Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tonight we're drinking...

Topel's 2008 White Table Wine, Birdsong. It's a blend, 50% Viognier (my fave!), 35% Sauvignon Blanc, and 15% Chardonnay. I tried this at the tasting room last month and had to buy some! I visited the tasting room with some friends after being "friended" on Face.book by Donnis Topel, one of the proprietors. Donnis was very welcoming to me and my group of friends. We took up the whole bar! Good wines and tasty snacks made for an excellent last stop of the day. I enjoyed ALL the wines at Topel. Really. Everything was good. I ended up getting the Birdsong because it's a good white blend for summertime. Also, I enjoyed the Cherokee princess story behind the name of the wine since I have a Cherokee grandmother (well, great-great-grandmother!) as well. Good stuff! I'm sad to see this bottle empty. I need more!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tonight we're drinking...

In May, we had the opportunity to meet Mike Kuimelis, winemaker/proprietor of Mantra Wines in Dry Creek Valley. He invited us to taste and tour where he makes his wine (the facilities at Mauritson winery) and then have lunch in his vineyards. Such a treat!

Here's Mike getting us a barrel taste of the 2007 Syrah:

We also got to barrel taste the 2008 vintage. It was interesting to smell and taste the smoky qualities of the 2008 vintage due to all the fires during that summer. I wondered if all the lingering smoke would have any effect on the grapes, and apparently in some cases it really did! It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, either. A lot of that smoke will be gone by the time it's bottled, but whatever lingers will probably make it an ideal wine for barbecue food!
Here is a view from where we had lunch:
Not too shabby, right? It was a nice afternoon of cheese, crackers, prosciutto, olives, chocolate, and of course, excellent wine!

We brought home a couple of bottles of the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon pictured above and decided to open one tonight to have with our barbecue steaks. It was a really good pairing. This wine has a rich, deep color to it. Good legs... clings to the glass. Lots of fruit on the nose... dark cherry, black currant (hey... I pick these things up now that P has stocked the house with all sorts of fruit jams to "develop our palates!"). It's a little tight on the tongue, but without big tannins. Bottle aging will soften that, so we're going to keep the other bottle laying down for at least several years. It was still really good, especially after decanting for awhile. It really opened up and was fruitier smelling and tasting. I can't wait to see how it will have changed when we finally open the next one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tonight we're drinking...

Justin 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a bottle we bought when we lived in Santa Barbara. This was one of P's first true wine loves! He's been rummaging through our growing collection of wine and pulling out things that are aging and probably need to be opened soon. This is one he decided to drink. It has aged nicely! On the nose I sensed a lot of fruit and chocolate. P said he got more tobacco. We both tasted some tobacco, big tannins (after 10 years, which is AWESOME), and dark fruits. So much good fruit. It's soooo smooth! It tasted really good accompanying pasta in a sausage and tomato sauce. It would have been really good with steak, though! Maybe we'll have to plan to have steak with the 2003 vintage we still have in the cellar (a.k.a. the guest room closet). Ah, Justin... the Justers enjoy your wine!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1st Annual Food and Wine Affaire

On Saturday June 20th, we were lucky enough to be invited to help out at the 1st Annual Food and Wine Affair at Blackhawk Country Club. Our friend Kathryn, who was pouring for Carneros della Notte, asked us to help her pour for awhile in exchange for P and I to be able to experience all the wines being offered. What a wonderful representation of wines! There was a 25-page list of the many distributors and wineries which were represented. I commend any person who made it through the whole list! We tried, but even after filling up on some wonderful food (Blackhawk Country Club has truly fabulous catering!) and bravely navigating the crowds, it became increasingly difficult to hit every vendor, let alone every bottle! Things we did try and enjoyed most included,

The Carneros della Notte choices:
Los Carneros D-III Vineyard, Pinot Noir 2006
Los Carneros Pinot Noir 2005
Los Carneros Eclipse, Late Harvest Pinot Noir 2006
Los Carneros Solstice, Late Harvest Reisling 2006

Los Carneros Cabernet, Oak Park 2005

Our favorite here was the Eclipse. You don't see too many late harvest Pinot Noirs, and this was a delightful change of pace with dessert wines. It has a nice rose color to it and is not overly sweet. It might serve as a nice aperitif rather than a dessert wine. There is a lot of honey and fruit on the nose. Also some hints of honeysuckle. On the palate, it's fruit-forward, a lot of plum and other dark fruits. It's very silky and leaves a warming finish.

