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Happy Friday! It’s a good day to talk about wine, don’t you think?

About a month ago, I received the opportunity to review VinoVersal wine club, and I of course jumped at the chance. I enjoy wine clubs as a way to make sure our wine fridge is stocked with different wines.

The first wine club tasting parcel featured wines from Salento, Italy, a region I knew nothing about. In addition to six bottles of wine, the parcel comes with a beautiful magazine highlighting the region and connecting the wines and wine region to the recipient.

VinoVersal

Isn’t this lovely? I learned that Salento is in the heel of Italy, that it is gorgeous, and that it produces some velvety, lush wines, my favorites being the Pietra Caya Malvasia and the Tenuta Boncore Negroamaro. They were all good though. Tasting notes (from VinoVersal) are at the end of the post. wine club magazine

I got to meet the VinoVersal team and taste all of the wines at the Boston Wine Expo as well, which was great. One of the things I love about travel to wine country is meeting the people behind businesses; wine people are always so nice! While chatting with the team, I learned that someone actually visits each wine region for extensive tasting research (tough job!) and chooses bottles for the parcels. I love the connections that wine brings, and I found it really nice that they wines aren’t just randomly included. These wines were all high quality and introduced me to grapes I never look for.

VinoVersal Wine Club

 

Would I order it for myself?

Absolutely. At $95 for six hand-selected bottles of wine, including shipping and including the fun and informative magazine, it’s a great deal and a great gift. Wine clubs like this encourage people like me (who tend to gravitate to certain wine regions all the time) to expand the palate and to learn more about the wine world, something I love to do but am not always proactive about.

The wines included in the first tasting parcel are as follows.

Negroamaro Salento

The scent is a powerful impression, rustic but perfumed.  Starting with traces of licorice, figs, and eucalyptus.  The taste is full of dried fruit, sweetness and yet earthy and slightly spiced.  A distinctly acidic, full finish wine.  The color is deep and robust.

Primitivo Salento

With up- front fruit and a blend of dried strawberries, olives, and freshly cut hay this wine has a taste of sweetness from the sun-ripened Primitivo grapes with accents of fig and lavender.  The color is medium but packs a punch for this red.

Primius Primitivo Di Manduria

The nose is typical Primitivo with ripe cherries and chocolate.  This wine is balanced and refreshing.  With only 6 months in oak; don’t lay it down or ponder over it’s possibilities.  “Release the Brakes”  Enjoy this medium color balanced wine.

Pietra Caya

Rustic describes this wine with forest berries and lavender.  A big glass of fruit but delicate velvety selections of acids and tannins.  The color seems medium, but the flavors have depth.

Salice Salentino Riserva

The aroma is inviting with dark chocolate, licorice, caramel, and fig.  The same impression follows thru with balanced acids, tannins and a slight sweetness from some over ripened grapes.  24 months in oak give this wine something to talk about over dinner.

Contrada Del Falco

First impression in the vineyard and the grapes, think cigar box, dark chocolate, a little dust and some ripe stone fruit.  Now taste the broad mix of ripe fresh fruit and sun dried raisins.

VinoVersal provided me with a complimentary parcel for review. All opinions are my own.

