Visiting wine country can be one of the most daunting things in the world. Where to eat? Where to taste? Where to stay? These are the things that run through the mind of all wine travellers. While touring and tasting on the beaten path can be the easiest option when visiting wine country, sometimes it pays to search a little harder for that secret winery and forge a path of your own. With a little help from our “secret spies” in wine country, we have compiled this top-secret list of California wine country’s best-kept secrets. Next time you find yourself wine tasting in California, impress your friends and loved ones with a bit of information from this list and suddenly, you have become the seasoned wine country veteran!
1. Moshin Vineyards
In 1989, Rick Moshin made the biggest career change of his life. Teaching mathematics at San Jose State University, Rick decided to pursue his love of wine and winemaking and purchased a 10-acre Pinot Noir vineyard in Sonoma County. Still teaching during his first years as a winemaker, Rick travelled between France and his Sonoma vineyard to learn the old world techniques that would make Moshin Vineyards a must taste Sonoma County winery.
2. Murrieta’s Well
The history of this famed Livermore Valley winery extends all the way back into the 1880′s. Louis Mel bought the “Murrieta’s Well” vineyard, affectionately called that by the Livermore valley residents, in the 1880′s and began to grow cuttings from renowned French vineyards. Fast forward to 2013 and Murrieta’s Well continues the traditions begun by Louis Mel in their great Livermore Valley estate blends. The old stone winery, situated in the middle of the 92-acre vineyard, is the centerpiece of the vineyard. Visit Murrieta’s Well to learn about and taste the great wine history of this Livermore Valley winery.
3. Venteux Vineyards
Wine tasting can be exhausting. Driving from winery to winery, tasting all day long, and then the long car ride back to the hotel can take a lot out of any traveller. Venteux Vineyards in beautiful Paso Robles solves the problem of the weary wine traveller by inviting guests to stay and relax. With two rooms available, the Blue and Green rooms, Venteux Bed & Breakfast offers guests the best of wine country luxury. A delicious breakfast each morning, comfortable beds, and spectacular views make this bed and breakfast one of the best kept secrets in Paso Robles wine country.
4. Roxo Port Cellars
Inspired by old-world traditions, Kim and Jeff Steele founded Roxo Port Cellars in Paso Robles, in 2005 to create great Central Coast wines. Specializing in Port wines, Roxo Port Cellars has gained a fantastic reputation for rich and elegant varietals. What most people may not know though is that Jeff Steele has a great passion for cigars and that many of his wines pair excellently with a good cigar. Looking for that perfect gift for the cigar lover in your life? Impress them with an excellently paired bottle of Roxo Port Cellars port and enjoy the praise you will most certainly receive!
5. Cellar 360
Pouring wines from wineries all across California, Cellar 360 is the definitive wine tasting experience. Nestled away in the old site of Meridian Vineyards in Paso Robles, Cellar 360 is not only a great wine tasting experience, but an amazing visual experience as well. Surrounded by vineyards, Cellar 360 has spectacular outdoor and indoor tasting areas. Surprise your friends or that special someone with a tasting at Cellar 360, you won’t regret it!
6. Mitchella Vineyards & Winery
Growing up on a 80 acre ranch in East Paso Robles, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Darren Mitchell would return to Paso Robles to plant a vineyard. In 1987, Darren and his wife, Angela, planted 20 acres of vineyards: 10 Syrah and 10 Cabernet Sauvignon. Mitchella Vineyard & Winery is a small production, producing only 1,800 cases of wine a year. But, that is what makes the winery so special and unique. Each bottle of Mitchella Vineyards is a labor of love. This is a winery you won’t want to miss!
7. Sycamore Springs Mineral Resort
Right off of California’s Highway 101 and a short drive up a windy hillside road is the Central Coast’s best-kept resort secret. Sycamore Springs Mineral Resort is the perfect Oceanside retreat. Personal hot tubs outside of every room, nature hikes and daily yoga sessions ensure that a visit to Sycamore Springs Mineral Resort will be a relaxing one. Close vicinity to San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach wineries and restaurants guarantee that there will be no shortage of activities for the adventurous wine traveller.
8. The Cliffs Resort
Nestled away in quiet Shell Beach, The Cliffs Resort has a view like no other in wine country. Overlooking the ocean from the Shell Beach Cliffside, guests of the resort are treated to an outdoor Jacuzzi and swimming area, as well as the award winning Marisol Restaurant and Lounge. The Lounge’s Champagne Sunday Brunch is not to be missed. With impressive Spa services, there is no better place for oceanside relaxation. The cool ocean breeze, fresh sea air and various amenities make The Cliffs Resort the best-kept relaxation secret in all of San Luis Obispo County.
9. Heritage Wine Trail
New to the Napa Valley? No problem! Heritage Wine Trail provides Napa Valley visitors with world-class wine tours and tastings that will impress new, and seasoned, Napa Valley wine travellers. For $99, Heritage Wine Trail guests travel to four wineries, eat lunch in the vineyards and end the day with a tram ride at the legendary Sterling Vineyards. For visitors to the Napa Valley, there is no better way to experience the wine and scenery of California’s wine country.
10. Terra D’Oro
Lovers of Italian varietals and Zinfandel will appreciate the fantastic wines of Terra d’Oro winery in the Sierra Foothills. Terra d’Oro, Italian for “land of gold”, embraces the gold rush roots of the Sierra Foothills in every bottle of wine. Incidentally, Terra d’Oro planted the first Zinfandel and Italian grape varieties in the Sierra Foothills, bringing a little bit of Italy to California in the process. If you have any interest in Italian varietals, or great Zinfandel, there is no better winery than Terra d’Oro. Plus, who wouldn’t want to experience a little bit of Italy in California?