Grgich Hills Cellar:
Grgich Hills Chardonnay, Napa 2006 - I really enjoyed this one. P skipped it because we tend not to be fans of Chardonnay, but Grgich's was nice. Not overly oaked or buttery. It was crisp and smooth, with many citrus notes, more like Sauvignon Blanc. We found out this is because it was not allowed malolactic fermentation (which causes the buttery, creamy qualities). This is exactly what I look for in a Chardonnay!

P tried the Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa 2005 and the Zinfandel, Napa 2005. He says that both are very good. He says pretty much everything Grgich does is good!

One that P was dying to try was Sanctuary Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, 2006. He said that anything from that region is awesome! This wine did not disappoint. It was deep, deep red in color. Hints of chocolate and lots of fruit, like raspberries and blueberries. It was smooth in the mouthfeel. Dry, but still really fruit-forward while also being a little spicy. This was a tasting we savored and did not toss excess in the dump bucket! Big thanks to Young's Estates Group for having that selection available that night!

Another Young's Market feature was Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. This is a really good wine, especially for the price! Word has it, it can be found for $9.99 at Costco. ;o) I've seen it with ratings over 90 points. It's ruby in color, strong scents of dark cherry. Initially soft on the palate, but deepens. Very smooth.

Next to Kathryn's spot was Damian Rae Winery represented by John Tarabini. They had a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2007 Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita region, and a 2006 Syrah from Santa Barbara. Such wonderful boutique wines! They were all really fruit-forward. The Sauvignon Blanc was really crisp and refreshing. The Pinot was complex, hints of dark cherry and spice. This would hold up very nicely with meats of all kinds. The Syrah was very deep in color, aroma, and flavor... lots of plum, and black cherry. Made me remember why I like Syrah!

A favorite from the American Wine & Spirits offerings was Turnbull "Black Label" Red Meritage, 2005. This was a big, rich wine like P likes. Very deep & vibrant in its fruit flavors. Lot of black cherry and wild berry fruits. Tannic, but not too much. I think I saw P drool a little over this wine.

Speaking of drooling, we both drooled A LOT over all the fabulous wines and all of the food. This really was a classy event that we were delighted to be able to experience! It almost needed to be week-long event so one could actually get through everything! Thanks to Kathryn for needing our help that night, and thanks to Joie Spinelli of Blackhawk Country Club for allowing us to participate. This is sure to be a fabulous annual event!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fairfield Wineries

So... I've been neglecting this blog and decided to start writing here again. I have lots of fun trips and good wine to recount, so I need to get in the habit of updating more often!

We had a really nice trip to some Suisun Valley wineries last week. We didn't even know there were wineries in that area! We found out from a brochure we picked up at the Jelly Belly Factory a few weeks ago (Jelly Belly is another fun place to see - totally worth a visit!). We were excited to find another wine region so close to home, so P made some arrangements for us to go explore the area. We started the day at Vezer Family Vineyard, where we met with Frank Vezer and learned a lot about his wines as we tasted. His passion for what he does was quite evident as he spoke. I always love hearing about wine from winemakers and vineyard/winery owners.

I learned of a varietal I'd never heard of before - Verdelho. It's a white wine with Portuguese origins. It reminded me a lot of the Viognier I love so much, only a touch sweeter. It's very, very fruity and lightly oaked. There is a definite honeysuckle essence in this wine as well. Vezer's Verdelho will definitely be on my list of favorite whites! I'm always excited to find a white wine that I really enjoy.

I really liked everything we tried here, but another stand out wine for me was their La Salette - a blend of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel . Both the 2005 vintage and 2006 Estate vintage are delicious, elegant wines. Pricier than we normally buy, but definitely worth it. Either vintage would make an excellent choice for a special occasion - a very impressive wine that I think even people who shy away from red wines would enjoy.

The gardens around the tasting room are a lovely place to spend some time. During the summer they have a deli open next to the tasting room where you can grab something to eat and enjoy their outdoor space. We will visiting again over the next few months to spend more time here!

There is also a beautiful barrel room/cottage. The barrel room is on the first level, with guest accommodations on the second level. A very charming place!

Next we visited another Vezer property and tasting room just up the road - the Blue Victorian.

This is another charming tasting room with more tasty wines! Here we got to meet winemaker Gary Galleron. This guy really knows what he's doing! Not that I'm some super wine expert, but I didn't taste anything that I didn't really enjoy. In fact, I was getting a bit too tipsy because my breakfast had worn off, and I feel horrible pouring such good stuff into dump buckets! We were able to do some barrel tasting of blends they'd made for an event the weekend prior. It was fun to taste the difference between what was in the barrels and what we'd tasted from bottles in the tasting room. The evolution of wine is interesting and I always like to see how it changes from barrel to bottle.

