Tag Archives: chardonnay

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery | Healdsburg, CA

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Over the last year or so, I’ve fallen madly in love with Sonoma County.  In particular, the area of the Russian River Valley encircled by the towns of Guerneville, Sebastopol & Healdsburg.  From the towering Redwoods to the rocky coastline and everything in between, the natural beauty in this area is unsurpassed.

Towering pines line the driveway up to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Towering pines line the driveway up to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The more I explore the wines from this area, the more I realize how amazing they are as well.  This year, we decided to escape LA and ring in the new year in a cozy cabin tucked among the Sequoias in Guerneville.

With nearly all the tasting rooms closed on New Year’s Eve, we headed to the nearby Russian River Brewing Company for some outstanding beers, including a Brown Ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels from local Sonoma County wineries called Supplication.  When the tasting rooms reopened after the holiday, I couldn’t wait to try some new wines.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Entry to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Entry to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

My first wine of 2014 was at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery.  The Gary Farrell Winery is nestled among the pines on a hillside that offers sweeping views of the Russian River Valley below.  Because it was such a beautiful day, we decided to do a Terrace Tasting which included 6 wines for $25 per person.  There was also a Traditional Tasting available inside at the tasting bar for $15 per person.

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The tasting bar at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Stunning view from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Our dog Booker enjoying some shade & the stunning view from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Views from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Views from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Hospitality manager Lavonne Holmes was our host for the afternoon and we couldn’t have been luckier.  She walked us through a series of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs & Zinfandels while explaining the history of Gary Farrell, and sharing her rich personal knowledge and experiences in the wine industry.  Not only was she a pleasure to talk to, but she also made my passion for wine burn even brighter.

The beautiful terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The beautiful terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

All the wines we tried were beautifully crafted and very nicely balanced.  I particularly liked the 2011 Rochioli-Allen Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2011 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the bold, mouth-watering 2011 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.  

Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

I could have easily spent the entire day sitting on the terrace chatting with Lavonne and enjoying the delicious wines of Gary Farrell Vineyards.  It was the perfect way to kick off the new year.  We will definitely be back soon.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Click here to visit the Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery website.

GARY FARRELL VINEYARDS & WINERY
10701 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA  95448
Phone:  (707) 473-2909
Email:  concierge@garyfarrellwinery.com
Tasting room hours: 10:30AM – 4:30PM Daily

Highlights from the 2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Last weekend, some of the finest local, small production wine making talent around gathered at the Veterans Memorial Building in Solvang, CA for the 2nd annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure“.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

This year, a Grand Tasting was held on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with a different lineup each day.  With 60 wineries pouring over the course of two days, and only a limited amount of time, I feel like I only scratched the surface.

While I had a hard time choosing favorites among all the incredible wines I did get to taste, I managed to narrow my list down to a few stand-outs.   If you can get your hands on any of the wines below, I highly recommend you do…

Archium Cellars
Garagistes Zach Jarosz and Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars poured their 1st vintage at the festival, which included a delicious portfolio of Rhone varietals.  I particularly liked the Provencal-style ’13 Grenache Rosé and the juicy ’12 “Haven” Grenache.

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Delicious '13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Delicious ’13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

 

Press Gang Cellars
Press Gang Cellars is winemaker Kyle Knapp and his wife, Savanna’s labor of love and true passion.  The Press Gang Cellars portfolio included some outstanding Rhone varietals, including a ’10 Grenache and a crisp ’13 Grenache Rosé “Savanna Rhea”.

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

 

Roark Wine Company
Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company takes a minimal approach to wine making and truly lets the grapes speak for themselves.  I liked his multilayered, unfiltered ’13 Sauvignon Blanc and his modestly priced ($15/bottle), non-vintage red wine blend he calls “Craigslist Cuvee #2″.