California wine country is vast and varied. There is no end to the great wineries, hotels or resorts. This small list scratches the surface of all there is to do and see. Take this chance to make your next visit to California wine country an adventure! Go off the beaten path and explore, who knows what kind of secrets you will find!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
Well here is a surprise. The Chard was the winning white and the Cab is the winning red. The 2010 Shafer “Red Shoulder Ranch” Chardonnay defeated the 2011 St. Urbans Hof “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese” Riesling in white wine semi-final. The 2009 Chappellet “Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon ran away from the 2011 Belle Glos “Las Alturas” Pinot Noir. So this set up an interesting final!
That said, we now we need to pick a winner. Like before, please vote for your favorite wine below in the comments section. Again, I have made it easier to read the reviews, by linking to the final two contenders above. The voting for this round will continue until April 9, 2013 at 10 p.m. (EST). Good luck to our finalists!
Rolling hills, scenic views and green vineyards are just a few defining features of any great wine country destination. When you visit wine country, you want to escape and get lost in the beauty of the land and the taste of the wine. Of course, wine is an important part of any wine country destination, but imagine finding yourself sitting and relaxing with a glass of wine, the sounds of the ocean in the distance and a warm fire to keep you company. Amazing, right? Let Touring & Tasting take you to your perfect wine country destination. It might be on the coast, right next to the ocean, or even atop a small hill overlooking rows and rows of vineyards. Whatever your perfect wine country destination is, Touring & Tasting can help you get there. Here are Touring & Tasting’s Top 8 Most Scenic Wine Country Destinations:
Duck Pond Cellars
Quiet countryside, vineyards as far as the eye can see and excellent Oregon wines define Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, Oregon. Fine makers of award winning Pinot Noir, as well as modestly priced Syrah, Duck Pond Cellars oozes Oregon wine country. The views of the Willamette Valley from the Duck Pond Cellars tasting room are incredible. Stunning views, Oregon wine and the peacefulness of the Willamette Valley are more than enough to entice any wine lover to pay a visit to Duck Pond Cellars.
Viansa Winery & Marketplace
Settled atop a hill overlooking California’s Sonoma Valley, Viansa Winery & Marketplace is a sight to behold. Rustic, vine-covered and a Tuscan escape in California, Viansa Winery is known for both its beauty and its wine. Pinot Noir, Estate Primitivo and Sauvignon Blanc are just a few Viansa wines worth the attention of any wine lover. Visitors can sit on the patio, with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy the truly majestic views of the legendary Sonoma Valley.
Robert Mondavi Winery
The first major winery in the Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi Winery has a long lasting legacy of fine winemaking. Visitors to the Napa Valley tasting room are welcomed with picturesque views of the green vineyards and rolling hills that surround the Robert Mondavi Winery. Pristine grounds, interactive tours and various tasting options provide enough experiences to leave any wine lover more than satisfied.
Bodega Bay Lodge
Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean greet visitors to the Bodega Bay Lodge in Bodega Bay, CA. Nestled along the Sonoma Coast, the Bodega Bay Lodge exudes luxury. Private balconies overlooking the coast, a world-class spa and other luxurious amenities guarantee that any weary wine traveller will be treated quite all right at the Bodega Bay Lodge. The view of the Pacific Ocean is unparalleled and the warmth of the Lodge cannot be found anywhere else.
A truly environmentally conscious hotel, Bardessono in the Napa Valley is a world-class hotel experience you won’t want to miss. Perfectly combining eco-friendliness with wine country luxury, Bardessono is a destination in itself. As if the stunning grounds weren’t enough, Bardessono offers guests amazing culinary experiences at Lucy Restaurant & Bar, as well as state of the art spa treatments. Wine travelers, take note, Bardessono will be your next stop when you are touring & tasting through the Napa Valley, I guarantee it.
Black Walnut Inn
Situated in the heart of the WillametteValley, the Black Walnut Inn is truly a wine country resort. Completely surrounded by vineyards and nestled at the top of a hill, the Black Walnut Inn greets quests with quiet wine country charm and big world-class luxury. Guests at the Black Walnut Inn get to enjoy a hearty gourmet breakfast before wine tasting and a light appetizer after, talk about good treatment! Those looking for an escape in Oregon wine country, look no further than Black Walnut Inn, it’s a wine country experience you won’t want to miss.
Nestled near the quaint seaside streets of downtown Pismo Beach, CA, SeaVenture Resort is the perfect seaside getaway. Luxurious rooms with personal fireplaces, balcony hot tubs and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean greet every guest of SeaVenture resort. Imagine yourself on the beach, laying out with a cool glass of wine, soaking up the California sun. Now that sounds like some rest and relaxation to me!
Stunning ocean views, hilltop vineyard escapes and world-class luxury experiences await visitors of these wine country destinations. Your wine country experience should be a beautiful one, so why not visit wineries and hotels that are as beautiful as the wine you will be drinking. Location is everything, after all.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
The votes are in and we have 4 winners. The 2011 St. Urbans Hof “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese” Riesling edged out the CDP. They will tip off against the 2010 Shafer “Red Shoulder Ranch” Chardonnay who defeated the Wagner Riesling Ice. The 2011 Belle Glos “Las Alturas” Pinot Noir ran away from the Phelps Sauvignon Blanc. They will face a big challenge against the 2009 Chappellet “Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon. Like before, please vote for your favorite 2 wines below in the comments section. I have made it easier to read the reviews, by linking to the final four contenders above. The voting for this round will continue until March 26th at 10 PM EST. Good luck to our 4 finalists!
