Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trip to Sonoma & Healdsburg - August 2007: Part 1

I guess you could say this is the trip that started our love affair with Healdsburg and other areas of the Russian River Valley! I'll write this in two parts because I have a feeling it will get LONG! Here is Part 1.

My husband, P, had a business meeting with a wine broker in Sonoma. It was suggested that I tag along and we make an anniversary day trip of it since our first anniversary was the weekend before this meeting. We started the day at the wine broker's office to taste some of the wines that P sells. I had never really done a lot of wine tasting before and really didn't know what the heck I was doing. It was really nice to be tutored by P's new friend, Scott since he was willing to help us with the language used "in the biz" to describe wine. I'd always wondered what the big deal with swirling and talking about "the nose" & "the legs" was about. I mean, who knew wine had its own body parts? People examine the color & clarity (what is this, a precious gem?!). Just drink the stuff, right?! Oh how naive I was back then! I've learned a lot in past year or so, but this is what I really count as Day One of enhancing my wine knowledge. Here are some things I learned that turned me from a casual wine drinker into a Wine Geek in the making:

Looking at the color and clarity of a wine can tell you a lot about it before you taste it. Red wines can really be purple, maroon, ruby red, even a little brownish. White wines can be almost colorless, light yellow, golden yellow, greenish, and again - even a little brownish. Some wines will be really clear and almost watery, while others will be grainy and opaque. I never really thought about why this might matter, but it can. Some people think that they hate all red wines, when really they just don't like super heavy, gritty, dark red wines. Others might think they don't like white wine, but they really just don't like "creamy" whites. I'd never paid that much attention, but now I can actually tell (or at least guess!) a lot about a wine just by looking at it!

Swirling and smelling really do make a difference! When you swirl wine in your glass, it helps to vaporize some of the wine's alcohol and release more of its natural scents - like the fruit! I saw people do this all the time and knew that it had to do with smelling before tasting, but had no idea WHY it was important. It was really cool to finally hear a reason! The aroma released is the wine's "nose." Finally, this stuff was making sense! I didn't learn about "legs" that day - I'll save that revelation for another adventure. ;o)

Sip, but don't swallow right away. I learned to roll the wine around on my tongue before swallowing so that all the taste buds could get a taste. Different parts of your tongue taste different things (bitter, sweet/salty, sour), so it's good to roll the wine around before making a taste judgment. I was even told it's sometimes good to "chew" the wine and release more flavor (I guess this kind of follows the swirling logic?). I was surprised at how many things from tasting notes I was actually tasting now that I was following some wine tasting etiquette instead of just slurping it down (Sometimes I still just slurp it down, though. Shhh!). :o)

There are tons more things I've learned since then, but that's what S focused on for me that day. I was glad to finally feel like a more sophisticated wine drinker after meeting with him! Since he knew that our first anniversary had just passed, he wanted us to have a special day. He set us up to go to Manzanita Creek Winery in Healdsburg. He even arranged for them to have lunch for us when we got there! It was so nice of him to hook us up and be excited about out anniversary with us. :o) At Manzanita Creek I met the winemakers, Jack and Bill Salerno (P had met them at work before), -- two super-cool guys! Bill is really shy, but really knows what he's doing with wine. Jack is the one we talked to more. He reminds me a lot of my dad. My dad has actually met Jack a couple of times now, and it kind of freaks me out how similar they are! If you're looking for a fancy winery, this is not your ideal. They are located in a warehouse in Healdsburg, not too far from fancy places, but not in a place you'd expect to find a winery (I think they even make some sarcastic comment about that on their website)! However "un-fancy" they may be, Jack and Bill make some of P's & my favorite wines. They make what I've heard referred to as "big" wines. Most of their stuff is high in tannins and alcohol content (woo!), so they are not for the lighthearted wine drinker! They make a lot of old vine zinfandels. They are all good! I also really like their 2003 Syrah Scarlet Late Harvest. It is a good dessert wine, but not too sweet from what I remember. Someday I'll remember to keep notes in the tasting log I bought and use more of my Wine Geek tasting language! To find out more about Manzanita Creek and their wines, check out their site:

Next up, Part 2: Ferrari Carano (THIS is where you need to go if you desire a fancy winery experience!) Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Castello di Amorosa
August 10, 2008

My parents, husband, and I got an early-morning, private tour of Castello di Amorosa, a castle built by Darryl Sattui in Calistoga. It is such a beautiful place! I took tons of pictures, but I'm having issues with Snapfish and the pics on my computer, so I found the image above on another site. That looks like it was still in the construction stages, because it's better landscaped now. While there we also did some wine tasting (of course!). Most memorable for me was their La Fantasia wine. I thought it was just a rose, but it was delightfully fizzy! I'd never had anything like it and realized why when I read their desciption of it: 2007 LA FANTASIA I thought that my husband bought a bottle, but alas... when we got home from this trip that was not one of the bottles added to our collection. It's sold out now, so no more until late-February 2009. :o( I hope the new vintage will be as good!
I've seen a lot of reviews saying that the castle doesn't focus enough on wines, the tour doesn't talk enough about wine, blah blah blah... I was more interested in the architecture and craftmanship and the incredible detail and care paid to old world techniques, so I actually wasn't even worried about the wine (too much). I get enough of that in every other place up there, so I was NOT mad at the lack of description of their winemaking process. I think it's worth a trip there just to see the building & grounds.

Special treat at the castle right now (or at least back in August): parts of the set of Adam Sandler's Disney movie Bedtime Stories that was partially filmed at the castle are still set up out front! I don't know if the plan is to just keep them there or what, but it was fun to see that stuff and know that Adam and the Disney crew were there. Now I want to see the movie (I think it opens Christmas Day) so I can say, 'I've totally been right there!" I know... I'm a dork. Thanks.

Disclaimer about this blog

Since I've been considering this blog idea for quite some time now, I have TONS of past wine experiences to write about. I'll try to keep things labeled with dates they actually happened so readers know when we visited certain wineries and/or tasted certain wines. I'll mix in new experiences with the old so you're not always reading about things that happened months ago. I promise that someday I'll be caught up and things won't be retrograded! Thanks for reading!