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AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 04:39 AM

First Trip to Wine Country -- Mondavi or Shafer
We will be making our first visit to the wine country in June. I have had conflicting recommendations regarding the first winery we should tour -- Mondavi vs. Shafer. Please let me know your thoughts on these two. Thanks

pavfec May 2nd, 2007 07:02 AM

DH and I toured Mondavi 4 years ago. The cost was $10 for a 1-hour tour and a tasting of 3 wines at the end. We really enjoyed it. It was very informative and the grounds were beautiful.

We also toured Domaine Chandon that day, and found the Mondavi tour to be more complete.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 07:14 AM

Wine country is pretty ambiguous, considering all the appellations in CA. I guess since you mentioned Mondavi, you meant Napa. I highly suggest doing Benziger's tour in Sonoma and plan most of your trip in Sonoma Valley. It's much prettier, wine tasting is cheaper and the traffic is not horrific like Napa Valley.

bill_boy May 2nd, 2007 07:23 AM

If wine quality is of importance to you, then go to Shafer.

Their Hillside Select bottlings are superb - the 2002 vintage is one of the finest California that I've had in recent years.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 07:41 AM

Thanks everyone for the great advice.

Laura147 May 2nd, 2007 09:14 AM

My husband and I did a wine & cheese pairing tour at Mondavi last July. It was a very small and intimate group which was terrific. The experience was one of the highlights of our trip to Napa. Highly recommend it.

chepar May 2nd, 2007 09:24 AM

It's been a couple of years, but the tour at Shafer was just ok. The tasting however, was excellent. I am not sure if you can do a tasting without the tour.

And the dog is really cute.

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 09:53 AM

((y)) for Shafer. One of my favorites and as mentioned, the wine is excellent as are the views and the four-legged host!

Love the Hillside Select, Relentless and the Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. And you get to buy the Hillside there as well -- unless its sold out.

ParrotMom May 2nd, 2007 10:01 AM

Benzingers in Sonoma gets my thumbs up too.. Hopefully it's still a family owned business where the others aren't and the wines are lovely

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 10:27 AM

ParrotMom, I don't know if you're referring to Shafer but it is a family-owned winery.

Ike May 2nd, 2007 10:51 AM Melissa Prange at Shafer and tell her you are a big Shafer wine fan and see if she will help you out. She's their marketing director so she might refer you to someone else. Have a nice trip.

Their phone # is 707 944 2877 Ext. 23. You can reach her by email @ [email protected].

They have a wine tasting tour for $35.00 by appointement that lasts 90 minutes. You will enjoy every minute of it.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 11:05 AM

Thanks so much for the inside contact!!!

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 11:39 AM

Ike, is Melissa the girl that replaced Nancy Blue at Shafer? I miss Nancy.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 01:20 PM

Thanks for the great advice. We are going to be spending most of our time in Sonoma. We are going to visit visit Benziger, J Vineyards, Matanzas, Chateau St. Jean, and Ferrari Carano. We are staying in Healdsburg. Can anyone recommend any smaller wineries in the area?

We will spend a couple of days in Napa and plan to visit Cakebread, Shafer, Frog's Leap, Del Dotto, and maybe Mondavi if we have time.

Any thoughts?

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 02:07 PM

Go to Chateau SJ's website and print out free tasting coupon. Check out winecountrythis week to find specials, coupons and activities:
I linked that to the article about Diane Wilson. DON'T miss this splendid winery. Also, you have to try Rosenblum in the Healdsburg square. Fun room, free sips, too. 2 other favs are Papapietro-Perry and Amphora across the parking lot. P-P's pinots just won 7 90-plus points awards from Wine Spectator. All I know is that they are yummmmmmy.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 02:08 PM

btw....where are you staying in Healdsburg?