Below is the 2013 KWG Elite Eight Wine Bracket. Please see below the bracket for the official contest rules.
The Elite Eight wines have been chosen by me. The wine criteria for entry into the contest was based on KWG rating, price and general availability:
- The wines had to score high (over 90 points) with KensWineGuide.com.
- The wine’s price had to be less than $50 with 500 cases or more of the wine produced.
Here’s how the contest will work:
Between March 12, 2013 and March 20, 2013 you can cast your vote for your favorite four wines of the Elite Eight in the comment section on the Ken’s Wine Guide Blog. On March 20, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. (EST) the four wines with the most votes will be named as—The Final Four. The Final Four will be announced via e-mail to newsletter subscribers, posted on the blog, and then we will move on to the Final Four Contest.
The Final Four Contest voting will run from March 21, 2013 to March 26, 2013 at 10:00 p.m. (EST). At that time, the two wines with the most votes will advance to the Finals. The two Finalists will be announced in our March 28, 2013 newsletter. Voting for the winning wine will commence right away.
On April 9, 2013 at 10 p.m. (EST) the voting will cease in the finalist round. The Winning Wine—the wine with the most votes—will be announced in our April 11, 2013 newsletter.
If you would like to see the reviews of these wines before you vote check out this link to the Elite Eight Wines Bracket spreadsheet which has direct links to the review pages. We look forward to seeing which wine wins!
Cheers – Ken
It’s been a long week. Work has exhausted you and all you can think about is a little rest and relaxation. Why not treat yourself to a weekend in wine country? Touring, tasting, and relaxing with a nice glass of wine, now that’s the right way to spend a weekend. What better way to spend the weekend than by traveling through Northern California’s wine country!
Cool weather, sprawling natural landscapes and urban metropolises are defining features of Northern California. While San Francisco has its fair share of wineries, the small coastal cities of Monterey, Carmel and Santa Cruz, are essential stops for any curious wine lover. The misty coastal breeze and mountainous terrain of the Northern Central Coast produce the perfect recipe for rich and flavorful California wines.
While your friends spend the weekend, camping, hiking, or staying in, take the time to explore the Northern California wine country. From the Bay Area and Livermore, to Monterey and Santa Cruz, there are wineries and wines for all lovers of California wine. Take this opportunity that the weekend has given you to explore the California wine country, I promise you won’t regret it!
For those who don’t like to embark upon an adventure without a “game-plan” here is Touring & Tasting’s guide to your perfect Northern California Wine Weekend:
Friday (San Francisco):
Let the wine tasting adventure begin! You just found yourself in one of the most beautiful and eclectic cities in the world. A city this big has to have good wine, right? You betcha! Hidden within a 20,000 square-foot naval hangar on Treasure Island, The Winery SF has been supplying San Franciscans with excellent Bay Area wine since 2010. The mission of The Winery SF? To teach visitors all they would ever want to know about wine tasting. Guests are invited to taste in the middle of the winery, surrounded by barrels and all manner of winemaking devices. The Winery SF is a wine tasting, and winemaking experience, you won’t want to miss. After you’ve been wine tasting all night, it’s time to relax, freshen up and get some rest for the long day ahead. Galleria Park Hotel in downtown San Francisco invites guests to relax in a modern urban oasis. Stylish, friendly and comfortable, Galleria Park Hotel is the perfect stop for any weary traveller.
Congratulations! You are well rested and ready for a long day of wine tasting ahead. A short drive south and you find yourself in Livermore Valley wine country. From the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, to the quiet and serene Livermore Valley, you are ready for a day of rest, relaxation and wine. First stop: Wente Vineyards. Named Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2011, Wente Vineyards prides themselves in mixing old word winemaking with new world innovation. Deliciously crisp Chardonnay and elegant Pinot Noir will guarantee a wine tasting experience like no other. At the top of the Crane Ridge in the Valley rests Crooked Vine Winery. Intimate, scenic, and friendly, the Crooked Vine tasting room will please the most veteran wine lover. It’s been a long day of driving, touring, and tasting, now it’s time for some much need R&R. Stay the night at the Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort & Spa and experience firsthand wine country luxury. Spa treatments, comfortable rooms, and Livermore Valley hospitality guarantee that any wine traveller will have a resort experience they won’t soon forget.
Spend the last day of your wine weekend traveling and tasting through the Northern Central Coast. Monterey, Carmel and Salinas are a few of the wine destinations visitors can visit. Travel to the Carmel Valley for the first stop on this wine tour at Bernardus Winery. The proclaimed home of American Bordeaux, Bernardus invites guests with elegance and Northern Central Coast charm. From the hills of Carmel to the vineyards of Soledad, Hahn Estates welcomes wine lovers with open arms. Excellent Monterey Pinot Noir and Chardonnay invite wine lovers of all tastes to stay and relax with a bottle of California wine. We encourage you to spend the last night of your wine weekend at Seascape Beach Resort. Located in the heart of the Northern Central Coast, Seascape impresses its guests with stunning coastal views, excellent amenities and an excellent location, just minutes away from Santa Cruz. The wine weekend may have come and gone, but just think about how much amazing California wine you just had. Your wine weekend might not look exactly like this, but use this game plan as inspiration for your own. Wine tasting and wine country adventures awaits!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
2012 was a big year for Riesling submissions. I got a ton of them. As a matter of fact, this report is coming out in 2013 because I have been very busy covering so many Rieslings since last July. So finally, in this report, you will find some real gems which I am certain you will enjoy. You can also be rest assured that these are the best offerings that I have covered from what was once a very large sample base. With that background, let’s start discussing the winners.