As Ryan puts it, “where do you go when you are looking for a deal?  Craigslist!  What do they have on Craigslist?  Everything!  This wine is a blend of loose ends, things that didn’t have a home but that together tasted awesome.”

Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company's "Craigslist Cuvee" Red Wine Blend

Roark Wine Company’s “Craigslist Cuvee #2″ Red Wine Blend

 

Liquid Farm
I’m a long-time fan of Liquid Farm’s Chardonnay and Rosé, so I couldn’t resist stopping to try the latest vintage (which of course, was as good as ever).  The ’13 Mourvedre Rosé was dry, crisp, and just heavenly.

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm's Winemaker, James Sparks

Liquid Farm’s Winemaker, James Sparks

 

C. Nagy Wines
It was difficult to pick favorites from Clarissa Nagy of C. Nagy Wines’ current portfolio.  I particularly liked her ’11 Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard and ’12 Viognier White Hawk Vineyard – both a little taste of summer in a glass.  I also liked her ’10 Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, which had an elegant balance of vibrant fruit and spice.

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

 

a-non-ah-mus
Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus released the label’s first vintage in 2007 and he’s been producing impeccably crafted Rhone varietals ever since.  I really enjoyed the ’12 Viognier which had a beautiful, crisp acidity and the tart, juicy ’10 Alisos Vineyard Grenache.

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

 

Weatherborne Wine Corp.
Winemaker Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp. was pouring his first vintage (2012) of the one & only varietal he produces (a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir).  That being said, it was probably one of the best Pinot’s I’ve tasted – the perfect balance of juicy fruit and a hint of spice.  I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Weatherborne…

Chris Carter of Weatherborne

Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp.

 

ONX Wines
I had the opportunity to try ONX Wines at the last Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles.  Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the unique blends ONX produces – particularly their Tempranillo based “Praetorian”.  When I found out they were debuting a ’13 Rosé of Tempranillo called “Indie”, I had to try it.

Just like all the other wines ONX produces, I can’t recommend the ’13 Indie Rosé enough.  Delicious.

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

The '13 "Indie" Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

The ’13 “Indie” Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

Once again, “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” provided an invaluable opportunity to taste some outstanding, yet-to-be-discovered wines and to talk to the friendly, passionate artisans who make them.  I hope to see everyone at the next one… Cheers!

Related Posts:
2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” Returns to Solvang…

Paraiso Vineyards | Monterey County, CA

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

There is something magical about the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, CA.  Whether it’s the cloudless blue skies, the cool breezes that float through the Salinas Valley or the sweeping views from the hillside vineyards, there’s something truly intoxicating about the area.

The view from Paraiso Vineyards

The view from Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

During my last visit, I spent an afternoon at Paraiso Vineyards.  Paraiso is one of the 13 or so tasting rooms located along the River Road Wine Trail, which is the main tasting route through the Valley.

Paraiso Vineyards is owned and operated by the Smith family – one of the first wine grape growing families in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  The Smith family settled in the area in the early 1970′s and they’ve been crafting delicious, small production wines for 40 years.

Paraiso Vineyard

Paraiso Vineyard Tasting Room

Located high above River Road, the views at Paraiso Vineyards are absolutely stunning.  We grabbed our first taste – a 2010 Chardonnay – and headed outside to sit on the deck and enjoy the gorgeous day.

Paraiso Vineyards - the perfect place for a dream wedding

Paraiso Vineyards – the perfect place for a dream wedding

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Our tasting included 7 wines for a $5 fee.  All the wines we tried were estate grown with the exception of a juicy 2009 “Irie” Zinfandel crafted from Paso Robles grapes by third generation Smith family member, Justin Murphy.

Our dog Booker enjoying the view

Our dog Booker enjoying the view

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Not only were all the wines we tasted really good, but they were also surprisingly affordable with the most expensive bottle – the 2008 “Wedding Hill” Syrah – priced at $45.  My personal favorites were the 2010 Riesling ($16) which is made of grapes selected from 35 year old vines, and the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($25).