Next we headed to Ledgewood Creek. They have a nice tasting room/gift shop here. I enjoyed wandering around admiring all the wine-themed goodies, along with other gourmet treats. We ended up leaving here with a bottle of Viognier (I'm a sucker for Viognier!) and a jar of cherry brandy sauce (devine on vanilla ice cream! Can't wait to have it on some cheesecake...).

Our last winery visit of the day was to Wooden Valley. They also had goodies for me to wander around and admire. One of my favorites here was the 2004 Zinfandel Port. I love me a good Zin Port! However, since warmer months are coming, we were on a mission for more white wines that we can enjoy over the summer. We purchased a bottle of 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, just released early February. We liked the tartness of this wine... crisp and refreshing - it will be fabulous on a hot summer day!

That concluded our wine tasting day in the Suisun Valley. I'll leave you with a picture of a vineyard view...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Finally getting a wine fridge!

Would you believe that even though we've become complete winos, we have yet to obtain a wine fridge? We've been seriously considering getting one because we have a lot of nice bottles that should be kept temperature controlled. The guest room closet just doesn't cut it, and especially won't cut it when the weather gets warmer. The problem has been that we just don't have the cash flow to get a really nice one, so we thought we'd get a smaller one to hold us over until we can upgrade. Unfortunately, even the small ones can be pretty pricey. We didn't want to spend $100+ for one that only holds a few bottles because we really need more than that. We felt like we could just put that money toward saving for one that we really want.

This afternoon I got a text message from P saying that one of his loyal Bordeaux customers visited him to let him know he's moving. Just to Sacramento, so not far, but he's getting rid of some stuff and offered P a wine fridge! I don't know too many details about it, but I don't complain about FREE wine stuff! Gosh... his job totally sucks, doesn't it?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bottle of Wine Glass

I saw an ad when I was reading FAIL Blog (totally worth checking out if you need a good laugh!) and I think I need to get this:

Then it would much easier to stick to "just one glass" of wine, don't you agree?

Here's the link:

Bottle of Wine Glass

So awesome. I totally need this, even as just a gag.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Wineland 2008

Since I got carried away writing about Moshin last time I sat down to write about Winter Wineland, I decided to actually write about last year's event before this year's event happens next weekend.

Winter Wineland in the Russian River Valley is an event that takes place not in one location, but at over 100 participating wineries. You check in at the first winery you choose to go to, get your wristband and a glass, and then go around to whatever wineries you'd like visit. Many of the wineries offer food pairings with their wines, so not only are you tasting yummy wines, they feed you too! There is NO WAY you could make it to all wineries in the 2-days of the event, but it's fun to try!

We started the day at Moshin (http://www.moshinvineyards.com/) since we were staying there, and no problem re-sampling wines we'd tasted the day before on our tour (Just for the record, they were still really good.). My parents joined us here and got their first tastes of Moshin. They are also big fans! Along with the wines, they served spaghetti squash with a really tasty tomato sauce. Rick was also offering some barrel tastings:

It was a special treat & kind of a preview to the Barrel Tasting weekends that occur up there in March: (http://www.wineroad.com/annualevents/3)

Moshin was delightful... but alas, we had to move on. Next stop was Gary Farrell (http://www.garyfarrellwines.com/), which doesn't actually participate in the Winter Wineland event, but is right next door to Moshin, so we stopped in to check out their view and see if we could taste their wine that P sells. Mom and I hung out on the patio while P and Dad tasted. Here's one aspect of the fabulous view:

Gary Farrell has some really nice wines and an impressive tasting room, but I will say that this is one of the more expensive places to visit in the area.

We got back on the "wine road" and I snapped some pictures along the way:

Which way to go? Too many choices (and this is one of the less cluttered signs!):

Our next stop was Porter Creek (http://www.portercreekvineyards.com). It is a small, father and son owned winery. We received recommendations from staff at both Moshin and Gary Farrell to stop here, so we decided it must be a good spot. Super tiny, but these are often the places to find the BEST wine. Porter Creek is no exception to this rule! We walked up and saw that they were serving fancy cheeses from the local area. They had already won me over because I love me some cheese! In the tasting room, we were delighted by their wines and (here comes more gushing from me) I LOVE their Viognier! This was the first place I'd heard of the varietal. P and I were not huge fans of white wines, but I think I've mentioned before that that has changed. Porter Creek's Viognier is a big reason for the change in opinion! The info below is from their website and is for the 2007 vintage, but what we tasted last year was the 2006 vintage (which is sold out).