The best Riesling that I came across this year was the 2011 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Spatlese.” I scored it 95 points and for $34, it is an absolute steal. Now the downside, there were only 300 cases made. This great wine is medium bodied, very well balanced, and pleasantly sweet. I loved its delicious mild peach and ripe apple flavors with nicely integrated hints of lychee and delicate minerality. The finish remains delicately sweet and sensuous. This Riesling is a perfect wine for a magical date with someone you really like. Start your search for this wine soon; it will not last on the market very long!
Bollig Lehnert did very well with us this year. Even though there was not much of this wine made, it is too good to ignore. The 2011 “Dhroner Hofberger Auslese” Riesling for $25 is an unbelievable deal for this 94 point knockout! This wine is light bodied, elegant, slightly sweet, and impressive. Its flavor profile is a delicious mild ripe Anjou pear with hints of pineapple, ginger and ripe red apple. If you want to serve a Riesling to impress someone, this one would really do the trick. Now call Lee and beg for a bottle or two as only 56 cases were made and less than that were imported.
The next 94 point winner comes from a new producer for me. The 2011 Schloss Saarstein “Serrig Schloss Saarsteiner Spatlese” Riesling for $38 is quite special. It opens with a fragrant and inviting ripe Bosc pear bouquet. On the palate, this wine is light bodied, refined and pleasantly sweet. We loved its delicious ripe peach flavors with notes of apple, fig and apricot. I also detected a hint of minerality. It is a pretty complex Riesling and I can tell you it did not last very long. The finish remains sweet and it’s so refined. I would serve this classy Riesling with Asian dishes.
We close out our 94 pointers with another winner from Dr. Pauly Bergweiler. Their 2011 “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese” for $43 is Excellent! It is light bodied, nicely balanced, refined, and pleasantly sweet. Its flavor profile is a delicious mild lychee and gentle peach blend with a hint of pineapple. The finish is elegant and remains pleasantly sweet as it drifts away nicely. I would serve this gem with lemon meringue pie.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler does not quite leave the podium and the next two 93 pointers are also from this great producer. Their 2011 “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese” for $33 is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. I enjoyed its tasty green apple and pineapple flavors with hints of tangerine, minerality and a touch of peach. Like the other wines from this producer, it is complex. I would serve this very yummy and pleasantly sweet Riesling with broiled scallops. Not to be left behind is the 2011 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler “Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Auslese.” This wine is a bit more refined and elegant. The flavor profile is a slightly sweet and delicious gentle apple and ripe pear blend with faint hints of minerality and a touch of tangerine. This wine would pair very well with one of my favorite meals. Lotus Blossom’s General Gau Chicken.
The next two 93 pointers also come from highly acclaimed producers. That said, readers frequently ask me who is the best Riesling producer in the Finger Lakes? My answer is Hermann J. Wiemer. Their 2010 “Magdalena Vineyard” Riesling is consistently one of the reasons I can confidently say that. This single vineyard offering is very limited and costs $36 per bottle. It is worth seeking out as it is always near the top of my Finger Lakes results. This year’s vintage is medium bodied, smooth and viscous. It displays delicious mild mineral infused gentle Anjou pear flavors with a hint of quince and tangerine. It finishes off-dry and would nicely complement pan seared scallops.
The last 93 pointer is the 2011 St. Urbans Hof “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese” Riesling for $40. This wine is light bodied, pleasantly sweet and elegant. I really enjoyed its mild mineral infused red apple flavors with notes of tangerine. I also detected a touch of lime and quince. This is the first of many very good St. Urbans Hof 2011’s that qualified this year. I would pair this elegant Riesling with broiled scallops.
We kick off our 92 pointers by returning to the Finger Lakes and presenting the 2011 Hermann Wiemer “Dry” Riesling. At $16 this top notch Dry Riesling is a steal. It comes across as light bodied, slightly acidic and pleasantly crisp. It displays a mouthwatering and tasty mild lime and lemon flavor profile with nicely integrated minerality. If you are looking for a refreshing and very food friendly wine, this would be a great choice. Serve it with chicken francaise.
The Bollig-Lehnert 2011 “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese” Riesling for $21 is terrific and a great value. In the mouth, it is light bodied, silky, smooth and slightly sweet. I really enjoyed its very tasty mild apple flavors with a hint of ripe Bartlett pear and a touch of apricot towards the very end. It finishes pleasantly sweet and refined. I would pair this impressive Riesling with an assorted cheese platter to finish off a romantic evening.
Dr. H. Thanisch is another producer that also consistently comes in near the top. Their 2011 “Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett” Riesling for $24 is their top performer this year. This offering is medium bodied and very nicely balanced between its sweetness and acidity. I really liked its tasty mild pineapple flavors with hints of peach, lemon-lime and green tea. This Riesling is a very good drinking wine, so you could just serve this as your dessert. It is that good and enjoyable.