We spent nearly two hours sitting outside at Paraiso and could have easily spent another two enjoying the gorgeous views.  Paraiso Vineyards is a beautiful winery with beautiful wines to match.

Click here to visit the Paraiso Vineyards website.

PARAISO VINEYARDS
38060 Paraiso Springs Road
Soledad, CA  93960
Phone:  (831) 678-0300
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 4PM Weekdays; 11AM – 5PM Weekends

De Tierra Vineyards | Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Carmel-By-The-Sea is by far one of my favorite places in California. During a recent visit, I had the opportunity to visit a few of the many tasting rooms located right in town.

With over 13 tasting rooms within walking distance from one another, it’s easy to leave your car behind and spend a day strolling around town sampling great Monterey County wines.

Carmel-By-The-Sea tasting rooms

Carmel-By-The-Sea tasting rooms

Not only is Carmel-By-The-Sea gorgeous and very walkable, it’s also the most dog-friendly town I’ve ever visited. Tasting rooms, restaurants, beaches and shops all seem to welcome furry friends with open arms, and often have a water bowl and some treats to share.

Booker enjoying a morning run on the Carmel-By-The-Sea beach

Booker enjoying a morning run on the Carmel-By-The-Sea beach

One particular day, we decided to try the wines of De Tierra Vineyards. We wanted to get some food first and walked to town on a quintessential Carmel-By-The-Sea morning – foggy and a bit chilly with the scent of pine permeating the air. Just perfect.

Breakfast at Katy's Place

Breakfast at Katy’s Place

We decided to grab a late breakfast at Katy’s Place – a popular local spot with great food and a dog-friendly patio. I highly recommend Katy’s Place if you’re visiting town. Just remember to stop at the ATM first as it’s “cash only”.

Our dog Booker was able to join us on the patio for Breakfast

Our dog Booker was able to join us on the patio for breakfast

After breakfast, we headed a few doors down the street to the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room. De Tierra came highly recommended by a few local wine aficionados, so I was very excited for our tasting.

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by Chris who took us through the portfolio of hand-crafted De Tierra wines.   We opted to try 6 wines for a $15 tasting fee.

De Tierra Vineyards

De Tierra Vineyards

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

I had a tough time choosing my favorites, but I ended up buying a couple bottles of 2011 “Vindegard” Chardonnay ($26), 2009 “Reserve” Chardonnay ($30), and 2011 “The Puzzler” – a blend of Merlot & Syrah ($26).  I’m not a huge fan of sweet wines, but I was also tempted to buy a bottle of nicely balanced 2006 EKEM Late Harvest Pinot Gris ($32).  I’ll have to save that for next time.

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room.  The Corral de Tierra area is located on the Monterey Peninsula between the Santa Lucia Highlands and Carmel Valley where winemaker Tom Russell & his wife Carol own their home & winery.

The Corral de Tierra area is located on the Monterey Peninsula between the Santa Lucia Highlands & Carmel Valley where De Tierra’s winemaker Tom Russell & his wife Carol own their home & artisan winery.

De Tierra Vineyards "Vindegard" Chardonnay

De Tierra Vineyards “Vindegard” Chardonnay

During our tasting, we also enjoyed some fresh baguette and amazing olive oil.  After raving about how good it was, we discovered the olive oil also comes from the Corral de Tierra estate of Tom Russell, owner of De Tierra Vineyards.  The olive oil is available for purchase in the tasting room for $20 per bottle.

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Overall the wines at De Tierra Vineyards were fantastic and the vibe of the tasting room was warm and welcoming.  I couldn’t think of a better place to spend an afternoon.  Be sure to stop by if you’re in town.  I’m already dreaming about my next visit…

Click here to visit the De Tierra Vineyards website.

