Touring & Tasting, has come up with a great list of wineries and places to stay in wine country as you toast the harvest. Discover these 10 Great Wine Country Harvest Finds (all featured in the Summer/Fall issue of Touring & Tasting magazine) each chosen for its own special appeal at harvest time.
Richland and Woodinville, Washington
With two tasting room destinations (one just outside of Seattle in Woodinville and one in the Columbia Valley town of Richland) there’s no excuse for Washingtonians to miss J. Bookwalter at harvest time. For the most part, the grapes come from the upper east end of the Wahluke Slope AVA in a vineyard that Winegrower Jerry Bookwalter has managed for more 25 years. His son John partnered with Winemaker Claude Gros about five years ago and the wines are receiving amazing scores. If you can’t visit them in Washington, visit the wines anyway. Two of J Bookwalter’s red wine blends have been featured on Ken’s Wine Guide in the past–the 2004 Merlot, which received a 90.3 score and their “Lot 21″ brand, which received an 88.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
There’s something indescribable about getting away to Oregon wine country at harvest time. Distinctive Destinations has three properties in the Willamette Valley: Lions Gate Inn B&B, a historical luxury boutique bed and breakfast in Newberg; Vineyard Ridge, a vacation rental with sweeping valley views; and Lake House, a fairy tale cottage aside a private little lake. Each property offers a personal concierge service to help you plan your wine touring day and side excursions to the Gorge, Portland, and Mount Hood.
James Frey was a professional photographer and painter before he and his wife Andrea committed themselves to wine. They planted two vineyards—one on the Coast Range in the southwestern corner of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and a second in the heart of the Ribbon Ridge AVA. Later they added a third in the Dundee Hills—all yield Pinot Noir and Riesling exclusively. The resulting portfolio boasts more than a dozen Rieslings and Pinot Noirs, many of which can be sampled in the exquisite tasting room that includes a 1,500-square foot art gallery displaying James’ work.
Lower Lake, California
Kai Ahlmann, a practiced mathematical statistician, and his family started Six Sigma Ranch based on the Six Sigma philosophy. They apply it to the old-world art of winemaking and handcraft each bottle of wine to be as excellent as the next. Harvest time is amazing at the 4,300-acre Six Sigma Ranch. Only 50 acres have been planted to grapes, but they are carefully selected acres, chosen to express the ranch’s unique character. A tour around the amazing property in the Six Sigma Pinzgauer all-utility vehicle should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Bodega Bay, California
For as remote and elegant as Inn at the Tides may seem, most of us have been there before. Alfred Hitchcock put this beautiful property on the map when he filmed his legendary film The Birds. Today’s Inn at the Tides just plain utterly romantic. It is set along the isolated Sonoma coastline with everything you could ask for: well appointed guest rooms with incredible views, two restaurants, a heated swimming pool, and spa. Besides, wine country and all the excitement of harvest is nearby.
Located in the heart of Lodi wine country on seven acres of stunning, landscaped grounds, this sustainable and certified organic vineyard also boasts a brand new tasting room. Tasting rooms guests are treated to exclusive, limited-production wines and are free to roam the scenic property and enjoy a picnic overlooking vineyards that have been hand-hoed, trellised, and hand thinned. This level of care has not been lost on industry critics, who have consistently recognized their wines in both domestic and international competitions.
Santa Rosa, California
Talk about a gem! This little jewel of a winery covers only six acres, but it produces some of the Russian River Valley’s finest Cabernet Sauvignons. And that’s all–Proprietors Wendy and Kevin Morrow produce only 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Each bottle is numbered and hand waxed by Dillon Morrow, their son, who has studied viticulture and spent a good deal of time in the cellar. The Morrows believe fun and wine go hand-in-hand which is why they’re hosting an adventure through Portugal next May. Their website has all the details.
This multigenerational family winery has recently opened its stylish new tasting room, The Press Room, to the public. It’s named LangeTwins after Randall and Bad Lange whose ancestors have been farming their land since the 1870s. The twins didn’t get into winemaking until seven years ago, but they caught on fast. Under the leadership of Winemaker David Akiyoshi and Winemaker Karen Birmingham, they have built a portfolio with varietal complexity. If you can’t visit, look into the wine club which offers a 20 percent discount and other perks.
Paso Robles, California
Back when Darren Mitchell was growing up on his family’s 80-acre ranch, he had no idea that he’d come back there someday to grow winegrapes and make wine. Since then, he fell in love with his wife Angela, followed by a 1987 bottle of Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon. Darren started studying winemaking, planted 20 acres of vineyard on his family ranch, and today, he and Angela are reaping the rewards of their labor, with a fabulous portfolio of award-winning wines. On harvest weekends, visitors enjoy the expansive views from Mitchella’s homey Tuscan villa-style tasting room.
Paso Robles, California
Each bottle of Silver Horse wine carries the inscription: “Not for us alone!” which tells us a lot about the philosophy at Silver Horse Winery. This family winery started with a tasting room in a converted barn 17 years ago. Today, Silver Horse is a local destination with a fantastic tasting room and grounds with vista vineyard views. The winery is built for parties with a dance floor, outdoor kitchen, and band and food stations. It’s a great place to celebrate harvest.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
Summer is winding down, the kids are heading back to school, and the Premier Guide to Wine Country, Touring & Tasting, keeps coming up with more great places in wine country to tour, taste, and stay. Used up your vacation days this summer? No worries. You can slip in a quick weekend trip to wine country and return feeling relaxed and ready to drive the carpool!
Discover these 10 Stunning Wineries (all featured in the Summer/Fall issue of Touring & Tasting magazine) each chosen for stunning wine PLUS a stunning: view, location, architecture, or label!
The Four Graces – Dundee, OR
French-born Winemaker Laurent Montalieu has adapted the winemaking practices he learned in France and California to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where he crafts the wines for Four Graces. The winery was founded just ten years ago in the Red Hills of Dundee, where the soils yield rich, complex, and elegant wines. Pinot Noir, Point Gris, and Pinot Blanc are featured: each with vivid aromas that follow through a lingering finish. You’ll find the tasting room in a little farm house, just about a mile south of the town of Newberg.
Carlton Cellars – Carlton, OR
Downtown Carlton has become a hotbed for tasting rooms, and Carlton Cellars belongs at the top of your list. The first thing you’ll likely notice are the stunning labels. Each wine label pays homage to a picturesque spot along the cool Oregon coast. The winery’s first wine, Road’s End Oregon Pinot Noir, is the flagship. There are more Pinot Noirs to taste, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Auxerrois. Carlton Cellars is very green: currently one of a few dozen Low Input Viniculture and Enology (LIVE) certified wineries.
