Barell-tasting in Sonoma County

Mar 3rd, 2008, 01:18 PM
  #1  
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Barell-tasting in Sonoma County

Just returned from a wonderful three-day barrel-tasting trip to Sonoma County. It's a fun trip and it'll be on again next weekend. I do encourage you to attend!

www.wineroad.com

We picked Healdsburg for Friday and just walked around the downtown, visiting a couple of wineries that we had visited last year but found their wines this year not as stimulating. Then we drove to Front Street where there's a cluster of wineries: Davis Family, Camellia Cellars, Holdredge, Huntington, and Sapphire Hill. Enjoyed their wines more this year.

Saturday we picked an area in the Russian River Valley and just drove around. We always enjoy the smaller wineries and found that we liked Graton Ridge a lot and the other small wineries in the area like River Road. For the third year we went to Iron Horse and found their barrel stuff worse than Two-Buck-Chuck. Yes, they are known for their sparkling wines, but to taste those, one had to pay a fee, which goes against the whole idea of barrel-tasting.

Almost all of the other wineries participated by allowing visitors to taste not just their barrel wines, but a fairly full range of their bottled wines as well. Some were award winning wines and even these were being generously offered for tasting.

The next day Sunday we picked an area in Dry Creek and again just drove around - We liked Fritz and laughing tried to pronounce Zichichi. Last year we liked Unit's wines and had bought a case from them; this year we liked Rued (almost next door) better and bought from them.

We tested wines at 31 wineries in all, which is quite a record for us, since we were offered at least 4-5 different wines to taste at each winery. Start early, end late, and eat lots of goodies in-between. Last but not least, try to stay on the road when driving.

We had such a wonderful weekend because the people of Sonoma County were so friendly and there was a lot of joking and laughing. They were wonderfully generous too with their wines. I would vote Sonoma County during barrel-tasting time as one of the Top Ten Places to Visit in the US! Lots of liquid sunshine helped as well!

This year we were absolutely overwhelmed by the marvellous bouquet of just about every single wine we were offered. It was totally unbelievable. I could have gotten drunk just on the smell alone - this has got to be an exceptional year for bouquet. Russian River Valley had more whites to offer for taste testing while the Dry Creek wineries offered exclusively reds - at least of the wineries we visited, that was the trend. Seeminglin, a lot of the wineries were trying out Zinfandel as a dessert wine - and the experimentation is great!

This year we carefully marked the wines we liked and will purchase them during the coming year, even though our trunk was overflowing with cases of wine by the end of the trip. We'll try this method rather than purchasing and then asking for delivery later on, which was what we did on an earlier winetasting trip to Santa Barbara county and we found this method worked pretty well.

Do encourage you all to try next weekend and have a DD (designated driver, not dear daughter!). Have fun!
easytraveler is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:05 PM
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I'm so excited! Thanks to your recommendation we are doing this next Sunday. Thanks for the trip report!
starrs is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 03:38 PM
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Hey et, thanks for phoning one home! (sorry, could not resist)

Great report! Barrel tasting is a good excuse to get out to wine country early in the season and before the crowds in summer and harvest season. Although it's rare for non-oenophile's to appreciate very young wine straight from the barrel, it does make you appreciate the work and knowledge that goes into the blending of barrels and the possible addition of other grape varieties that compose that final great tasting bottle after its release.

Generally the wineries in Sonoma county really go out to make visitors feel welcome. ><

I've been there in the past and have purchased "futures" (locking in the purchase at a discount before the wine is released). In the fall I also enjoy the Sonoma Harvest Fair in Santa Rosa. It's a full-on county fair that also includes many of the area wineries gathered in one large building at this annual event where the public can sample that year's award winners among other wines that have been brought in. It can be a good opportunity to make comparisons or find something you might not otherwise. Just don't overdo it! It's ok to swirl,sniff, taste and spit in the bucket.

You can check this link for info and award winners from prior years.
harvestfair.org/
NW_Native is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 04:06 PM
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Hi, starrs! Glad you're going next weekend! Should be a fun event for you!

Hi, NW-native! LOL! good one!

Bringgg! BBBBringg!

