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 ( 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: (

Moshin was delightful... but alas, we had to move on. Next stop was Gary Farrell (, 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 ( 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 ( 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: 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 ( 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,( 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 (, 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...