Miraflores – Placerville, CA
Perched on a 254-acre old farmstead estate just south of the town of Placerville, Miraflores is a striking Mediterranean-style winery that crafts quality, old-world artisan-style handcrafted wines. The winery building is stunning with lofty ceilings and a lovely courtyard. The wines are stunning, too: Zinfandel, Barbera, Tempranillo, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, and Meritage. Miraflores hosts many fun events, including a weekend pairing program featuring the culinary skills of a series of amazing chefs. The summer PAIRINGS program runs into October, so check it out now!
Skinner Vineyards & Winery – Fair Play, CA
The non-stop view from Skinner Vineyards & Winery deserves a special toast. So do the wines. This winery dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when James Skinner, a Scottish immigrant, planted Rhône varieties (including Grenache and Carignane) and started one of California’s first commercial wineries. The winery closed in the early 1900s and was reborn 150 years later, thanks to today’s Skinner family. The focus remains on Rhônes, including Syrah, Carignane, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Petite Sirah. Don’t miss the flagship, Grenache.
Clarbec Wines – Glen Ellen, CA
The Jenkins family has been a grape farming family since the 1890s. In 2005, they started producing award-winning wines under their own label: Clarbec. The vineyard is located on Sonoma County’s historic and beautiful Glen Oaks Ranch, also home to an insectary which helps keep the vines from being invaded by harmful pests. This devotion to sustainable vineyard management can be tasted in the wines, which range from a crisp Pinot Gris to several dark, rich Cabernet Sauvignons. Visit Clarbec for the views and the wonderful wines.
Dutcher Crossing Winery – Healdsburg, CA
If you’re looking for a varied portfolio of distinctive small-lot, select vineyard wines; be sure to visit Dutcher Crossing Winery in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Proprietor Debra Mathy works with Winemaker Kerry Damskey to craft wines that truly express the characteristics of the vineyard where they were born. There’s a sensational Chardonnay from the rare Dijon Clone 809 and a spicy Zinfandel to discover, plus many more. There’s a great picnic are out back with a beautiful view: an ideal spot to savor the wines.
Tara Bella Winery – Santa Rosa, CA
Wendy and Kevin Morrow first discovered Tara Bella Winery as tasting room guests. Having worked in the wine industry for nearly three decades, they recognized a good thing when they found it. When the opportunity to buy the winery presented itself, they couldn’t believe their good fortune. Tara Bella produces only 100 percent estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Each exquisite bottle is numbered and hand waxed by Dillon Morrow, Wendy and Kevin’s son, a viticulture student with experience in the cellar. Make an appointment to visit and taste these exceptional wines.
Trione Vineyards & Winery – Geyserville, CA
After farming and managing some of the region’s best vineyards for more than three decades, the Trione family decided to make wine and started Trione Vineyards & Winery. A state-of-the-art winemaking facility and tasting room was built right alongside Sonoma County’s historic Old Stone Building, which dates back to 1908. The building is a local icon, and it’s now the site for the winery’s special events. The delicious wines run the gambit from a tropical Sauvignon Blanc, to an herbal Pinot Noir, to a stunning Cabernet Sauvignon–all fantastic.
White Oak Vineyards & Winery – Healdsburg, CA
Located in the heart of Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, White Oak Vineyards & Winery has been producing stunning wines for more than 30 years. They are crafted to suit a range of tastes from graceful and elegant Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, to rich and complex Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Your visit to White Oak can last for hours, when you bring a picnic or pre-arrange a private tour. The winery’s parties are legendary: including the annual Crab Fête and Harvest Dinner, coming up soon.
Trinchero Napa Valley – St. Helena, CA
For a great perspective on the impact a vineyard site has on the characteristics of a wine, Trinchero Napa Valley is a must-visit. The winery draws its grapes from seven distinctive vineyard sites in five designated Napa Valley appellations. Trinchero crafts incredible small lot, single vineyard wines, many of which can be sampled and compared side-by-side daily in its tasting room just north of St. Helena. Enlightening seminars are offered daily too, including a seated tasting, complete with carefully paired cheeses (reservation required).
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
Some wines pair well with certain foods and some wines pair well with the seasons. To me, Sauvignon Blanc goes well with summer. This year we explored several very good options to share with you. These beauties will provide you with some refreshing satisfaction as you enjoy what is left of the summer. We had one 92-pointer this spring and we will kick off our post with that impressive wine.
The 2011 Joseph Phelps “Estate Grown” Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena was this year’s overall winner. For $32 it is a very good deal considering its superior quality. It opens with a fragrant ripe Bartlett pear-like bouquet with a hint of honey. On the palate, this wine is full-bodied, slightly acidic, and viscous. The flavor profile is a tasty Bosc pear with very nicely integrated minerality. I also detected a little green apple, white pepper and vanilla. The finish fades away nicely. This wine is rather food-friendly. I would pair it with grilled halibut stuffed with Imperial crab meat.
We had six 91-pointers. The first three are priced in the $20 to $25 range. That is good news! The next three exceed $30. We start with one of the best values this year. The 2012 Matetic “EQ Coastal” Sauvignon Blanc for $20 is a steal. It hails from Casablanca, Chile and is Organic to boot! It displays a very tropical bouquet featuring papaya, mango, and a touch of lime. On the palate, it is light-bodied, slightly crisp, fresh and pleasantly acidic. I really enjoyed its tasty mild mineral-infused gentle grapefruit flavors with hints of lime. It is a perfect summer option and would nicely compliment grilled swordfish skewers.
This year we covered the Sbragia Family wines for the first time. We found the 2012 “Dry Creek Valley” Sauvignon Blanc for $22 to be really impressive. It tied for first place in our first big blind tasting. It is medium-bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. We found the flavor profile to be a pleasant gooseberry with hints of minerality, melon, and white pepper. It finishes dry and refreshing. The panel suggested pairing this very nice offering with grilled swordfish or lobster risotto.
Next up is the 2010 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley. It is light-bodied, balanced, and crisp. I enjoyed its tasty mild yellow grapefruit flavors with nicely integrated gentle minerality. I also detected hints of green apple. Its flavors lasted for an unusually long time for a Sauvignon Blanc. That said, I would pair this flavorful Sauvignon Blanc with pan seared scallops.