Our last two 92 pointers both come from Dr. Loosen. Their 2010 “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese” Riesling for $32 is medium to full-bodied and shows off rich ripe flavors with nicely integrated complementary acidity. The flavor profile is a very mild mineral infused ripe orange and pear blend. This offering would pair well with Thai food. Our next Dr. Loosen treat is the 2010 “Urziger Wurzgarden Auslese” Riesling for $64. This dessert styled wine is light bodied, slightly acidic, zippy and pretty sweet. It displays tasty ginger and ripe green apple flavors with hints of lime, bosc pear and a touch of minerality. The finish remains sweet and its impressive flavors linger for quite some time. I would pair this treat with pecan chicken.
Our 91 Pointers
Bollig Lehnert 2011 Riesling “Piesporter Goldtropfchen Kabinett” $18 (91)
This Kabinett finished in first place in our first blind flight of Rieslings at this level. It is light bodied and really nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. It displays a gentle mineral infused light lemon flavors with a hint of green tea, Fuji apple, and grapefruit. It is a great deal at $18, but may be hard to find with only 220 cases made. Call your favorite retailer quickly before it disappears.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2011 Riesling “Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett” $22 (91)
This Riesling is light bodied, mildly sweet, and also nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. The flavor profile is a tasty ripe Bosc pear with notes of pineapple and mild minerality. It would be perfect with chicken lo-mein.
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese” (Mosel, Germany) $25 (91)
This Spatlese level Riesling is full bodied, very lively and displays lots of sweetness and acidity. It is rich and concentrated as well. The flavor profile is a ripe pear with notes of tangerine and mango. This Riesling would pair well with sliced green apples and assorted sharp cheeses.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2011 Riesling “Bernkasteler Badstube Spatlese” (Mosel, Germany) $30 (91)
This Riesling is medium bodied, crisp, acidic and displays a lot of ripe fruit. Those fruit flavors are Bartlett pear and ripe green apple. I also detect notes of nicely integrated minerality and ginger spice. The finish on this one remains sweet and its flavors linger for quite a while. It is even sweet enough to be a dessert wine.
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese” (Mosel, Germany) $31 (91)
This Spatlese level offering from S.A. Prum, opens with an inviting sweet tea like bouquet with a hint of tangerine. It is light bodied, sweet and savory. The flavor profile is lemon with infused oolong tea and orange and a hint of thyme. This is a perfect sipping Riesling to serve with pan-fried scallops with balsamic glaze.
Dr. H. Thanisch 2011 Riesling “Bernkasteler Lay Auslese” (Mosel, Germany ) $39 (91)
Our last 91 pointer is an Auslese, that is medium bodied, slightly sweet and extremely easy to drink and enjoy. The flavor profile is a tasty orange with hints of lime and apple. This wine is rather quaffable. The danger is it comes in 375 ml bottle. So it won’t last long.
Our 90 Pointers
Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Riesling “Semi-Dry” (Finger Lakes, NY) $14 (90)
This semi-dry Riesling is light bodied and nicely balanced. Its pleasant light lemon-lime flavors with hints of green apple and honey are very nice. I would pair Riesling with a mixed cheese platter.
Weingut Liebfrauenstift 2011 Riesling “QbA Dry” (Rheinhessen) $19 (90)
If you are a fan of Dry Riesling, you are really going to enjoy this one. It is very food friendly and would be perfect with Coquilles St. Jacques. It is slightly acidic and leads with pleasant mineral infused Anjou pear flavors.
Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Riesling “Yellow Dog Vineyard” (F. Lakes) $20 (90)
This Finger Lakes Riesling is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. I liked its tasty mineral infused green apple flavors with notes tangerine. This Riesling is very quaffable. It will not last long.
Chehalem 2010 Riesling “Dry Reserve” (Willamette Valley, WA) $21 (90)
This dry Riesling from Oregon is initially crisp and displays lively flavors. It settles down nicely with some air. Those flavors are a mineral infused green apple and lime blend with hints of Anjou pear and pineapple.
St. Urbans Hof 2011 Riesling “Bockstein Ockfen Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $22 (90)
This Kabinett is light bodied and shows nice bright acidity. It is also quite mouthwatering. It displays tasty ripe clementine flavors with notes of green apple and mild minerality. Its sweet flavors linger nicely.
St. Urbans Hof 2011 Riesling “Piesport Goldtropfchen Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $25 (90)
This Kabinett level Riesling finished in 2nd place in our first blind flight. It is light bodied, mildly sweet and slightly acidic. It displays mineral infused gentle grapefruit flavors with hints of apricot, honey, and Earl Grey tea.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2011 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $26 (90)
This Riesling is medium bodied, citrusy, and vibrant. The panel liked the way the flavors changed and it exploded in their mouth. Those flavors were ripe limeade with hints of pineapple and honey with some mild mineral notes.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2011 Riesling “Bernkasteler alte Badstube am Doctorberg Kabinett” $26 (90)
This Riesling is light bodied, slightly effervescent, zesty and mildly sweet. Its flavors are a gentle tangy tangerine with a hint of lime and peach. It would pair nicely with chicken lo mein or cashew chicken.
Dr. Loosen 2010 Riesling “Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese” (Mosel, Germany) $32 (90)
This Riesling is rather sweet, acidic, and viscous. The flavor profile is a mineral infused green apple jelly with hints of pineapple, quince and white pepper. This dessert styled Spatlese would pair well with sharp cheddar cheese and green apple slices.
St. Urbans Hof 2011 Riesling “Bockstein Ockfen Spatlese” (Mosel, Germany) $34 (90)
This Riesling is light bodied, slightly acidic and pleasantly sweet. The flavor profile is a mild tea with notes of tangerine and a hint of lime. It would pair well cinnamon sugar and walnuts appetizer treats.
