Tasting Room Series

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For past Sonoma and Napa posts and a collection of other travel blog posts, visit my Travel page.

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My September getaway to Sonoma County feels like it was a million years ago. With all of the other travel I have been doing, I’ve been away just about every two weeks, and in between life and the flu have gotten in the way. I am finally sitting down to share a whirlwind recap of the wineries we visited on this trip. We missed a few favorites but discovered some great new-to-me spots, and with another Sonoma visit on the horizon for May, I am in a good place for planning. We also got to eat at some favorite Sonoma County restaurants while having to save others for the next trip. The one lesson we have learned over many trips to wine country is to not cram everything in. It’s easy to want to eat and taste and see everything, but it’s a lot more enjoyable if you pace yourself.

Sonoma County Sunset

This time around I was visiting Sonoma County with a group of friends, and we had a house in Santa Rosa as our home base. On our first night, we enjoyed a picnic spread, live music, beautiful wine, and an epic sunset at Paradise Ridge Winery.

Paradise Ridge Winery

It is hard to believe, but just weeks later, this very special place burned down during the wildfires that swept through the area. Paradise Ridge plans to rebuild, and I know that their many friends and fans will be there at the door when it reopens for business.

Paradise Ridge Winery

We tried to have a few wine tasting appointments on the calendar and to build the days around that. The constants throughout were blue skies and perfect sunshine. On my first full day, we kicked off our wine adventures at the gorgeous Iron Horse Vineyards, where the views are as stunning as the bubbles in your glass.

iron horse sonoma county

The outdoor tasting room at Iron Horse is as perfect as it gets, rustic, open air (but with heaters!) and complete access to the intense beauty that surrounds it. All of the sparkling wines we tasted were insanely good, but a few bottles of the Russian Cuvee made it into the shipment back to Boston for me!

Iron Horse Vineyards

Our next stop, Red Car Winery, was another I had visited before, and a favorite producer of Pinot Noir and their large format rosé of Pinot Noir. A living-room-like setting is a comfy spot for tasting year round, and our club membership means that we will definitely be back on our May visit.

red car wine

Lunchtime and grumbling stomachs brought us to The Barlow for food (more on that in a future post) and more wine, naturally. 

The Barlow

Wind Gap Wines makes some of my all time favorite wines, so it was again a must-visit on this trip. Their Chenin Blanc and Trousseau Gris are always my top choices, and the sun streaming in the open windows of the tasting room plus the dog there on my last visit make it one of my favorite places to while away an afternoon on vacation.

Wind Gap Wine

We ended that day with an incredible dinner at Bird & the Bottle, which I highly recommend.

Our Friday in Sonoma County was dedicated to Healdsburg, which we traveled to in an Uber and spent the day walking and eating and drinking around. We had lunch at Bravas Tapas and a special tasting at another favorite, Cartograph Wines,

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This is definitely a must-visit tasting room in Healdsburg, especially for Pinot Noir lovers and anyone who likes genuinely awesome people. Everyone there is just the best.

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And as it often happens, good people who know good wine, make recommendations on where to go next. Since we didn’t have any set plans, we took the recommendation to walk to Breathless Wines, and we were so glad we did.

This sparkling winery owned by three sisters has a beautiful outdoor garden space to taste their yummy wines.

Breathless WinesHealdsburg wine tasting

They’ve done a really great job with both the indoor and outdoor spaces, and their sparkling rosé was perfect for a hot September day. Their Moscato was the real surprise of the day. We all expected sweet, which we don’t love, but instead got beautiful, complex flavors of herbs and spices and baked apples.

Breathless Wine

Another recommendation we received from Cartograph was DaVero Farms and Winery, a short Uber drive outside of the downtown area of Healdsburg, and so worth the trip.

Davero Wine

Talk about a special place. . . DaVero is a nature-lover’s dream, with gorgeous plants and flowers, views, and piglets!

DaVero makes wines with Mediterranean varietals that thrive in the climate they grow them in. You’ll see Barbera and Sangiovese on their wine tasting list, and they offer an interesting, delicious departure from many of the other wines you’ll be tasting in the area. Be sure to build in some time to walk around to see the property! 

Davero WinerySonoma

On our final day in Sonoma County, as we made our way back to San Francisco, we squeezed in a few more wine stops.

In downtown Sonoma, Roche Family Winery was a destination for us, as one of our party shares a last name with the owners. Another sunshine-drenched outdoor space, this time great for people watching just outside of Sonoma Plaza, and a big, buttery Chardonnay (I like them!) gave us the perfect sendoff out of town and on our way to beautiful and bubbly all-time favorite, Gloria Ferrer, which I blogged about here.