Always in the top tier of our results is the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc. Her 2011 from the “Russian River Valley” is $32 and as always, is very good, This year’s version is light-bodied, very refined, elegant, and easy to drink. I really enjoyed its very tasty gentle green melon flavors with hints of grapefruit, lemon and vanilla oak. The finish is dry and drifts away nicely. The panel suggested we pair this very nice wine with Coquilles St. Jacques or halibut with capers and a lemon drizzle.
The next 91 pointer is a new one for me. The 2011 Robert Mondavi “Fume Blanc from Oakville” is medium-bodied, slightly acidic, juicy, and very flavorful. The flavor profile was a tasty mild grapefruit with nicely integrated minerality and pleasant green apple. It closes dry and its flavors linger well after the wine is gone. This Fume is made from 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon. It will pair well with grilled swordfish skewers and roasted veggies.
Our last 91-pointer is the 2011 Grgich Hills “Essence” Sauvignon Blanc for $48. This wine is slightly acidic, crisp and juicy. I really enjoyed its very tasty, mild grapefruit flavors with notes of nicely minerality and a touch of lime. It’s another great offering to consider with grilled swordfish with a lemon butter drizzle.
Our 90 pointers start off with two gems that are great deals. The first is the 2012 Buitenverwachting “Bayten” Sauvignon Blanc for $15. This offering is almost clear colored and was one of our top choices from our recent blind tasting. It is light-bodied, crisp and mouthwatering. The panel loved its mineral-infused green apple flavors with hints of white pepper. They suggested pairing this great value wine with grilled swordfish skewers or pan seared tuna.
A similiarily good deal is the 2012 Cono Sur “Reserva Especial” Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca, Chile. Like the Bayten, it is a steal at $15. It is medium-bodied, crisp and mouthwatering. The panel found its flavor profile to be a mild grapefruit with notes of white pepper and lime. We also detected a hint of green apple. For this wine, they recommended to go with bacon wrapped scallops or a lobster salad roll.
This year, I covered the 2011 St. Clement Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley for the first time in a long time. This offering was medium-to-full-bodied, slightly viscous and mouthwatering. I found its flavors to be a tasty lime with notes of nicely integrated minerality and Anjou pear. There was also a touch of mild grapefruit in the background. This Sauvignon Blanc is food-friendly and would pair well with Coquilles St. Jacques.
The Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc is no stranger to the top of the results. This year the 2011 from Napa Valley kept that tradition going. It is medium-bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays mild and slightly tart grapefruit flavors with notes of white pepper and minerality. I also detected a touch of tangerine and lime. It shows off a dry and very refreshing finish, making it perfect for oysters on the half shell or sushi.
Our last 90-pointer is the 2011 Maisonry Sauvignon Blanc from the “Hudson Vineyard” in Napa. It is light-to-medium-bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. I really enjoyed its tasty yellow grapefruit flavors with notes of mild lime, gentle minerality, and subtle clementine. Those flavors do linger nicely after the wine is gone. My suggestion would be to serve this very nice Sauvignon Blanc with broiled scallops drizzled in a lemon butter sauce. Yum!
Here is a quick hit description of our Very Good 89 point recommendations.
Chateau St. Jean 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Sonoma County, CA) $13 (89)
Light bodied, acidic, and mouthwatering. Displays mineral-infused lime flavors with hints of green pepper and green apple. The panel suggested pairing with grilled mahi mahi or shrimp scampi.
Ferrari Carano 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Sonoma County, CA) $15 (89)
Opens with a fragrant gooseberry bouquet with hints of grapefruit and lime. It is light-bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and mouthwatering. Flavors are a tart ruby grapefruit and lime blend with a hint of lychee and guava in the background.
Merriam Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Danielle” (Russian River Valley, CA) $18 (89)
This almost clear-colored and light-bodied, crisp and lively. Tart yellow grapefruit flavors with hints of apricot, minerality and lime. It would pair well with linguine and clam sauce or homemade mac n’ cheese with smoked ham.
Oberon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $18 (89)
Light-to-medium-bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. Mild green apple flavors with hints Anjou pear and minerality with a kiss of lemon. A perfect companion for grilled swordfish kabobs with vegetables.
Greywacke 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $20 (89)
Opens with a flint and gooseberry-like bouquet with notes of green pepper. It is light-bodied and acidic. The flavor profile is a mineral-infused mild grapefruit with hints of green pepper and tangerine. Pair with bacon wrapped scallops or cherrystones.
Peju 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $22 (89)
This wine is light-bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. Its flavor profile is green apple with notes of nicely integrated minerality and a touch of lemon. Very food-friendly and would pair well with shrimp scampi.
Our Very Good 88 point recommendations:
Kendall Jackson 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Vintners Reserve” (CA) $13 (88)
Sivas Sonoma 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County, CA) $14 (88)
Matetic 2010 Sauvignon Blanc “Corralillo” (San Antonio, Chile) $16 (88) (Organic)
Matanzas Creek 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Sonoma County” (CA) $20 (88)
Saint Clair 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $20 (88)
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Finger Lakes, NY) $20 (88)
Cross Springs 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Lake Country” (CA) $20 (88)
Clark-Claudon 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Wild Iris” (Napa Valley, CA) $28 (88)
Our 87 and 86 point recommendations:
Ken Forrester 2011 Sauvignon Blanc “Stellenbosch” (South Africa) $15 (87)
Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $16 (87)
Saint Clair 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Vicar’s Choice” (Marlborough, New Zealand) $18 (87)
Indaba 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (Western Cape, South Africa) $12 (86)
I hope you enjoy these fun summertime wines as much as we did. If you have any favorite Sauvignon Blanc discoveries that you came across this summer, please feel free to share them with the group. We would love to hear from you. Cheers – Ken!
It’s summertime and while it’s fun to just sit back and soak up the sunshine and warm weather, the Premier Guide to Wine Country, Touring & Tasting, has another exciting suggestion: spend some summer days discovering the joys of wine country and its bounty of flavorful wines!
Uncork your summer in one of these 10 Great Summertime Destinations (all featured in the Summer/Fall issue of Touring & Tasting magazine)! See what strikes your interest and start planning a summer adventure!
Timber Cove Inn, Sonoma County, CA
If you’re seeking a special hideaway by the sea, Timber Cove Inn offers an extraordinary Sonoma County hotel experience with rooms overlooking dramatic Sonoma Coast. The breathtaking views and charming, rustic rooms with flat screens, fireplaces, and balconies are impressive, along with the fact that more than one dozen commercial wineries are located nearby. Slip out to sample exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and before returning for another enchanting evening in an unspoiled hideaway overlooking the sea. It is a perfect place to relax and enjoy!