DE TIERRA VINEYARDS
Misson Street & 5th Avenue
Carmel, CA  93921
Phone:  (831) 754-3176
Email:  info@detierra.com
Tasting room hours: 2PM – 8PM Tuesday through Thursday; 11AM – 8PM Friday through Sunday

Exploring the Lompoc Wine Ghetto – Part 1

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

I’ve known about the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for ages, but for some reason, I never had a strong desire to visit. I had a preconceived notion that it was an easy access, multiple tasting room destination that catered to those who prefer quantity over quality. After visiting for the first time this weekend, I could not have been more wrong.

Tucked away in an industrial park in Lompoc, the Wine Ghetto is home to nearly 20 tasting rooms. It isn’t as visually appealing as some of the picturesque wineries in the area, but that’s what I loved about it. It actually deters large groups traveling in wine tour buses and limos. After all, it’s not exactly a place where you’d want to have your bachelorette party photos taken.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is very serious about wine. In the casual and inviting tasting rooms, passionate wine makers are pouring some incredible, super low production wines for their equally passionate fans.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

Considering the number of tasting rooms in the Ghetto, I decided to try two during this visit and will continue my exploration over the weeks to come. My first stop was Jalama Wines.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

When I pulled up to the Jalama Wines tasting room, I was very happy to see one of the resident winery dogs napping on the sidewalk outside. I discovered that almost all the tasting rooms in the Wine Ghetto allow dogs as long as they’re leashed and well-behaved. It made my desire to explore the area even stronger.

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Once inside the tasting room, I was greeted by Mark Cargasacchi – the winemaker at Jalama who was guiding tasters through his portfolio of small lot, handmade Pinot Noirs, Grenaches and Syrahs.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

The tasting at Jalama consisted of six wines, all of which were seriously good – complex, well-balanced and obviously crafted with care. I took home bottles of of tart 2011 Mourvedre ($36) and full-bodied, multi-layered 2009 “El Capitan” red blend ($36). I also loved the 2011 “Clementina” white blend ($26), which was full of mouthwatering tropical fruit, and the 2010 “Carg” Pinot Noir ($46).

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

For my next stop, I decided to try Zotovich Cellars.

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

Booker joined me in the tasting room and immediately made himself comfortable on the cold stone floor while tasting room manager Chelsea poured my first taste.

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

The tasting at Zotovich Cellars consisted of four wines (with a bonus taste of insanely good, wine club exclusive Viognier). Honestly, I was blown away by all the wines at Zotovich. The Chardonnay was beautifully balanced, the Rosé was like a glass of summertime with lots of strawberry and a nice crispness, the Pinot Noir rivaled some of my absolute favorites from the area, and the Syrah was complex with a blend of dark berries and spice.

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

If I didn’t already have several bottles of Pinot Noir in my collection, it would have been a no-brainer to take some home. Instead, I bought a few bottles of the 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) which will be perfect for warm summer days.

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

If you’re looking to join a wine club, the club at Zotovich Cellars was one of the most flexible I’ve seen with the option to do a yearly shipment of 3, 6, or 12 bottles AND the ability to choose your wines. I’m sure I’ll end up a member sooner than later.

Overall, my first visit to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto was such a great experience that far surpassed my expectations. If the rest of the wineries in the Ghetto are anything like Jalama Wines and Zotovich Cellars, I’m in for a serious treat…

Click here to visit the Jalama Wines website.
Click here to visit the Zotovich Cellars website.
Click here to visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto website.

JALAMA WINES
308 N. 9th Street, Unit C
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 735-8937
Tasting room hours: 12PM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

ZOTOVICH CELLARS
1500 E. Chestnut Court, Suite D
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 736-1600
Email: chelsea@zotovichcellars.com
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

Sparkling Wines for the New Year – Vertuze & Louis Bouillot Sparkling Rosé

With all the celebrating that goes on at this time of year, I find myself enjoying a lot more sparkling wine and champagne than I usually do.