Dr. H. Thanisch 2011 Riesling “Berncasteler Doctor Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $44 (90)
This Riesling from Germany will not last long once opened. It is light bodied, slightly effervescent and care free. I really enjoyed its slightly sweet apple flavors with hints of lemon and tea. It will be easily quaffed.
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Old Vines Dry GG” (Mosel, Germany) $47 (90)
If you like dry-styled Riesling this one is well made and will appeal to you. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, mouthwatering and fruit forward with honeyed green apple flavors with hints of apricot, white pepper, and minerality.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2010 “Josephshofer GG” (Germany) $55 (90)
Here is another really good dry Riesling. It is light bodied, balanced, and approachable. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused green apple with a hint of white pepper and lime. Pair with bacon wrapped scallops.
S.A. Prum 2009 Riesling “Graacher Dompropst GG” (Mosel, Germany) $70 (90)
Our final 90 pointer is also a dry Riesling. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and round in the mouth. This one displays slightly tart green apple flavors with notes of minerality and just a hint of caramel, lemon, and honey.
The Best of the Rest – All Very Good Wines
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2011 Riesling “Semi-Dry” (Finger Lakes, NY) $15 (89)
Dr. Loosen 2010 Riesling “Red Slate Dry” (Mosel, Germany) $16 (89)
Baron Knyphausen 2011 Riesling “Baron K Kabinett” (Rheingau) $17 (89)
St. Urbans Hof 2011 Riesling “From Old Vines” (Mosel, Germany) $17 (89)
Bollig Lehnert 2011 Riesling “Trittenheimer Apotheke Kabinett” $18 (89)
Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Riesling “Red Oak Vineyard” (Finger Lakes) $20 (89)
Dr. Loosen 2010 Riesling “Blue Slate Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $22 (89)
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett” (Mosel) $25 (89)
Lamoreaux Landing 2009 Riesling “Reserve” (Finger Lakes, NY) $25 (89)
Dr. Loosen 2010 Riesling “Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett” (Mosel) $26 (89)
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese” (Mosel) $40 (89)
Valckenberg 2011 Riesling “Undone Dry Riesling” (Rheinhessen) $9 (88)
Dr. Loosen 2011 Riesling “Dr. L” (Mosel, Germany) $12 (88)
Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Riesling “Dry” (Finger Lakes, NY) $14 (88)
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2011 Riesling “Dry” (Finger Lakes, NY) $15 (88)
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler 2011 Riesling “Wehlener Klosterberg Halfdry” (Mosel) $17 (88)
S.A. Prum 2010 Riesling “Prum Blue Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $19 (88)
Dr. Loosen 2010 Riesling “Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett” (Mosel, Germany) $26 (88)
Airfield Estates 2011 Riesling (Yakima Valley, WA) $15 (87)
I hope you enjoy these Rieslings as much as we did. If you find others that you love, please feel free post them in the comments section and share them with the other readers. Cheers – Ken
Cool Pacific Ocean air, sprawling forests and good wine are defining features of the Pacific Northwest. A region that is typically defined as the area from Oregon to the top of the Washington/Canadian Border, the Pacific Northwest is an incredibly rich winemaking region. Cool coastal areas and dry valleys are perfect for winemaking and Pacific Northwest winemakers take advantage of the region’s diverse climates. From Oregon Pinot Noir, to Washington Riesling, the Pacific Northwest is ideal for any wine lover who wants to experience the great outdoors with a glass of wine in hand.
Touring and tasting the Pacific Northwest is no easy task. From the countless wineries in Washington and Oregon, to the fantastic cities, restaurants and hotels along the way, even the most experienced wine lover will need a little bit of help! That’s where Touring & Tasting comes to the rescue! With our help, we guarantee that any visit to the Pacific Northwest will be one to remember. So sit back, relax and pour a glass of wine, while we take you on a journey in search of some great Pacific Northwest wine.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Every journey has a beginning, and ours begins in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Known for world class Pinot Noir, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s most thriving wine region. With wineries just outside of Portland, visitors to the Valley are welcomed to Oregon with world-class food, music and wine. But not to worry, we’ve scoured the Willamette Valley in search of the best place to drink and stay. The things we do for our readers!
Where to Drink: Sweet Cheeks Winery
With wines as diverse as the Willamette Valley itself, Sweet Cheeks Winery is our first stop on the search for great Pacific Northwest wines. With award winning Pinot Noir, Sweet Cheeks is an Oregon winery you won’t want to miss. Despite the accolades for their 2008 Pinot Noir, Sweet Cheeks considers themselves to be primarily Riesling makers. With acclaimed Pinot Noir and Riesling, Sweet Cheeks Winery is a must stop for any wine lover in the Willamette Valley.
Where to Stay: Dundee Manor B&B
Built in 1908, the Dundee Manor Bed & Breakfast is truly a sight to behold. Luxurious Victorian charm and wine country comfort make this bed and breakfast the ideal stop for any weary wine traveller. With a personal concierge service provided by owners Brad and David, wine tours, private tastings and massages are just a few phone calls away. If you ever find yourself weary and tired from a day of Pinot Noir tasting in Dundee, stop by and pay the Dundee Manor a visit, we promise you won’t regret it.