2007 Viognier - Timbervine Ranch RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
In the spirit of its northern Rhone counterparts in Condrieu, this wine possesses a weight and richness rarely found in New World Viogniers. Beautiful nuances of mango, pear and nectar. Balanced, round and capable of aging.A seasonal offering as production is limited.
Price - $36

I wanted a bottle. Really, really wanted a bottle. P said "Let's see what else we find this weekend and if there's nothing you like better, we'll come back and get some next time we're up here." I reluctantly agreed. Fast forward to a few months later when we were back there, I still wanted a bottle, but guess what? SOLD OUT. Yep. Thanks, Hon. Actually, it's okay because it's not like we had a shortage of other good wines and I've heard the 2007 is just as good as the 2006. I'll get a bottle of the new release next weekend and be a happy girl. :o)

After Porter Creek we ventured to Manzanita Creek (http://www.manzanitacreek.com/) to visit Jack, et. al. once again. They were serving Beef Bourguigon along with their wines. Yum! They also had these to-die-for little chocolate & raspberry cake/brownie/truffle bite things (like my culinary description?). OMG... Mmmm... It's really amazing to me how much food can enhance the taste of a wine and vice versa. This was a chance to experience that, especially since they had both savory and sweet options. We noticed a camera crew there interviewing Jack, but did not notice that WE would end up in the video! Check it out:


That's us Jack is talking to right before it cuts to his interview. Woot! We're so famous. Ha!

From Manzanita Creek we headed WAY up Dry Creek Road to take my parents to Ferrari Carano. The gardens aren't quite the same in January as they are in August, but still a pretty spot. The event took us on a tasting tour through their barrel room, which we had not seen before:

VERY pretty. They rent the space for events, so I told my parents they're damned lucky Paul and I were not yet wine country-obsessed when we were wedding planning or the budget would have needed to be much larger! ;o) The food here was awesome! A different Italian dish paired with each wine. They have many varietals and vintages along with a broad price range of wines here, so I think there's probably something for everyone! Check out their wines here: http://ferraricarano.com/wines/ I've said before, this place is worth the trip just to see the grounds and the facilities, even if you don't like the wine!

From Ferrari-Carano we headed back down Dry Creek Road and went to our big "must-stop" of the day, Martin Family Vineyards.

This was pretty much a novelty stop for me and my parents since Martin is our family name! We found out that they had recently sold and would soon be taking on a new name, so we were glad to snag some bottles with the Martin name before they changed to Truett Hurst (http://www.truetthurst.com). I asked if they'd give us some labels since they had rolls sitting around that they obviously wouldn't be using for much longer. They gladly obliged, so now I have some great scrapbooking material! The wine here was good and has NOT changed along with the name, but the name is what we were most interested in here! Even still, we really like the 2006 Zinfandel, Rattler Rock, Russian River Valley. P is a total Zin lover and he liked this one a lot. The food they served was mini pulled pork sandwiches that were really delicious. I don't think we came across any bad or even mediocre food all day. They also had a new puppy who was SO cute and friendly. I'm sure he made lots of new friends that weekend!

Next was right up the street to Dutcher Crossing,(http://www.dutchercrossingwinery.com). I don't remember tasting wines here. I think mom and I were a little wined out and decided to grab some cheese, crackers, and fruit from the food table and then go enjoy some views:

I think I could go up to this area and just look around, take pictures, and not even have to taste any wine. Okay... so that's a lie. I don't think I could be up there and NOT have any wine! Still... the views are breathtaking. P and Dad said the wines were good, but neither bought anything, so I couldn't tell you what they tasted. Just know that it's worth a stop here even just to sit in their picnic area and enjoy the view!

The last stop of the day was at Hop Kiln (http://www.hopkilnwinery.com/), which we found out as we approached the entrance is a Registered Historical Landmark.

The bar there was so jam-packed that we didn't even try to make our way up to taste anything. We heard it's always like this during events and decided to come back on a non-event day if we ever wanted to actually taste the wine. However, I was really impressed by all the other goodies here! They have any kind of flavored mustard you imagine, also a lot of olive oils, balsalmic vinegars, dessert sauces... they have sample jars of almost everything so instead of wine, we tasted the other things! There was also a chef there who had been preparing some wonderful dish all day, but since the event day was near closing & this place was SO crowded, we missed out on whatever yumminess had been on his table. We've visited Hop Kiln on non-event days since this trip and had no problems fighting crowds. While this is a fun place to visit & has a nice shop, I'd recommend skipping it during events unless you're prepared for a bigger crowd that we encountered at other wineries. It is a gorgeous place though, even if you just want to see the building.