Since I have less time to travel to wine country over the holidays, I’ve been exploring the world of sparkling wine at home with friends and family. I recently tried a couple of bottles of sparkling Rosé that I thought were excellent and deserving of attention right before we ring in the New Year.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rose

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

The first bottle I tried was a brut sparkling Rosé by Vertuze. It is produced in the Arroyo Grande Valley in California’s Central Coast from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Made in the traditional French méthode champenoise, the Vertuze Rosé had a very pale pink hue and a nice touch of sweetness.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

For those who are unfamiliar, the méthode champenoise is the oldest and most traditional way of making sparkling wine. It involves a long, detailed process which includes blending wine (typically some combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) followed by a fermentation period that requires a secondary in-bottle fermentation that can last up to 6 years.

True Champagne comes exclusively from the Champagne region of France while bubbly from anywhere else in the world is referred to as sparkling wine.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Back to Vertuze. Though I typically enjoy a drier sparkling wine, the Vertuze sparkling Rosé was nicely balanced, very easy to drink, and easy on the wallet at about $19 per bottle. I could see this being a hit for sparkling wine drinkers with a wide variety of palates.

The second bottle I tried was a brut Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé called “Perle d’Aurore” by Louis Bouillot. Cremant de Bourgogne is the appellation (or defined geographical area) for the Rosé and white sparkling wines of Burgundy in France.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

The Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. On the palate, it started with lots of strawberry, but finished drier than the Vertuze with a slightly finer effervescence and a nice minerality. I could see this appealing to sparkling wine drinkers who prefer less sweetness. Also crafted in the méthode champenoise, the Louis Bouillot Cremant du Bourgone “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé was a steal at $14.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Grab a bottle (or several bottles) of Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé and Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Sparkling Rosé for your next holiday party. I guarantee either sparkler will be a hit. Cheers & Happy New Year!

2nd Annual Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles

By definition, the term “garagistes” refers to a group of innovative, renegade wine makers from the Bordeaux region who refuse to follow the strict French rules and instead, produce “Vins de garage” or “Garage wine”.

For the second year in a row, Paso Robles has celebrated the spirit of the garagiste movement by holding a festival focused solely on small production wines. Local artisan wine makers – some familiar and some unknown – gather together for a long weekend, giving wine lovers from all over an opportunity to taste the fruits of their labor.

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast – Per Cazo Cellars

This year was my first experience at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival and I was thrilled to be part of it. On this particular trip, we stayed at the Creekside Bed & Breakfast at Per Cazo Cellars. I honestly can’t recommend Creekside B&B enough. From the comfy bed to host Lynn Teckman’s delicious gourmet breakfasts that were delivered to our room each morning, the entire stay was perfect. Creekside B&B was also very dog-friendly which made it extra convenient and comfortable.

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

Amazing breakfast #1: Egg & sausage scramble with fresh mixed fruit, fresh squeezed juice, and warm muffin

Amazing breakfast #2: French toast, thick bacon, and fresh berries

The Garagiste Festival opened on Thursday with a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics featuring the cuisine of celeb chef Ludo Lefevbre. Unfortunately I did not attend the dinner, but having experienced Ludo’s pop-up restaurant LudoBites in Los Angeles, I’m sure diners had an unforgettable experience.

Windfall Farms – Paso Robles

We attended the Garagiste Festival on Saturday, which was the day of the big Grand Tasting. We walked into the beautiful Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms where 48 independent and passionate wine makers were set up for tastings in the horse stalls.

Inside the Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms

It was difficult to decide where to begin, but I decided to head over to Liquid Farm. On a rare occasion, I’ve seen Liquid Farm Chardonnay and Rose on menus at some of the finer restaurants in LA, but I had yet to actually try the wine. Owners Nikki and Jeff Nelson took us through a tasting of two Chardonnays – both of which were unique and wonderfully balanced – as well as one Rose. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Liquid Farm, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Nikki & Jeff Nelson of Liquid Farm

After Liquid Farm, we headed to Nicora Wine where winemaker Nick Elliot took us through some outstanding Rhones. Right now, Nicora wines can be tasted by appointment only, but I highly recommend trying them next time you’re in Paso Robles. I can’t wait to see what else Nick comes up with in the future.