Six Sigma Ranch, Lake County, CA
Located just north of the Napa Valley in beautiful Lake County, Six Sigma Ranch’s tasting room offers stunning wines in a singular setting: at the end of a long, private country road. The wines of Six Sigma Ranch represent the marriage of art and science. This philosophy is applied to make each bottle as good as the next. Besides wine tasting, you can take a tour in the all-terrain vehicle, hike, bird watch, or have a picnic under the oaks. Just be sure to enjoy a glass of 2010 Diamond Mine Cuvée.
Winderlea Vineyard & Winery, OR
If you’re looking for an eco-conscious winery that focuses on splendid Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Winderlea is a great place to visit. Set in the spectacular Dundee Hills region, about one-half hour southwest of Portland, Oregon, the winery drafts elegant, sensuous, and age-worthy wines. Handcrafted with minimal intervention and a minimal use of new French oak barrels, the food- friendly wines are classic in style. Winderlea’s dedication to stewardship is reflected in its business practices, tasting room, vineyard, and the wines it produces, including its crisp 2011 Chardonnay.
Intimate winery tours, an impressive array of Rieslings and Pinot Noirs, and a riveting 1,500-square-foot art gallery are just a few of the reasons to visit Trisaetum in Newberg, Oregon. You will be delighted by the wines along with the amazing artwork– abstract expressionist paintings and photography of Trisaetum’s talented co-founder, James Frey. The winery’s portfolio presents wines with great complexity, but an excellent balance. The views from the tasting room of this blossoming winery are great too. Don’t miss the 2011 Trisaetum Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
Kestrel Vintners, WA
With three tasting rooms across the state of Washington, Kestrel Vintners is driven by the philosophy that wine should enhance food, and vice versa. Headed by Winemaker Flint Nelson, it features a four-tiered wine program with many wines that score 90 points or more. The winery is also rolling out a compelling culinary program with its own in-house chef. Visit one or more of the three tasting rooms, located in Prosser, Leavenworth, and Woodinville. Each is a great destination offering all tiers of Kestrel wines along with inspiring food pairings. Start with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy a great food and wine experience!
Brian Carter Cellars, WA
Twice named Winemaker of the Year by Washington Magazine, Brian Carter produces exemplary wines. He is a master blender, making his wines in very small lots, and he knows his vineyards. In fact he sources more than 22 varietals from more than a dozen vineyards across Washington State! The tasting room was one of the first opened in Woodinville, Washington (just 20 minutes outside of Seattle). Don’t let the unassuming façade fool you: this is consistently listed as one of the top wineries in Washington State. Ask to sample the 2008 Tuttorosso, and more!
Wilson Creek Winery, CA
Equidistant to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County, Temecula Valley is home to Wilson Creek Winery, an expansive, welcoming, family estate. Besides offering a warm and convivial tasting room, Wilson Creek is home to the fabulous Creekside Grille, overseen by Executive Chef Steve Stawinski. If you visit on Sunday, be sure to arrive hungry for the Sunday Bubble Brunch Buffet served alfresco with views of the vineyards and Mount Palomar in the distance. With enchanting indoor and outdoor venues, Wilson Creek is very family-oriented. In the tasting room, don’t miss the winery’s legendary Almond Champagne!
Lorimar Vineyards and Winery, CA
Also in Temecula Valley, Lorimar Vineyards and Winery creates a fusion of wine, art and music. The winery has two tasting rooms: one in Old Town Temecula and one in Temecula Valley. Both locations are sure to delight your senses with handcrafted wine, a working art gallery, live music, and breathtaking views. Lorimar prides itself on having an event-filled calendar with plenty of fun things to do like dinner parties, movie nights and even a golf cart ride through the vineyard! Dance along with a taste of the 2011 Vivace!
Anaba Wines, CA
Anaba Wines enjoys a unique location in the western part of the Carneros appellation at the foot of Sonoma County. Here, cool Pacific breezes flow up its gently sloping vineyards—slowing down the ripening process and allowing its grapes to develop robust flavors and distinctive varietal characteristics. The winery was the first in Northern California to harness wind energy with a 45-foot Skystream 3.7 wind turbine. If you long for great wines and tremendous scenery, head for Anaba. The winery hosts many educational seminars, and private tastings and tours can be arranged. Enjoy a glass of 2010 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast while you drink in the view!
Ferrari Carano Vineyards and Winery, CA
The Ferrari-Carano portfolio is a true testament to the region, expressing the aromas and flavors of its own Dry Creek Valley vineyard as well as other valleys of Sonoma County and beyond. The winery’s Italianate hospitality center is spectacular! As a guest, you are welcome to stroll through five acres of beautifully landscaped gardens (famous in their own right); take a free tour through the tank room, barrel cellars, crush pad, and nearby vineyards; and arrange a private Ferrari-Carano tasting. If you fancy reserve wines, descend the curving stone staircase to the cellar to sample the Limited Release and Reserve wines in the Enoteca. Enjoy the 2012 Fumé Blanc as you completely unwind at this captivating winery.
It’s pretty hot here in New England in July. I bet it is hot where you are as well. Given the heat, it is sometimes tough to enjoy a big red wine. Unless of course you have a tasty rack of barbecue ribs. But at lunchtime, you are likely looking for something a little lighter, a little crisper, and refreshing. The perfect solution for you is a slightly chilled dry Rose. This spring and early this summer, I covered some dry Rose’s and here is a list of the very good ones.
We start in France with this Tavel from Lafond. Their 2011 “L’Esprit de Roc Epine” was my favorite so far this year. I scored it 91 points and it costs $24. It is made from a hodgepodge of grapes starting with 60% Grenache. Then they mixed in 10% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, 5% Carignan, and 15% Clairette, Picoul, Bourboulenc, and Mourvedre. It was medium bodied, nicely balanced, and smooth. I loved its very tasty gentle strawberry and red cherry blended flavors with a hint of white pepper and red raspberry. In the end, it drifts away nicely. I would suggesting pairing this impressive Rose with grilled salmon.
Staying in France, we shift to the Ventoux region. There we find the 2012 Chateau Pesquie “Terrasses” Rose for $14. This wine is the first of our six 90 point suggestions. This gem is made from 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, and 10% Syrah. It is medium bodied, a touch acidic and pleasantly crisp. The flavor profile is a very tasty mild mineral infused tangerine and strawberry blend with a hint of cherry in the background. The finish is dry and very refreshing. This is that perfect hot summer day wine. It would pair well with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.