Our journey for great wine continues, as we move further north into Washington! Located near Seattle, Woodinville is a town defined by its winemaking. With a small wine country outside of the city, Woodinville’s charm is in the surrounding pine trees and wonderful Washington wines. So without further ado, our findings on great wine in Woodinville, Washington:
Where to Drink: J. Bookwalter Winery
J. Bookwalter Winery is a true Washington winemaking affair. With grapes from the Conner-Lee Vineyard in Grant County, and two tasting rooms in Woodinville and Richland, J. Bookwalter encapsulates all of Washington in every bottle of its wine. The Woodinville tasting room gives visitors an intimate and comfortable wine tasting experience. With an excellent Double Plot Chardonnay and decadently rich Cabernet Sauvignon, J. Bookwalter Winery is a Washington winery that can’t be missed.
Where to Stay: Willows Lodge
Nestled in the heart of Woodinville wine country, Willows Lodge is a great escape for any wine traveller. With a comfortable “cabin-like” charm, Willows Lodge invites guests to relax with an outdoor jacuzzi, spa and steam room. Just in case you didn’t drink enough wine on the tasting trails, Fireside Cellars, a cozy wine bar within the lodge, welcomes guests to relax and enjoy local Washington wines.
Unfortunately, our journey has ended, but really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Great wine is flowing freely in the Pacific Northwest and as wine lovers it is our duty to try it all! The wine, rolling hills, and fresh air should be more than enough to get any wine traveller to make their way to the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re tasting in the Willamette Valley, Woodinville, or even Walla Walla, great wine is a guarantee.
Each year in the fall we start covering Sparkling Wines and Champagnes, so we can post them just in time for your end of the year celebrations. I just finished up posting the reviews and here is a summary of the results. As you will see the Perrier Jouets ruled the results this year. However, you will find all kinds of options at many different price points. In all cases you will enjoy your celebration with a selection of these tasty sparklers!
The 2004 Perrier Jouet “Belle Epoque Brut” not only comes in a beautiful painted bottle, it contains delicious Champagne. The panel described this wine as light bodied, silky and elegant. We loved its refined mineral flavors with notes of green apple and a hint of white pepper. We would suggest sharing this impressive bottle with someone special at a New Year’s dinner with grilled halibut or seared tuna steak. At $140 a bottle, this wine is not inexpensive. You can definitely find it online for less. Also, our friends at Colonial Spirits have it on sale for about $100 which is a great deal. It is definitely worth the experience!
If you cannot afford the Belle Epoque, give the 91 point Perrier Jouet non-vintage ”Grand Brut” a try for about $45. This offering came in just a point behind its big sister and has a much lower price tag. This offering is light bodied, slightly acidic, and mouthwatering. I really liked its very tasty green apple and grapefruit flavors with nicely integrated minerality and toasted almond. It finishes dry and very refreshing. This offering would be a perfect aperitif for your New Year’s celebration. It will also prove to be quite a crowd pleaser.
Our other two 91 pointers both come from Gosset. The non-vintage “Excellence Brut” Champagne is the slightly better deal at $45. The panel described it as medium bodied, balanced, and easy going. They really enjoyed its mild strawberry and mellow lemon flavors with nicely integrated minerality and a hint of honey. The panel felt this Champagne is rather food friendly and would pair nicely with grilled swordfish or sliced extra sharp Manchego cheese. For a little more money you can try the Gosset non-vintage “Grande Reserve Brut” Champagne for $65. This offering is light bodied, slightly acidic and crisp. It is a classic style Champagne with its prominent mineral infused green pear flavors with notes of vichy water and a touch of lime. If you are looking for a more traditional style, be sure to give this one a whirl with bacon wrapped scallops.
Our 90 pointers are a mixture of sparklers from various countries and they come in all different styles. We start off in France with the non-vintage Nicolas Feuillatte “Brut Reserve” Champagne for $36. This classic Champagne is medium bodied, acidic and very fresh. It displays mineral infused green apple flavors with notes of white pepper and a hint of tangerine. It finishes rather dry and would be a perfect choice with a baked Dover sole drizzled with a touch of lemon.
Next up is an old standby. The 2009 Schramsberg “Blanc de Blancs” Sparkling Wine from the North Coast of California always performs very well with our panel. At $37 it always proves to be a good value. This year’s version is light bodied, a touch acidic and slightly effervescent. The panel enjoyed its slightly tart green apple flavors with hints of white pepper, mild grapefruit, and some nicely integrated minerality. They suggested serving this very nice sparkler with bacon wrapped scallops or evening caviar.
Our next 90 pointer hails from Italy. The non-vintage Ricci Curbastro “Brut Franciacorta” for $39 was our favorite from this country. It is a different mixture in that, it is made from 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, and 10% Pinot Noir. The panel found it to be medium bodied and creamy with pleasant mineral infused citrus flavors with a hint of strawberry and almond. The panel felt this sparkler would go well with food and they suggested pairing it with baked scrod or baked brie with honey.
The next two 90 point Champagnes come from Besserat de Bellefon. Their non-vintage “Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose” for $55 is light bodied, slightly acidic and very flavorful. Those flavors are a strong mineral infused plum and cranberry with hints of watermelon and strawberry in the background. This Champagne will pair nicely with fresh sliced Norwegian salmon. The other offering of note is their non-vintage “Cuvee des Moines Brut Blanc de Blanc” for $56. It is medium bodied, creamy, smooth and surprisingly effervescent given its initial lack of bubbles. This classic Champagne displays mineral infused light lemon flavors with hints of strawberry and green apple. The panel suggested serving this Champagne with swordfish kabobs with a wild mushroom risotto.