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The beauty in the Napa Valley is never-ending and as I mentioned before, can be overwhelming. It always helps to have suggestions of places to visit, which is why I am writing so much about our trip. One suggestion came from someone the hubs met while eating lunch at The Cliff House. Oh yes, while I was Foodbuzzing away, the hubs was having his own biking adventure all over the city, over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, dipping his toes in the Pacific, and making friends with locals over pints of Guinness. There may be a guest post coming soon. . . ;) One of the people he met suggested that we must go to Castello di Amorosa. So, we grudgingly left Chateau Montelena, stopped at the Old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga, chose not to pay $7 to see the geyser erupt, and drove on Castello di Amorosa. Now normally I would think a newly constructed castle in a place where castles don’t exist would be cheesy. However, this is done in such a beautiful and genuine manner (not to mention the wine was great!) that I absolutely loved it. We could have easily been walking through Civitella or some other Italian fortress. Despite only existing for a few years rather than a few centuries, the property felt authentic and majestic and is perfectly taken care of. To access the winery, you must drive up a short, hilly road. On the way, you pass fields of grapevines and chickens, along with a small chapel.
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There were also sheep on the grounds, and unlike Irish sheep, these sheep wanted me to pet them. You have no idea how much time I have spent chasing sheep in Irish fields. . .
image image A winding walkway brings you into the castle, where you can choose a tour/and or tasting. image
The very friendly staff will ring you up for whatever you choose and will send you on your way past some really cool rooms and a large courtyard.
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It was very sunny the day that we were there, and I can’t imagine how beautiful it would be on a summer day. Can you picture yourself sitting out in this courtyard sipping a glass of cool Gewürztraminer?
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Lemons growing in November. . . After a leisurely stroll taking in the beautiful architecture and art of the castle, we found the tasting room.
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It probably says a lot that we ended up joining the wine club at this winery. The tasting included five choices each, so we shared ten different wines. We loved them all but the standouts were the 2008 Gioia (joyah), a beautiful Rosato di Sangiovese, the 2007 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer which completely blew me away, and the 2002 Il Brigante Cabernet/Merlot blend, which had a bit of a smoky, dare I say bacon-like flavor to it. Delicious. The tasting room was also a store with all sorts of wine-related items, books, chocolates, and other delights. While finishing our tasting I kept thinking I heard a meow. Surely, I find new friends everywhere I go.
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I crouched down to give this kitty a pat on the head, and before I knew it, it was in my lap, curling up to sleep. I hated to get up! We finished up by joining their reds only club. I can’t wait to receive our first shipment! Our drive out was equally as lovely as our drive in. I stopped in the chapel to shoot a photo and to reflect on all of the positivity that I felt on our vacation.
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My next posts will cover the final two wineries of our trip as well as the random sushi dinner we had before departing for the San Francisco airport. I also have a post on our lunch at the Culinary Institute of America but may be using that as a guest post. . . I will uh keep you posted. ;) See ya!

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On our first full day in CA, we planned on going to Alcatraz at 9 am to beat the crowds and the heat. I booked the tickets months ago. . . or so I thought. When we arrived in San Francisco and started laying out our itinerary, I couldn’t find the email confirmation for the tickets, and when I checked my bank account, I realized I had never been charged. We aren’t quite sure what happened because we remember booking them, but I guess the transaction timed out or something. At any rate, Alcatraz tickets are sold out sometimes weeks in advance, and we were not able to get them for that Friday. Plan B, whipped up by my wonderful husband, was a trip up to Sonoma. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it to Sonoma on this trip, so it was truly a bonus to be able to go. We were on East coast time = I was up at around 3:55 am. UGH! It’s vacation! I laid in bed but decided to get up a little after 6 and spent time reading blogs and work emails.

Hubs woke up and booked a Zip Car for us, a gorgeous BMW that was parked a few blocks away. I love Zip Car!

Before leaving we stopped by the hotel’s free morning coffee and tea table. We stayed at the Hotel Palomar, a Kimpton property, and we were thrilled with the rooms, the service, and the little perks like free coffee and hosted wine hour. The location was great, at Market and 4th, and we got a great deal. If we go back to San Francisco in November we will likely stay here again.

The coffee table was great; they even had hazelnut syrup and soy milk! It was the perfect way to start the day. On the way to get the car, we stopped at San Francisco’s famous Boudin for breakfast sandwiches. I had an egg and cheddar on sourdough, and not only was it delicious, but it held me all the way through to a 1:00 lunch. I love foods that keep me full!

Boudin Bakery sourdough bread

Boudin is famous for its sourdough bread. I love the bread shaped like a crab!

The ride up to Sonoma was quick and just gorgeous. Lots of rolling hills, farms, and vineyards. Since we hadn’t planned on going up, we didn’t have tasting appointments as we did in Napa, so we decided to wing it.

Our first stop was at the Valley of the Moon winery where we enjoyed a tasting of a variety of wines, mostly reds. My favorite was the Carneros Pinot Noir. It had a deep red color and full flavor with a nice long finish. This winery unfortunately did not ship to Massachusetts, so we hope to go back someday to buy and package the wine to ship to ourselves.