We are changing up the style a little with our next offering. We move to California where we find a tasty fruit forward offering from St. Supery. Their 2012 “Rose Wine” is made from traditional Bordeaux grapes. It is medium bodied, nicely balanced and displays very fruity flavors. Those flavors are a blend of red apple, orange and strawberry. I also detected a hint of maraschino cherry. I would pair this flavorful wine with stuffed chicken marsala with figs.
The next offering is very limited and likely only to be found at the winery. The 2012 Merriam Vineyards “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $18 impressed all of us who tried it. It is light pink colored and opens with an inviting spicy red raspberry and strawberry bouquet. On the palate, this wine is light bodied, crisp and lively. We loved its blended strawberry and watermelon flavors with hints of pink grapefruit. It would be perfect with a grilled salmon steak.
Our next offering is a summer delight from Stemmler. Their 2012 “Vin Gris” Rose made from Pinot Noir. It is light to medium bodied, balanced and very easy to drink. I really enjoyed its tasty mild apple with gentle minerality flavors and a touch of watermelon. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely. This Rose would pair well with many foods. I would pair this wine with grilled red snapper with a tropical fruit salsa.
Another 90 pointer is the 2011 V. Sattui “Dry Rosato” from California’s North Coast. This wine is made with 36% Grenache, 34% Syrah, and 30% Carignane. It opens with a fragrant maraschino cherry and Shirley Temple like bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, nicely balanced and very easy to drink with no hard edges. I am certain you will enjoy its gentle ripe black cherry flavors with a hint of tangerine and just a touch of minerality and strawberry. It pleasantly fades away on the finish. This one is certain to be a crowd pleaser this summer as it will pair very well with many foods. Grilled beef satay came to mind.
Our last 90 pointer is the 2011 Castello di Amorosa “Gioia” Rose. This wine is made with Sangiovese. It is dark pink colored and opens with a strawberry bouquet with hints of wild roses and cherry. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced and very approachable. I liked its tasty gentle strawberry and mild red raspberry flavors with hints of clementine and just a kiss of minerality. This Rose is very food friendly and would be perfect with beef or chicken satay off the grill.
Other Very Good Dry Rose’s
Xavier Flouret 2012 Rose “Nationale 7″ (Cotes de Provence, France) $17 (89)
Medium bodied, balanced, mouthwatering and very easy to drink. Tasty mild strawberry flavors with nicely integrated gentle minerality with a hint of dried cherry. Enjoy it poolside with bacon wrapped scallops.
Lafond 2011 Rose “Tavel Roc-Epine” (Tavel, France) $17 (89)
Light to medium bodied, balanced, and savory. The flavor profile is a mineral infused strawberry and gentle red raspberry blend with a hint of white pepper. Nicely refreshing. Pair with grilled salmon this summer.
Blackbird 2012 Rose “Arriviste” (Napa Valley, CA) $25 (89)
Medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. Mineral infused tangerine flavors with hints of strawberry and a touch of white pepper and spice. Pleasant summer wine. Pair with chicken teriyaki skewers.
Macari 2011 Rose (North Fork, LI) $15 (88)
Salmon pink colored from Long Island is light bodied, a tad crisp, and very easy going. The flavor profile is a pleasant mild apple with a hint of strawberry and light minerality. Very good value and nice beach wine.
Navarro 2012 “Rose of Pinot Noir” (Anderson Valley, CA ) $19 (88)
Medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. The flavor profile is a mild mineral infused orange with hint of strawberry, lime, and white pepper. This wine would pair very nicely with shrimp scampi.
Herdade do Esporao 2011 Rose “Defesa” (Alentejo, Portugal) $13 (87)
Medium bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. Displays a blend of mild mineral infused Bosc pear and green apple flavors, with a hint of red raspberry and touch of oak. Pair with weisswurst off the grill.
Castello Banfi 2010 “Centine Rose” (Toscana, Italy) $11 (86)
This salmon pink colored Rose is a good value. It is medium bodied, balanced and very easy to drink. The flavor profile is a pleasant mineral infused strawberry with hints of gentle tangerine. Food friendly!
I hope you enjoy these Dry Rose options as much as I did. Please leave comments with your comments. This list just scratches the surface and I am sure the readers would like to hear from you as well. Cheers! Ken
Across the United States—and around the world—there are scores of wine regions to discover with new places to tour, taste, and stay. In fact, there are so many exciting wine country destinations to visit; you may have trouble deciding where to begin! As the Premier Guide to Wine Country, Touring & Tasting has some great ideas to help get you on your way.
Check out these 10 Unique Wine Destination Discoveries (all featured in the Summer/Fall issue of Touring & Tasting magazine), find your favorite, and start planning your next wine touring trip or getaway, courtesy of Touring & Tasting!
Seven Wine Regions
Dundee Hills, Oregon
Less than 30 miles southwest of Portland, the Dundee Hills wine region is becoming a popular Oregon wine country destination. Known as an exceptional place to grow new world Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills offers non-stop stunning scenery and wineries owned and operated by interesting people dedicated to producing world-class wines. The restaurants have inspired chefs whose innovative dishes capitalize on local ingredients. Great wines, delicious food, quaint inns, frequent art and music festivals…there is always more to discover in the Dundee Hills.
Located about mid-way between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California, Southern Oregon is an amazing vacation destination and a gem of a wine region. This rustic wine country destination embraces the beautiful hamlets of Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, and Ashland and is home to natural wonders, historic sites, gourmet dining, and a diverse selection of wines. The range of microclimates allows Southern Oregon winemakers to craft an endless variety of wines. Southern Oregon is also an outdoor wonderland, with Crater Lake National Park, the Redwood forests, and the Rogue, Umpqua, and Klamath Rivers to explore. There’s potential for adventure at every turn in the great outdoors and tasting rooms of Southern Oregon.
Contra Costa County, California
An hour east of downtown San Francisco, Contra Costa County is a sleeping giant wine country destination. Covering 800 square miles, the county has been producing wines for more than 120 years. As more people settled in this area, the county’s number of vineyard acres and wineries decreased, but it never stopped producing exceptional wine grapes. Now, this sleeping giant of a wine region is awake once more, with 18 regional wineries, creating excellent Bay Area wines. Contra Costa County is so close to San Francisco, you can easily slip away to unrushed suburban towns like Brentwood, San Carlos, and Oakley to taste and buy wine and be back in time for dinner.