Nick Elliott of Nicora Wine

From Nicora, we headed over to Cloak & Dagger where Ray Schofield walked us through his portfolio of exceptional wines – all of which are “handcrafted in secret”. We were unsuccessful at uncovering any of the secrets of Cloak & Dagger wines, but we were very impressed with what we tasted. We tried two Pinot Noirs, as well as a delicious 2010 Illuminatus Sangiovese and a 2010 Skull & Bones Zinfandel.

Ray Schofield of Cloak & Dagger Wines

After Cloak & Dagger, we headed to Red Zeppelin Winery where the eccentric Stillman Brown introduced us to a couple really good Central Coast red wine blends. Finally, we ended our tasting with the latest offerings from our friends Lynn and Dave Teckman at Per Cazo Cellars. The 2010 Epi Telos and 2010 Zing were so good that I had to take home a couple of bottles when we checked out of the Creekside B&B.

Stillman Brown of Red Zeppelin Winery

Overall, I loved being part of the 2nd Annual Paso Robles’ Garagiste Festival and feel like there were so many more amazing wines to try. The wine makers who I met continue to inspire me and deepen my love for wine. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to taste new wines with the passionate people who are hand-crafting them. I look forward to next year…

Presqu’ile Winery | Los Olivos, CA

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

Every time I head up to Los Olivos, CA, I feel like the town just gets better and better. With every trip, I seem to uncover an incredible new wine or a fun, new place to grab a bite. This past weekend was certainly no exception.

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

Presqu’ile Wine – Los Olivos, CA

I decided to try the wines of Presqu’ile and instantly fell in love. The Presqu’ile Wine tasting room is located a couple of doors down from the recently opened Sides Hardware & Shoes restaurant. The restaurant had a 45 minute wait, so we put down our names and headed to Presqu’ile.

Anna Murphy in the Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

We walked in the front door and I couldn’t help notice the incredibly cool decor. The room was painted in a deep charcoal that was warmed with splashes of color, interesting art, and great lighting. It was refreshing to see a tasting room with such a unique and contemporary design.

Proper pronunciation of Presqu’ile cleverly written on the tasting room wall

Colorful art on the wall at Presqu’ile

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

I was also thrilled to see a doggy water bowl on the front porch when we arrived. Our dog Booker was welcomed inside and instantly made friends with the tasting room dog, Hazel.

Booker and his new friend Hazel having a blast

While the dogs played, we sat at the bar and started our tasting. They offer a Presqu’ile Flight for $10 which includes a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Rose and a Pinot Noir. They also offer a tasting flight of 3 Pinot Noirs for $15, or you can taste all 6 wines for $20.

Wine wall at Presqu’ile

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Menu

We opted for the “taste them all” option, and tasting room manager Anna Murphy took us through the line up while she told us about the history of the winery.

We learned that the Murphy Family owns Presqu’ile and that the name means “almost an island” – an homage to a very special piece of land in the Gulf Coast that belonged to her family and was lost during Hurricane Katrina. The family is working on a permanent Santa Maria winery/tasting room that will open Summer 2013.

Chandelier in the Presqu’ile tasting room

Back to the wine. I thought the entire line up was pretty incredible and had a difficult time picking favorites. Winemaker Dieter Cronje handcrafts the wines in a perfectly balanced, elegant, food friendly style which I really enjoyed – especially in an area with so many super-juicy Pinot Noirs and buttery Chardonnays.

Photo of winemaker Dieter Cronje

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

Presqu’ile Wine Tasting Room

The hot day helped me narrow down my purchases to a 2010 Presqu’ile Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley ($35) and a 2011 Presqu’ile Rose of Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley ($18). I will definitely be back for several bottles of Pinot Noir on my next visit.