Another winner from Italy to consider is the 2006 Bellavista “Franciacorta Grand Cuvee” for $65. This sparkler is light bodied, slightly effervescent, and fruity. The panel enjoyed its tasty green grape and mineral infused flavors with some hints of apple and walnut mixed in as well. They suggested serving this one with cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto or with sushi.
Our last 90 pointer is the 2003 Nicolas Feuillatte “Cuvee 225 Brut” Champagne for $90. This champagne is medium bodied, displays nice palate coverage and was described as savory. Its flavor profile is a white truffle and tangerine blend with hints of raisin, lemon, and almond. The consensus of the panel was that this classic champagne would pair nicely with grilled rainbow trout with wild mushroom risotto.
Our 89 pointers are led by two Moscato’s that are both affordable and tad sweet.
The 2010 Coppo “Moncalvina Moscato D’Asti” for $17 is light bodied, pleasantly sweet and effervescent. I enjoyed its ripe tangerine flavors with notes of apricot and a touch of vanilla, honey, and red apple. This offering is a real quaffer. It would be a perfect aperitif.
Another crowd pleasing Moscato is the non-vintage Maschio dei Cavalieri “Moscato PM” for $25. It is medium bodied, slightly sweet and flavorful. It displays tasty peach flavors with notes of minerality and lychee. I also detected a hint of tangerine and apple. This sparkler is a fun sparkler to consider for your holiday parties.
The last three 89 pointers all come from the Mumm family. The 2007 Mumm Napa “Blanc de Blancs” for $36 is the best deal. This offering is light bodied, pretty foamy and displays a large amount of bubbles. The flavor profile is bread toast with notes of integrated ginger and also has hints of minerality and almond as well. The panel suggested pairing this sparkler with oysters or pan seared scallops. The non-vintage G.H. Mumm “Cordon Rouge Brut” Champagne for $40 is a classic. It is crisp, acidic and fresh with mineral infused lime flavors with hints of white pepper, tangerine and Anjou pear. This offering is a nice one to consider as an opening aperitif served with bacon wrapped scallops. We will close the 89 pointers with the non-vintage G H Mumm “Mumm de Cremant Blanc de Blancs” for $62. This offering is medium bodied, a bit viscous and balanced. Its flavors are a mineral infused strawberry with hints of walnuts and tangerine. The panel suggested pairing this classic styled sparkler with steamed mussels or bacon wrapped striped bass.
Here is a listing of our Very Good 88 pointers.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Sparkling Wine “Brut” (Columbia Valley, WA) $12 (88)
Barone Pizzini 2007 Franciacorta “Saten Brut” (Italy) $27 (88)
Schramsberg 2008 Sparkling Wine “Blanc de Noirs Brut” (North Coast, CA ) $39 (88)
Nicolas Feuillatte NV Champagne “Brut Rose” (France) $48 (88)
To wrap up our list is our very good 87 pointers.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Sparkling Wine “Blanc de Blancs” (Columbia Valley, WA) $12 (87)
Mumm Napa NV Sparkling Wine “Brut Prestige” (Napa Valley, CA) $22 (87)
We hope you enjoy these selections at your New Year’s Eve Celebrations. Please feel free to share your favorites with the group.
Happy New Year and Cheers! Ken
The Santa Ynez Valley AVA is a bountiful, flourishing viticultural area that, in many ways, is unparalleled by any of California’s world-class wine-growing regions. The range in geological composition alone transforms this small valley into a winemaker’s paradise. With such breadth in climate, soil and grape varietal to say nothing of the non-wine related activities, the Santa Ynez Valley is in a class of its own among the wine regions of California.
This distinctive terroir was created in the Miocene period when the Pacific Plate struck the North American Tectonic Plate, forcing Santa Barbara County into its current east-west orientation. This unusual positioning allows the Santa Ynez Valley to receive coastal breezes from Lompoc, which become increasingly warm as they reach further east into the interior of the valley. This collision of plates also churned the soil so that today, a mixture of sedimentary rocks, ancient fossils like seashells, limestone and slate can all be found throughout the valley as well as fertile agricultural soils brought in by the Santa Ynez River.
One place to see this dramatic display of geological history is at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, with its coastal local and striking views of the mountains as they plunge into the sea. The Bacara is also the closest service luxury resort and spa to the Santa Ynez Valley. It is an ideal spot for wine tourists wishing for an ocean view and the smell of the sea after wine tasting. Drive over the peaks and enter into the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Danish town of Solvang. Nearby Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard is a bit removed from the coast’s moderating effects, and experiences fluctuations in temperature year-round, a perfect climate for the Sauvignon Blanc it’s so well-known for. Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards, located between Los Olivos and Santa Maria on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, is further east in the valley where warmer air runs rampant the whole year and Rhone varietals, like their award-winning Syrah, are preferred. Still, there are wineries in the far east of the valley, like Grassini Family Vineyards where Bordeaux varietals reign supreme, that experience 50° at night and 105° in the day during late summer and harvest months… and that’s considered normal! To escape the heat (or cold), visitors can relax at local beds & breakfasts and inns like the vintage-inspired Santa Ynez Inn; take a break from touring with a spa treatment at Hotel Corque in the heart of downtown Solvang; or maybe grab an local, organic, sustainable bite to eat from the innovative Avant Tapas & Wine restaurant.
The Santa Ynez Valley may seem like a hodgepodge region with a little bit of everything, but given a closer looks, it is truly remarkable to see how the wineries hone in on their land’s sub-climates and micro-climate to grow the best varietals and create the best wines possible for their individual wineries.
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