Yolo County, California
Tucked between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, Yolo County is easy to love. Located less than half an hour from the steps of the capital of California, Sacramento, Yolo County is the primary resource for America’s “Farm to Fork” capital. With a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, ranch-raised meats, and regional wines, Yolo County is committed to cultivating the environment and education. Embracing two wine regions, Yolo County is home to UC-Davis, a leader in agricultural advancement. This wine country destination offers lots of farms and farm communities eager to share their knowledge. Besides personable wine tasting rooms, Yolo County has many working farms that offer tours to give you a close-up view and teach you more about the food you eat. Satisfy your appetite for knowledge, great wines, and fabulous food with a trip to the wine regions of Yolo County.
Temecula Valley, California
Located about an hour from Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County, Temecula Valley wine country is set right in the heart of Southern California. With more than two dozen wineries in the Temecula Valley wine region, Temecula Valley is a notable California wine region. Nearby hotels, casinos, and state parks provide fun entertainment options for wine tourists. There’s also plenty of food: from thoughtfully paired tastings to full gourmet restaurants. In fact, many Temecula Valley wineries have fabulous onsite restaurants. This Southern California wine country destination also boasts a warm climate. So if ideal like to soak up some sun while you taste elegant, balanced wines, visit the Temecula Valley wine region.
Loudon County, Virginia
Known as Washington DC’s wine country, for its close proximity (25 miles), Virginia’s Loudoun County provides wine tourists with a breath of fresh, wine country air. The rolling hills of Loudoun County have narrow country roads that wind along stacked stone fences, rolling pastures, and exquisite barns and stables. Historic homes, parks, and gardens dot the landscape—and of course, there are beautiful vineyards. Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by the owner in Loudoun County wine tasting rooms. It’s hard to believe this beautiful wine country destination is just 25 miles from Washington DC. With spectacular scenery, historical sites, and wonderful flavors the Loudoun County wine region has so much to take in.
Traverse City, Michigan
Surrounded by miles and miles of unspoiled shoreline, rolling dunes, wooded glens, and 50-plus sparkling inland lakes, Traverse City, Michigan has evolved into a hip wine region. This emerging wine country destination has two long peninsulas at the north end of Traverse City that are home to more than 30 wineries, boasting clear, fresh tasting, cool climate whites like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Grigio. Traverse City area winemakers also produce some remarkable red wines. Traverse City’s Cherry Capital airport offers year-round daily direct service to Chicago and Detroit, making it easy for you to get to this charming wine country destination.
Two Wine Trails
The Heritage Wine Trail; Napa Valley, California
For a perfect day in Napa Valley wine country, The Heritage Wine Trail is the perfect answer. It takes away all the guesswork, with pre-arranged stops at four iconic wineries and a picnic lunch. Each winery treats guests like a VIP and offers an utterly unique experience while they sample many fabulous wines. Stops include Acacia Vineyard, Oakville Grocery, Beaulieu Vineyard, Provenance Vineyards, and Sterling Vineyards, The Heritage Wine Trail pace of the day is up to you, so you’re sure to enjoy a relaxing day of wine country touring. What’s more, it’s just $99 for the entire day! Our editor took the tour and gives it her hearty stamp of approval. So visit the Napa Valley wine region and taste along The Heritage Wine Trail.
Wine Coast Country Discovery Route, San Luis Obispo County, California
This unrivaled 103-mile wine country route connects ten picturesque coastal destinations for the ultimate road trip through California’s stunning San Luis Obispo County wine region. Travel the world and you won’t find any place quite like this. The dramatic windswept cliffs, pristine coves, white sandy beaches, quaint towns, and rolling vineyards of San Luis Obispo County will give you reason after reason to explore. There are great wineries plus ten destinations to visit in one vacation! Visit: Ragged Point, San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Avila Beach, Oceano, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, and Edna Valley. Take a two hour drive or take two weeks: just don’t miss this remarkable opportunity.
One Wine Destination
Fairplex, Pomona, California
Home to the L.A. County Fair in Southern California, Fairplex has evolved into a premier wine, food, and entertainment venue. The campus includes an 85,000-square-foot conference center; exhibition halls, two restaurants; a museum; historic trains, a racetrack, an organic farm; an RV Park, and the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center. More than 500 events take place at Fairplex each year, including the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, olive oil and beer competitions, and the L.A Wine, Spirits, Beer & Food Festival. With an organic farm on the premises, Fairplex is able to deliver farm fresh ingredients and host a series of Table-to-Farm Dinners. For wine and food lovers living in Southern California, or for visitors to the area, there is no better place for great, educational entertainment than Fairplex.
Summer is slowly creeping up and with the extra heat outside, there is nothing more refreshing than a glass of crisp, white wine. Many of you will be touring & tasting wine country this summer and the vast array of wineries and wines are enough to send any wine traveller into a heat spell. Relaxing in the shade with a cool and refreshing glass of wine is the best way to enjoy your summer wine country travel.
Here is a small list of Touring & Tasting’s favorite and “coolest” summer wineries. With charming tasting rooms, invigorating white wines and a wide variety of outdoor activities, there is no better place to tour & taste this summer, than these 9 wineries:
Guests to Beringer Vineyards in the Napa Valley are treated to a true, historical treat. As the oldest continuously running winery in the valley, Beringer Vineyards has been entertaining guests for years with informative and fun winery tours, as well as exclusive wine tastings. The 2010 Private Reserve Chardonnay is an excellent choice for any summer visitor looking to cool off from the heat outdoors. Throughout the summer, Beringer will be hosting “Music on the Promenade” from 12-5 on the weekends. This is the perfect event for any visitor to the vineyards! Live music, great wine and delicious food make Beringer Vineyards the perfect Napa Valley summer destination!
Located in the far northwest corner of the Carneros Appellation, Etude Wines has been impressing Napa Valley visitors with fantastic wines and fun tasting experiences! Every Friday through Sunday, Etude hosts a wine and food pairing that matches 5 flights of Etude wines with small bites or gourmet cheeses. On a warm summer day in the Napa Valley, the 2010 Pinot Blanc is an excellent choice for any visitor who wants to cool off and relax in the cool of the Etude tasting room. Escape to Etude Wines and enjoy the best of the Napa Valley in the relaxed, charming and elegant Etude tasting room. There is no better place for some good old-fashioned wine country relaxation!
What better place to escape from the summer heat than underground? Frtiz Winery in Cloverdale, CA was built into the side of a hill, offering guests the most unique winery experience in the Sonoma Valley. The elegantly designed tasting room is a great spot to sit down, relax and drink a glass of wine. The 2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a great summer time white wine. While the tasting experience is a large part of the Fritz Winery charm, the underground winery tour is something that no wine traveller in the Sonoma Valley should miss. The tour educates guests on the Fritz winemaking process and visitors are even treated to a taste of wine straight from the barrel!