Overall, I was so happy we visited Presqu’ile. Anna was such a pleasure to chat with, the vibe of the tasting room was so welcoming and fresh, Booker got a great workout playing with Hazel, and the wines were fantastic. I can’t wait for my next visit.

Click here to visit the Presqu’ile Winery website.

PRESQU’ILE WINERY – TASTING ROOM
2369 Alamo Pintado Avenue
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 688-2022
Email: info@presquilewine.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Thursday through Monday

Wrath Wines | Monterey County, CA

Wrath Wines

Wrath Wines

The Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County was yet-to-be-explored wine country for me until a couple of weekends ago. After spending two perfect days soaking up as much of the area as I could, I found it to be a unique and very special place.

The SLH AVA sits in the Salinas Valley between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan Mountain Ranges, and enjoys a true cool climate thanks to fog and breezes blowing in from the Monterey Bay. This makes it absolutely ideal for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah – varieties that dominate in the area. As a serious fan of Pinot Noir, I couldn’t wait to taste some new wines.

Wrath Wines

We spent most of our time on the River Road Wine Trail, which is essentially the main artery through the Valley and home to approximately 13 tasting rooms. The area is covered by over 50 vineyards, but most of them are private and solely grow grapes to sell to wine makers. We stopped at many of the tasting rooms along the wine trail, but I absolutely fell in love with Wrath Wines.

Exterior of the Wrath Wines tasting room

Exterior of the Wrath Wines tasting room

Aside from the fact that it’s surrounded by gorgeous vineyards, the Wrath Wines tasting room was not an immediate stunner. That is, until we stepped inside. Once I walked through the front door, I felt like I had entered a hidden oasis.

A view of the outdoors from inside the Wrath Wines tasting room

Wrath Wines tasting room

Wrath Wines

Inside, the tasting room was modern, simple & bright. We had our dog, Booker, with us and he was immediately welcomed to join us indoors. He quickly became friends with a winery dog named Penny and the two of them chased each other through the vines the entire time we tasted. We decided to grab our first taste and join the doggies outside.

Sip Certified Wrath Wines

Wrath Wines

Wrath tasting menu

We enjoyed an outstanding line up of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrahs while relaxing by the pond. We also ordered a plate of crackers with local, hand crafted Monterey Jack cheese from Schoch Family Farmstead.

The cheese is hand-made just down the road from the winery by the Schoch family who have owned and operated their small dairy since 1944. It was so yummy and paired so nicely with the wine that I hunted it down at The Cheese Shop in Carmel – right next to Wrath’s smaller Carmel tasting room.

Stunning views at Wrath Wines

Penny showing our dog Booker around the property…

Wrath Wines

Pond at the Wrath Wines tasting room

Outdoor seating at Wrath Wines

Outdoor seating at Wrath Wines

Wrath Wine & Schoch Family Farmstead Cheese

Wrath’s adorable winery dog, Penny

An incredible old building that sits next to the vineyards and can be seen on the label of every bottle of Wrath wine.

Even after spending a couple of hours at Wrath Wines, I didn’t want to leave. The stunning scenery, amazing wine, and friendly people made the whole experience unforgettable. I can’t think of a better place to lose track of an afternoon. Wrath is not to be missed.

Click here to visit the Wrath Wines website.

WRATH WINES
35801 Foothill Road
Soledad, CA 93960
Phone: (831) 678-2212
Email: info@wrathwines.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Friday through Monday

Foxen Vineyard & Winery…Again.

I realize this is the third time (at least) I’ve written about Foxen Vineyard & Winery, but as I sit here opening up my latest wine club shipment, I feel like a quick post is definitely in order.