Here's another source, a link to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results. Over 4000 different wines from around the world and the best for this year by type of wine:

http://www.winejudging.com/medal_win...008/index.html

Typo correction: that's UNTI winery, not "unit" winery.

One of the things we were wondering about is whether the vintners could plant vegetables in the same rows as the vines - that'll make for a lot of vegetables being produced alongside the grapes!
easytraveler is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2008, 07:00 PM
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et, I am excited to be visiting next weekend for barrel tasting. We are tagging along with my niece and DH and their friends who go every year. They've hired a van and driver and made reservations at barndiva for dinner. On our last visit, we did stop at Unti and really enjoyed that so I hope that we are tasting at Rued. When I get to work tomorrow I will check our winery itinerary and see if we have any overlap.
Suki is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 04:50 AM
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I have some futures to pick up at Sapphire Ridge, a Zin my brother and I bought last year. We'll see how well it's "bloomed".

I'm flying down, my SO doesn't want to go so I don't want to drive.. so if I buy wine my brother will bring it up to me in a few weeks. I like reds so we pretty much stick to Dry Creek and Healdsburg vacinity.
crefloors is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:05 AM
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I second the Chronicle's competition. It's a great way to seek and find....especially bargains. I love Sapphire Hill! We spent a lot of time with the owner and he took us back there to taste off the barrels during April. We bought futures, but are letting them sleep downstairs! Amphora is worth checking out, too.

I am bummed because our annual Sonoma fill the cellar trip is being replaced by Rick's week at Pebble Beach. I am cruising with DD and friend. Whatever will happen to our cellar? Granted, we are spending a week in Burgundy France this summer, but they won't make the trip home very well. We are halfway considering flying to the Lodi Spring Grape fest Mar 29...
LLindaC is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:36 AM
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Oops, yes Sapphire Hill...well, after awhile and several tastings I don't know where the hell I am. Hope Wilson has that cream of mushroom soup again....yummy!!!!! I got the recipe and meant to make it this winter and never did.
crefloors is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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Here's are planned route:
Our winery route is the south end of Alexander Valley – wine map attached:

1. Hawkes – 6734 Hwy 128, Healdsburg – next to Jimtown Store, www.hawkeswine.com

2. Robert Young Estates – 4960 Red Winery Rd, Geyserville, www.ryew.com

3. Stryker Sonoma – 5110 Hwy 128, Geyserville, www.strykersonoma.com

4. White Oak Vineyards & Winery – 7505 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, www.whiteoakwinery.com

5. Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines – 8333 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, johnsonsavwines.com

6. Sausal – 7370 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, www.sausalwinery.com

As I said, these folks go every year so I think they are trying to hit a different area than they've done before. On Sunday morning we may hit a couple out Dry Creek way - Unti and Talty were mentioned, and I will recommend Rued.

I hope the weather is nice!
Suki is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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Here's our planned route:
Our winery route is the south end of Alexander Valley – wine map attached:

1. Hawkes – 6734 Hwy 128, Healdsburg – next to Jimtown Store, www.hawkeswine.com

2. Robert Young Estates – 4960 Red Winery Rd, Geyserville, www.ryew.com

3. Stryker Sonoma – 5110 Hwy 128, Geyserville, www.strykersonoma.com

4. White Oak Vineyards & Winery – 7505 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, www.whiteoakwinery.com

5. Johnson’s Alexander Valley Wines – 8333 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, johnsonsavwines.com

6. Sausal – 7370 Hwy 128, Healdsburg, www.sausalwinery.com

As I said, these folks go every year so I think they are trying to hit a different area than they've done before. On Sunday morning we may hit a couple out Dry Creek way - Unti and Talty were mentioned, and I will recommend Rued.