The charming Hovey Winery tasting room is a sight to see. With small bistro tables, wicker patio furniture in the garden and great Sierra Foothills’ wines, there is something for every visitor to enjoy. The award winning 2009 Tempranillo is the perfect wine to taste in the cool of the tasting room, while the 2012 Chardonnay Duende is a wine that must be savored in the warmth of the garden. The tasting room, which is right off the main street in downtown Murphys, CA, is small and charming and invites guests to sit down, enjoy the award winning wines of Hovey Winery and relax. For wine travelers looking to experience the best of the California Sierra Foothills, Hovey Winery is the place to be!
The Edna Valley has long been praised as a distinct wine region in the California Central Coast. Kynsi Winery, located in the heart of the Edna Valley, creates refreshing, cool and fun California wines that are perfect for any warm summer day, or evening. Known as a great Chardonnay growing region, Kynsi invites guests of the newly remodeled tasting room to taste their fantastic 2010 Chardonnay. Spectacular views of the Edna Valley surround the winery and provide the perfect ambience for an outdoor tasting. Only a few minutes away from San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, Kynsi Winery provides the perfect escape for wine travellers looking to soak up the ambience of the Central Coast wine region.
Terra de Oro
Channeling a bit of Italy in Californa’s Sierra Foothills, Terra d’Oro is a fantastic wine country escape. The heat and sunshine of the Sierra Foothills wine region is the perfect atmosphere for Terra d’Oro’s Italian varietals. In fact, Terra d’Oro was the first winery in the region to plant Zinfandel and Italian grape varietals. While the winery’s specialty is Zinfandel, the white wines, specifically the 2011 Pinot Grigio, are great summertime wines. On the 4th of July, Terra d’Oro will be hosting a “Cru-Zin in the Vineyard” Car Show and BBQ, which is sure to be a fun summer event for all visitors to the winery.
There is no better place to experience the intimate elegance of the Napa Valley than at Stags’ Leap Winery. Right off the scenic Silverado Trail, Stags’ Leap is known throughout the valley for premiere Napa wines and fantastic touring and tasting experiences. The Historical Tasting Tour is a 90-minute affair that pairs the stunning views of the Stags’ Leap Palisades with the exquisite Stags’ Leap wines. Summer visitors to the winery should take the time to enjoy a glass of the 2011 Stags’ Leap Viognier, all while soaking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful Napa Valley!
Brainchild of Steven Kent Mirassou, of Steven Kent Winery, Lineage represents Kent’s deep appreciation for Bordeaux varietals. With every release, Lineage continues to impress critics and wine lovers with the deep, powerful and delicious flavors of the Lineage line. Visitors to the Steven Kent Winery in Livermore, CA can experience these wines firsthand and savor a Tri-Valley exclusive. For the wine connoisseur visiting the Tri-Valley region, this is a must see, must taste summer winery experience!
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Winery tours, a vast array of tasting options and a gorgeous outdoor picnic area, are just a few of the amenities of Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA. Guests to the tasting room will always get a nice surprise when they receive two free pours of Rodney Strong’s “Sonoma County Wine” collection. But, the best way to enjoy the Rodney Strong experience is to take a glass of 2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, throw a blanket out on the winery lawn and enjoy the perfect views of the renowned Sonoma County wine region.
I cover Zin’s in the winter, so I can determine which Zin’s I want to drink with the barbecue goodies, I pull off the grill this summer. With that said, I found quite a few yummy Zins which I want to share with you.
Our Top Zin comes from a small producer named Acorn. Their 2010 “Heritage Vines” Zinfandel for $45 finished in first place in our big blind tasting. We loved its inviting cherry-cola bouquet with a hint of blueberry. On the palate, this Zin is medium bodied, well balanced, and quite savory. The panel really liked its very tasty boysenberry flavors with notes of blueberry. We awarded this wine with 93 points and suggested pairing it with stuffed peppers or filet mignon. Only 281 cases were made and the winery is sold out. You might find some online, but you will have to hurry to get some.
If you can’t find the Acorn, this one should be a lot easier to find. The Dashe 2010 “Dry Creek Valley” Zinfandel for $24 received 92 points and there were 2,074 cases made. This offering which is made from 83% Zinfandel with 16% Petite Sirah and a splash of Carignane mixed in was the best deal to come out of our big blind tasting. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and savory with blueberry and black raspberry flavors. The panel also picked up some nicely integrated cinnamon, cherry, and old oak as well. We thought this was a very nice drinking wine.
Another very good option is the 91 point 2009 Dry Creek Vineyard “Old Vine” Zinfandel for $30. This Zin finished in third place in our big blind tasting. It opens with a fragrant blackberry bouquet with a hint of anise, oak, and clove. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, well balanced, smooth, and savory. The flavor profile is a mild blackberry with hints of minerality, old oak, black pepper, and boysenberry. The panel felt that this food friendly Zin would pair nicely with beef bourguignon or a fresh mozzarella salad with Balsamic dressing. Hurry on this one as well, the 2010 has been released.
That said, this soon to be released Zinfandel from Hunnicutt is one well worth getting in line for. Their 2011 “Napa Valley” Zinfandel is an impressive offering. I loved its very tasty ripe blueberry flavors with notes of boysenberry jam and a touch of plum, pepper and mild oak towards the end. This is a really nice drinking Zin and it would pair well with filet mignon. There are only 400 cases for this gem and it comes in at $42, so grab a bottle or two for the Zin lover in your life. They will be impressed.
Our final two 91 pointers come from Ravenswood. Their 2009 “Big River” Zinfandel for $35 is from the Alexander Valley. It is always one of my favorite offerings. It is medium bodied and juicy. I really enjoyed its tasty blueberry flavors with notes of blackberry and faint minerals. I also detected hints of cranberry and oak in the background. It finishes with dry and dusty moderate tannins that are pleasantly prolonged. I would pair this really nice Zin with veal medallions sautéed in a brown mushroom sauce.
At $60, the 2009 Ravenswood “Old Hill” Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley is a bit more pricy. It is medium bodied, nicely balanced, juicy and savory. The flavor profile is a very tasty mild oak influenced plum with hints of minerality, gentle blackberry and subtle black licorice. I found its finish to be dry with moderate tannins that are very dusty and stick around for quite some time. This Zin is not your typical fruit bomb. Instead it is very food friendly and would pair very nicely with a cowboy cut ribeye.