Valley of the Moon winery wine grapes at Valley of the Moon

Valley of the Moon Tasting Room

Nothin like a little red wine at 10 am ;)

We had a nice chat about the area with the lovely woman pouring at this winery, and we were encouraged to drive up to Healdsburg. Since we had never been here before, everything seemed far apart, but it wasn’t. We were in Healdsburg before we knew it and were faced with signs pointing to wineries in every direction. Healdsburg very quickly became my favorite place on earth. :)

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We passed by the Mauritson Winery outside of Healdsburg where we stopped for a tasting and to play with their gorgeous yellow labs. Wine + dogs = bliss! Their property was just lovely with a comfortable outside seating area in addition to a nice, cool inside tasting area. The name of the game here was definitely Zinfandel, a wine that I am really not that familiar with.  I really enjoyed all of the wines here, but the Dry Creek Zinfandel was the best by far. It was complex and round, and I loved hearing from the experts about the growing season in 2007 and how that contributed to the wine’s flavor and quality. So much goes into winemaking, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Mauritson Winery Mauritson Winery

No paw shakes from this lady . . . :)

For lunch we backtracked to Healdsburg and ate at the Bear Republic Brewery and Restaurant. I ordered the shrimp Louis salad which was awesome, full of bay shrimp, avocado, hardboiled egg, crisp lettuce, and cucumbers. After my morning wine tasting, water and veggies felt great!

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Our third winery of the day was further south, back near Sonoma. Gundlach Bundschu offers cave tours, a beautiful view of wine country fields and hills, a small pond, a picnic area, and gorgeous tasting room in addition to a rich history. Our pourer was very friendly, and we chatted about the area and were treated to a couple of extra pours to try wines that were not included in the tasting we chose. My favorite, above all was again the 2007 Zinfandel. It has a nose and front of mouth flavor of strawberry jam, so delicious, with a long finish at the back of the mouth. This tasting was a lot of fun, and really informative. We were able to try a lot, and we decided to join their wine club which means we signed up for 2 cases a year. The first 4 bottles arrive in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait! It was so nice to not have to lug the wine back to Boston as I did when I visited the Willamette wine region last year.

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Our final winery of the day was magical. Gloria Ferrer is located down a long road that goes between fields of grapes, then up a hill to the terraced tasting room. Holy gorgeous! A Spanish winery, Gloria Ferrer specializes in bubbly, and it was bubbly we drank. We tried a couple of wines, but the winner by far was the Va de Vi. (It’s about the wine!)

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Gloria Ferrer, Sonoma P9040859

While I look like I am in pain in this photo, I was really having a good time. You couldn’t beat the view, the company, or the sparkling wine. They served us on the patio and included some spicy Spanish almonds. It was the perfect pairing to the bubbly, dry wine which to me had a sweet, yeasty, bread-like nose to it. Inhaling the smell of the wine with the sweet earthy smell of the surrounding area was heavenly.

wine tasting at Gloria Ferrer

Our drive back to San Francisco was nothing short of stunning. We made it just in time for our dinner reservation at Circa, where Top Chef contestant Erik Hopfinger is the Executive Chef.

Golden Gate Bridge

We started with the hummus and tzatziki.

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I love grilled bread. Its so simple, but so delicious. The hummus was a tiny bit smoky and spicy, and the cool cucumber laden yogurt added a nice creamy balance to it.

For our main courses we split the truffled lobster mac and cheese, the roast chicken with spinach and mashed potatoes, and of course, the parmesan truffle fries.

Carb heaven for me!

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These were all true comfort foods and were perfect after a long day as the night got chillier. I had a few bites of the chicken which was juicy and tender and paired perfectly with the spinach, which was just amazing. I don’t often enjoy cooked spinach, but this still had some bite in it; it wasn’t mushy or overdone at all. The prices were very reasonable, and the food was just to die for. We cleaned the plates and left stuffed and satisfied. The atmosphere was sort of big city chic but with a level of comfort that made us feel right at home and perfectly relaxed. . . so much so that we were slightly falling asleep after our long day!

Chef Hopfinger was in the kitchen which was visible from our seats, and I wanted to say hi but didn’t. Maybe next time. . . I should probably get over my shyness if I ever want to work in the food and wine industry!

After that we drove around a bit, watched the sunset, took a spin through Castro, and called it a night fairly early, still adjusting to the time zone and totally happy after a day in the valley. :)

Question: If you drink wine, whats your favorite? Does it change with the seasons?

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Tags: Carneros, Food, Gloria Ferrer, Gundlach Bundschu, Healdsburg, Mauritson, San Francisco, Sonoma, Sonoma County, sparkling wine, Tasting Room, wine, wine club, wine country, wine tasting, Zinfandel

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