I hope the weather is nice!
Suki is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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Sorry for the double post - I seem to have lost my knack for editing.
Suki is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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Sukie...very cool! Johnson's is a HOOT. They have an interactive theatre organ there and the place is like a huge garage. FUN! White Oak is partially underground and the little house above it is where they filmed the Bartles and James commercials. Robert Young makes a delicious blend called Scion. I have 2 bottles in a revered place in the cellar. I had some Sausal, but I think it was consumed at Xmas. One place I highly recommend (we have several bottles) is Murphy-Goode. Great cabs!
LLindaC is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 08:10 AM
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OOPS I was wrong! Field Stone is the underground one where they filmed them. Worth a visit, too!!!!!
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Mar 4th, 2008, 09:19 AM
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I want to go back to Ducher Creek..I THINK that's the name. They had olive oil as well as wine and a fabulous food spread. I got too full to taste wine. It is a beautiful winery on Dry Creek Road. There were a zillion places along there that we didn't get to last year. Except for a few favorites, I like to just pull into one and see what they have.
crefloors is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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Hi, Linda! Great recommendations! Are we seeing each other over this next weekend at any of the GTGs? Hope so!

Suki: those are very nice wineries. I especially like Robert Young. We haven't been back to the Alexander Valley for barrel tasting for a couple of years but did go back last year with some friends on just a simple one day drive through Sonoma County. visited Sausal and was a bit disappointed last year.

If you go to Dry Creek, I'd suggest skippng Talty. They were a bit of a disappointment this year. If you do go for a day over to Dry Creek, I'd suggest Sbragia Family Vineyards, Ferrari-Carano,Dutcher Crossing, Rued and Mazzocco for this year. Ferrari-Carano is not on the barreltasting list, but their winery and especially their garden, are gorgeous and not to be missed. we're partial to their Fume blanc and picked up a half case this last time.

crefloors: why, oh why are you not coming to our GTG? We need your level-headedness!

It's Dutcher Crossing and yes they are worth a visit. for generosity of spreads - This year we didn't go to Armida which usually is fun with their theme and their spread. Another place for a great spread this year is Dutton-Goldfield (Russian River Valley), whose spread has really got to be one of the best all-time spreads. Most of the time i just nibble on the cheese and bread in order to "cleanse" my palate (ha! after tasting 40 wines, there's no palate left to cleanse!)

Enjoy, everyone! Our tastes are all different, but I'm certain that whichever wineries you choose, you'll love the experience!
easytraveler is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 01:25 PM
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I can't get there. Hubby chose golf this year...boo hoo. He's taking his employees to Pebble beach! Diane Wilson sent us to Dutcher last time and we liked it a lot. Promising wines, fun staff, etc. I think Rick and I will go the first week next November.
LLindaC is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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I can't keep my darn creeks, ridges, and hills straight at all can I? Gee, I MUST be drinking.

I can't come to the GTG for several reasons. not driving, can't take the extra time and I'm whupped. I feel like I've been "rode hard and put up wet".

I keep saying this, and I know it's true, I WILL make one at some point, even pushing my walker!!!! LOL I'm not all that great actually, but glad to know I'm "wanted". LOL
crefloors is online now  
Mar 4th, 2008, 04:00 PM
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Easy, you had GREAT weather for it too! I'd like to add a couple of favorites in Dry Creek that are normally by appt. only: A. Rafanelli and Michelle Schlumberger. I see Copola isn't on the list, but it's worth taking a look at it because it's such a beautiful property.
Grassshopper is offline  
Mar 4th, 2008, 06:35 PM
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Linda: That's a bummer! But have a great time with the golfing!

crefloors: Whenever you're ready, we'll be waiting! Just give us a chance to call a quorum. I have friends whose son lives up your way. He's near Carson City. Maybe we could have a Nevada GTG!

Hey, Grasshopper! It's so good to hear from you! Those are great recommendations! One car in our group (we went in three separate cars and then separated on the winetasting) did go to both Rafanelli and Michel Schlumberger. Rafanelli's was again mobbed and they had to park way far away and hike up that hill. They did come away with a case of something (can't remember what they bought) which they schlepped down that hill. LOL! M. Schlumberger turned out to be a disappointment for them. They said it was closed and they were told they had to make an appointment! Even tho it's listed as participating in the barreltasting! A couple of years ago Schlumberger had this really wonderful Alice in Wonderland theme that went on and on and on from one room to the next! Don't know why they won't use it again, the way Armida does their Heaven-and-Hell theme.

Anyhoos, did you go too Grasshopper? Yes, it was a gorgeous weekend, weatherwise!
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