Roche Winery Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer is a tradition for us and a must-visit at least once on every trip to Sonoma County.

Holding on to the very last seconds in beautiful wine country before we headed back to the crowded and much chillier city, we made our last stop to wander around Cornerstone Sonoma, where a cold glass of Meadowcraft Wines Sauvignon Blanc accompanied me on my walk around the gardens.

Meadowcroft WineCornerstone Sonoma

Ahhh. . . some of the best life memories come from travel to Northern California, and as much as we want to see the whole world, we keep coming back to Sonoma County for more.

Stay tuned for a final food recap and some photos of the gorgeous house we rented!

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Tags: California, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Travel, wine, wine tasting, wine travel

I am afraid by saying it out loud that I am going to jinx it, but patio season feels like it may have arrived in Boston. . . fingers crossed that it stays! I have been longing for warm evenings outside on our patio and on the boat, and I recently tried a couple of wine samples that are the perfect additions to the season.

Patio wines should be easy to drink all by themselves, paired with sundresses and flip flops, but also delicious with summery foods.

Mas Janeil Hauts de Janeil Syrah Rosé 2015

Patio season obviously means copious quantities of rosé, and  Mas Janeil Hauts de Janeil Syrah Rosé 2015 from Languedoc-Roussillon is simply delicious. This blend of Syrah and Grenache is bursting with fresh berry notes and offers a beautiful ballet slipper hue. It really brings the acid that both refreshes and adds to a meal, especially one that is prepared on the grill. This wine would be perfect with grilled shrimp but also has enough personality to pair with grilled chicken, veggies, and even steak, because it’s summer, and everything is just better.

grilling

Food on the grill and summer wines basically equal heaven for me.

Dopff & Irion Crustacés 2014, If you’re looking for the perfect seafood white wine, look no further than Alsace.

Dopff & Irion Crustacés 2014

Now, I am not one to judge a wine by its label, but come on. . . this is the perfect addition to your summer clambake! This blend of Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc is light and mineral-forward, with hints of apricot and a bit of acidity. The label may make it part of the decor, but what’s inside makes it a perfect pairing with shellfish (Add a splash from your glass to your steamed clams!) and other seafood, including a hot buttered lobster roll, of course.

 

steamers

 

Both of these wines were provided as review samples; all opinions are my own.

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Tags: rose, Rosé season, seafood, wine, wine pairings, Wine Wednesday

While we enjoy rosé year-round in our house and definitely sipped pink wine on our recent California trip, there is something about cracking open that first bottle of rosé when spring finally arrives in Boston.

We marked that occasion with a sample bottle I had recently received from Spanish DO Utiel Requena. More information on this region is at the end of my blog post.

 

Aula Bobal

This Aula Bobal Rosado wine is from Bodegas Coviñas and is 100% Bobal. Bobal is a dark-skinned grape that is native to Utiel Requena.

The first thing I loved about this wine was the color, of course. I love all things pink, and the vibrant color of this wine and the pretty label are just lovely additions to a summer dining table. This would be a perfect wine for a wedding or baby shower. I am picturing  baskets and baskets of bottles of beautiful pink wine. .  .

We opened this wine right after a long walk, and I was glad I had it chilled. It is perfect (at least for me) right out of the fridge, cool and refreshing. This is definitely not a shrinking violet of rosé wines. I would go as far as to say that it is bold and bright, with notes of strawberry and watermelon, not sweet and not super acidic, just really fresh and balanced but also with a richness about it, if that makes any sense. While this is the perfect addition to your summer wine list, it’s a rosé you could easily drink in the winter; it definitely has structure and flavor with a bit of oomph!

Aula Bobal

It’s also the perfect grilling companion. We had spice and citrus marinated chicken thighs with grilled mushrooms and peppers, and while the wine’s freshness and fruity notes went with the citrus and peppers really well, that bit of boldness it has made it a match for the stronger flavors of the mushrooms and meat. It was the perfect spring dinner!

Grilling

 

Utiel and Requena’s winemaking culture prides itself on tradition with over 2700 years of history. Archaeological digs in this region have proven that the production of wine and its commercialization have continued uninterrupted since the beginning of the Iberian age until present day.  Bobal is the signature grape of this area. Utiel-Requena includes 9 municipalities where you can find a range of micro-climes that help to make different kinds of wines to express the unique terroir found in the region.

 

This wine was provided to me as a review sample. All opinions are my own.

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Tags: blogging, grilling, rose, Rosé season, rose wine, spring, wine, wine blog, wine lover, wine tasting

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