Foxen Wine Club Open House

I patiently waited for three long years to be accepted into Foxen’s Anchor Wine Club. Due to the relatively small production at Foxen, wine club membership is limited and waiting lists are often long. But now that I’m a member, I can say without hesitation that the wait was 100% worth it.

As a member of the Foxen Anchor Club, I’ve been enjoying great discounts at the winery and feel like a kid on Christmas every time I receive one of my regular quarterly wine shipments (many of which are wine club exclusives). However, one of my best club experiences thus far happened on February 25th at Foxen’s first ever Wine Club Open House.

Heading into the barrel room at Foxen’s Wine Club Open House

We started our day of tasting at the Foxen shack where we tried a few wines before heading up to the newer, larger winery for the private event. When we arrived, we were led directly into the barrel room – a place that I’ve been dying to see ever since it was built.

Inside the Foxen Vineyard & Winery barrel room…

We signed in, were given name tags and wine glasses, and started our tasting on the east side of the barrel room. As we walked past neatly stacked barrels towards the folding table where a small crowd was gathered, I realized the man pouring was winemaker Bill Wathen.

Foxen’s winemaker Bill “Billy” Wathen

Bill “Billy” Wathen has been lovingly hand-crafting the wines at Foxen from day one. As I walked up to Billy, I have to admit I felt a bit starstruck. I’ve been hearing about the “Foxen Boys” Bill and Dick for years, but I had never met them in the flesh.

I introduced myself to Billy and he poured us tastes of his latest offerings, including a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – Vogelzang Vineyard, a 2010 Chardonnay – Tinaquaic Vineyard, a 2010 Pinot Noir – Santa Maria Valley, and a 2010 Pinot Noir – John Sebastiano Vineyard.

More views from inside the Foxen barrel room

I truly have never tried a wine at Foxen that I didn’t like and I feel like the Pinot Noir’s that come out of Foxen are unparalleled. Such was the case during this visit. It was such a wonderful opportunity to have the winemaker walk us through his creations.

After we tried the first four wines, we headed to the snack table where we grabbed a selection of cheeses, almonds, olives, meats and chocolates – all of which were a nice complement to the wine. Then we moved on to the west side of the barrel room to finish our tasting.

More views from inside the Foxen barrel room…

On the way to the west end of the room, we bumped into Dick Dore – Bill Wathen’s partner at Foxen and the man behind the slogan “if you don’t know Foxen, you don’t know Dick”. We got a chance to speak to Dick about some of the dinners and events Foxen has coming up – some of which were happening in my hometown just outside of Chicago.

We found that Billy had moved to the west side tasting table, so we were fortunate enough to have him pour our last three tastes – a 2009 Pinot Noir – La Encantada Vineyard, a 2008 Volpino – Santa Ynez Valley, and a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – Vogelzang Vineyard.

The wine list from the Foxen Wine Club Open House

We chatted a bit more and enjoyed our last tastes on a picture-perfect Santa Maria afternoon. I walked away with a couple extra bottles of the 2010 John Sebastiano Vineyard and the 2009 La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Noir’s – both of which were too good for words. If you can get your hands on either bottle, you’ll be very pleased you did. They’re heavenly.

Dick Dore outside the Foxen Vineyard & Winery barrel room

I absolutely loved being part of this wine club event and hope it’s something Foxen does more regularly. I’ve been to several other wine club events, but I’ve never been to one that felt quite so relaxed and personal. It was so nice to meet Billy, Dick, Allyson, Lee and the rest of the crew.

As I open my wine club shipment, I feel like I have an even deeper connection to what is inside and know a bit more about how each wine came to be. I look forward to the next one…

Click here to visit the Foxen Vineyard website.

FOXEN WINERY & VINEYARD
(business address & tasting room)
7600 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 937-4251
Fax: (805) 937-0415
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 4PM Daily

(foxen 7200 “the shack”)
7200 Foxen Canyon Road
Santa Maria, CA 93454
Phone: (805) 937-4251
Fax: (805) 937-0415