At 90 points we have eight Zins that made the grade. We start off with the 2009 Peju “Napa Valley” for $30. This offering is medium bodied, juicy and fruit forward. The panel enjoyed its extracted red plum flavors with notes of red currant and black pepper. The suggested pairing it with beef briole or short ribs.
Next we introduce the 2010 Cakebread Cellars Zinfandel for $30. This is the second vintage in a row, that this wine has scored 90 points. It is really versatile, because it is nicely balanced and savory. Its mild oak infused ripe blackberry flavors with notes of black plum make it food friendly. Pair it with braised short rib ravioli.
Dashe returns to the leaderboard with its 2009 “Louvau Vineyard Old Vines” Zin. This Dry Creek Valley Zin is offered for $32. I found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and easy going. It displays mild black cherry and old oak flavors with hints of cola and black pepper. On day two, a little blueberry showed up and this wine fully came together. This Zin is food friendly and will improve with just a little decanting.
The next two Zins both come from Ravenswood. Their 2009 “Teldeschi” Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley for $35 opens with an inviting mild blueberry bouquet with hints of nutmeg and black olive. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, nicely balanced, and very elegant for a Zin. The panel enjoyed its gentle black raspberry flavors with hints of oak, plum, black pepper and blackberry. They suggested pairing this friendly Zin with prime rib or short ribs. Also from Ravenswood is their 2009 “Barricia” Zinfandel from the Sonoma Valley. Also priced $35, this offering adds 20% of Petite Sirah to the mix. That addition helps make this offering balanced, smooth and slightly fruit forward. Its flavor profile is a mild oak influenced gentle black raspberry jam with hints of plum and black pepper. Despite the Petite Sirah, this wine is pretty tame and friendly for a Zin. I would pair it with a rack of sweet barbecue sauce slathered ribs.
Grgich Hills has been making some impressive wines lately and the 2009 “Estate Grown” Zinfandel from Napa is no exception. Their Zin is mellow and approachable. The panel really admired its tasty and gentle blackberry flavors with hints of plum and black raspberry. It finishes dry and it would pair well with slow cooked beef brisket or cioppino.
Next up is the 2008 Elyse “Morisoli Vineyard” Zinfandel from Rutherford for $37. This offering is so unique because it contains several mixed blacks in the cepage. Some of these grapes are rarely ever used. That said, it is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. The panel described its flavor profile as a gentle blackberry with nicely integrated old oak with hints of plum and a dash of black pepper. The panel suggested that this very food friendly Zin would be perfect with homemade meatloaf.
Our last 90 pointer is the 2010 Peachy Canyon “Especial” Zinfandel for $40. This wine always does well with the panel. It is medium bodied and balanced with attractive ripe black cherry flavors with notes of black raspberry. They also detected a hint of cinnamon as well. This classic Zin, like many of them would pair well with baby back ribs smothered with sweet barbecue sauce.
Other Recommended Very Good Zinfandels
Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Zinfandel “Old Vine” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $30 (89)
This Zin is not quite as good as the 2009 described above, but it is still a nice wine. It is balanced and easy to drink. I enjoyed its mild mineral and gentle plum flavors with some subtle oak and a touch of black raspberry mixed in. This wine is very food friendly and would pair well with slow cooked braised short ribs.
Dashe 2010 Zinfandel “Florence Vineyard” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $35 (89)
Absolute fruit bomb. Very juicy and jammy with extracted red currant flavors with notes pomegranate and red raspberry. I would drink it solo by the campfire this summer.
Ravenswood 2009 Zinfandel “Belloni” (Russian River Valley, CA) $35 (89)
Medium bodied, slightly acidic, and juicy. Mild tart black plum flavors with hints of minerality, black raspberry and a dash of black pepper. A very good wine for grilled Italian sausage with sautéed onion and red peppers.
Frank Family 2010 Zinfandel “Napa Valley” (CA) $37 (89)
Medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward. Displays a flavor profile of plum with hints of black cherry, cinnamon and cedar plank. Pair with a pulled pork sandwich or eggplant parmigianna.
Klinker Brick 2010 Zinfandel “Old Ghost Old Vine” (Lodi, CA) $37 (89)
Medium bodied, balanced, and juicy. Showcases ripe boysenberry and blackberry flavors with hints of black pepper, minerality and oak in the background. Would be a nice sipper by the fireplace or with barbecue ribs.
Hartford 2010 Zinfandel “Highwire Vineyard” (Russian River Valley, CA) $60 (89)
Full bodied, slightly acidic and very fruit forward. Displays black pepper infused blackberry flavors that are rather extracted. Also detected notes of plum, dark chocolate, and old oak. Suggested decanting this wine!
Michael and David Phillips 2010 Zinfandel “7 Deadly Zins” (Lodi, CA) $16 (88)
A very good, value priced, everyday Zin. It is medium bodied and savory. It displays boysenberry with nicely integrated smoky vanilla oak, some ripe plum and bacon. Pair with a Five Guys bacon and mushroom cheeseburger.
Peachy Canyon 2010 Zinfandel “Westside” (Paso Robles, CA) $18 (88)
Reasonably priced good value Zin. Medium bodied, balanced, and juicy. A pleasant flavor profile of ripe red currant and boysenberry with notes of cedar, plum, and touch of strawberry licorice and black pepper.
Murphy Goode 2009 Zinfandel “Liars Dice” (Sonoma County, CA) $21 (88)
Medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy with old oak influenced black raspberry flavors. I also detected hints of black licorice and coffee. This Zin is food friendly and would be perfect with a thick bacon cheeseburger.
M2 2010 Zinfandel “Old Vine Soucie Vineyard” (Lodi, CA) $28 (88)
This Zin is an absolute fruit bomb. It is very juicy and its fruit flavors explode in your mouth. Those flavors are a ripe blackberry with notes of red currant, menthol, and black pepper. Pair with tangy pulled pork sandwich.
Peachy Canyon 2010 Zinfandel “Incredible Red” (Paso Robles, CA) $12 (86)
This entry level Zinfandel from Peachy Canyon is a ripe fruit bomb. It is juicy and oozes with flavors. The flavors that jump out are red raspberry and ripe plum with notes of cranberry and a touch of oak. Serve with a tangy pulled pork sandwich.
These are all very good Zins and great options for your summer grilling plans. Please check these out and tell us what you think. Please also share your favorites with the group. Have a nice summer and happy grillin!
Cheers – Ken
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