That was the end of Winter Wineland, day 1, 2008. My parents went home that night, so P and I were on our own the next day. I think I'll save telling about Sunday's adventures for another day since I've already written what feels like a novel for this entry! What can I say? It was a long, fun day full of good wine, tasty food, and wonderful scenery - I don't want to leave anything out!

Here was the view as we got back to Moshin that evening:

LOVE the hummingbird & his (her?) glowing eyes! With that, I will bid you goodnight. :o)

You CAN still get Moshin Potion!

I found some online:


Sorry for the horribly long link... I know there's a better, prettier way to do that, but I'm not extremely tech-inclined and don't want to look up the "how to" right now!

That shop is in Sebastopol, so we might stop in when we're up there next weekend. I probably shouldn't be so excited, but I am!

Yes, I think it's worth the $38. Seriously. Just be sure you like sweet and fruity... it's almost syrup-ish. If you like things dry (non-sweet), skip this one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First trip to Moshin Vineyards (Winter Wineland 2008)

I think this will be one of our most anticipated yearly events: Winter Wineland along the Russian River Wine Road. We went last year for the first time and it was an awesome weekend. My parents joined us for one of the days and they fell in love with the area, too.

Here are details for this year's event, January 17-18 (coming up SOON!):


I'll tell a little about last year and maybe entice some of you to head up there!

This event last year was the first time we visited and stayed at Moshin Vineyards. P sells an exclusive Pinot Noir of Moshin's (Moshin Barrel Select Sonoma County Pinot Noir), so he was anxious to visit the winery, get a tour of the inner-workings, and taste more of their wine! We arrived in Healdsburg on Friday afternoon so we could get an early start for Saturday's event. That afternoon, we were lucky enough to get a private tour with Rick Moshin, who showed us his gravity-flow system. Wines produced there are treated much more gently than wines that must be run through pumps in order to move them from vessel to vessel throughout the winemaking process. Here's a link to a chart on their website:


During our tour we also got to do some barrel tasting. We tasted a Savignon Blanc that was still fermenting. It was actually spritzy because it was still giving off lots of CO2! It was interesting to taste wine at this stage. We've actually become quite close to this particular wine throughout its life, but I'll save all the details for another blog post!

We really enjoyed our tour of the winery. It was so cool to see how things work. I never knew how complicated the whole process can be!

Next we got to taste a whole array of Moshin wines. They are known for their Pinots, and now I know why! I don't think I tasted a wine there that I didn't really, really enjoy. P felt the same even though he usually likes heavier reds.

The wine we absolutely, totally and completely fell in love with was the '06 Moshin Potion, Late Harvest Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc. Unfortunately, it is now sold out. :o( Luckily, we snatched up a bottle before it was too late and we're hoarding it! I think this stuff might be my favorite dessert wine EVER. It is super sweet, which some people don't like, but P and I enjoyed it. You taste a lot of fruit along with the sweetness, so it's not a mouthful of sugar. From some tasting notes, the flavors include: nectarine, intoxicating honeysuckle, crisp apple acidity which holds the lush viscous sweetness through and through. ::sigh:: I can almost taste it now... This wine would be perfect with cheesecake, even drizzled over cheesecake... or a fruit salad... or anything really. It's THAT good. We've also been told it makes an excellent martini when mixed with vodka. Man, do we wish we'd gotten more than one bottle while we had the chance! Anyhow, I'm sure you don't want to hear me keep gushing over wine that's no longer available (I'm going to have to search online now... there has to be some somewhere!), so I'll shut up. :o)

I've feel like I've babbled long enough and didn't even talk about the actual Winter Wineland event! I think it's easy to tell that we really like Moshin Vineyards, though. We ended up joining their wine club and have visited several more times for wine club events. It's a fabulous place with excellent wines and lots of fun things planned all throughout the year. I'll have to remember to rave about them more some other time.

For now, I'll leave you with a glimpse of their guest suite where we've been lucky to stay a few times. I cannot express how generous Rick, his wife Amber, and the staff there have been to us. Big shout out to Julia, she's the best and you're likely to be greeted by her smiling face if you visit their tasting room. Much love to Moshin!

Maybe I'll write about the actual event tomorrow since I got totally sidetracked! I could actually go on and on (and on some more!) about most of the places we visited, so I'll have to work on a condensed version...