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 02:17 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Just the advice we needed. We are staying at the Camillia Inn.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 02:36 PM

Excellent, Angela. We stayed there one year. They make quite yummy wines and they'll pour them for you each afternoon. Lucy can give you some good advice about places to visit as well. They may also give you some tasting coupons. Their tasting room is next door to Sapphire Hill, which is really a great stop. Simi Winery is close, but skip it- it's too "Disney" and the wines are everywhere. We've stayed in Healdsburg 4 times; one of our fav things to to is to start around 2 pm and walk through town, stopping at tasting rooms and shopping in between. (we usually take water and cheese/crackers) There are something like 12 tasting rooms in the town! Then, we walk to dinner. One of my fav restaurants there is Willi's Seafood. They serve small plates and the food is great, atmosphere is fun. You can take a bottle of your Sonoma fav and they charge a $25 corkage fee. You can only make a reservation through

bill_boy May 2nd, 2007 04:04 PM

While I agree that Simi is everywhere (I like their AV Cabs, btw), what does that make of Rosenblum and Chateau SJ which you recommended? Their wines are in drugstores and supermarkets everywhere.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 04:17 PM

I didn't recommend Chateau St Jean. Not crazy about their wine. OP asked about them, and I know that they have free coupons. Rosenblum might have a few wines available mass market, but certainly not all the ones they serve in the tasting room. Some are very limited production and you can only find them there. Of course, you would know that if you had ever actually visited them. They offer many, many choices at the tastings and there's always a lively crowd in there. Fun place. Simi is right on the main drag and was packed. I am not going to wait a half hour and get elbowed by people when I can find quieter places with better wines a few miles down the road.

bill_boy May 2nd, 2007 04:52 PM

So, what did you taste and like at Rosenblum?

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 05:34 PM

I can't find my tasting notes (probably in DH's office) so I went down to the cellar. Here's what we have:
Maggie's Reserve Zin 2004
Richard Sauret Zin 1999, 2001,2003 and 2004
Aperico Co Zin 2004
Hendry Vineyard Reserve Zin 2004
Rhodes Vyd.Redwood Valley Pet.Sirah 2004
Solano Co Syrah England-Shaw Vyd 2004
SF Bay Mourvedre 2004

I'm really glad you put me through this strenuous task. That 1999 needs rescuing! I fear that, as the French would say,
Il a tourne en vinaigre, Mon dieu!!

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 05:36 PM

excuses moi, tourne AU vinaigre...
will report back after tomorrow's uncorking

SAnParis May 2nd, 2007 06:02 PM

A lot of the wineries you are visiting in Sonoma have their wines everywhere. I would encourage you to go 'off the beaten path' a bit. Off the top of my head - Preston, Quivera, Ledson, BR Cohn, Gary Farrell or Seghesio. As the joke goes in Sonoma. The dump buckets you see on every table, well, those will be shipped to Mondavi at days end. Enjoy !!

TrvlMaven May 2nd, 2007 07:06 PM

Stop in at Loxton and Wellington (on Dunbar Road just off Hwy 12 in Kenwood). Chris Loxton used to be one of the winemakers at Wellington, but opened his own place about 4 years ago. Great reds at both sites and they are spittin' distance from each other.

bill_boy May 3rd, 2007 12:29 AM

I did't ask to put you thorugh, as you say, "this strenououis task". You didn't even have to translate into French, which, BTW, is not what I think I would consider how the French might trally phrase what it is you are trying to say.

I don't drink the wines that you posted, but since my contention was why would you claim Rosenblum wines to be not available anywhwere, my local Supermarkets in the North east has most of the Rosenblum Zin's that you have in your cellar ... at about the same cost (sometimes cheaper) that they are sold by the winery's website.

AngelaDD May 3rd, 2007 03:32 AM

We will definately visit some of the smaller wineries. Thanks for all of the great advice and help.

Angie525 May 3rd, 2007 06:49 AM

It sounds like you have a great trip planned. We are thinking of a similar trip and I'm hoping to use some of your advice. People have given a lot of suggestions on small wineries in Sonoma, but what about smaller more intimate wineries in Napa?

LLindaC May 3rd, 2007 07:11 AM

god bill boy who rattled your cage?

Check out William Harrison in Napa off the Silverado trail. Very authentic, cool place. Zahtila was a fun stop as was Regusci and Stlezner.

kimamom May 3rd, 2007 10:49 AM

BR Cohn and Ledson are nice suggestions. We also like the wines from Imagery, especially their Viognier. Gundlach-Bundschu also has some really nice Pinot Noir. Their grounds are gorgeous and there is a small lake there which is scenic. This is a very nice spot for a picnic before your wine tasting in the area. ***kim*** ((l))

AngelaDD May 3rd, 2007 02:22 PM

Thanks everyone for all of the great suggestions.

Which of the smaller wineries have great whites? We like both reds and whites and want to get a good mix of both.

bill_boy May 3rd, 2007 03:23 PM

Hey LLindaCC!

No, you didn't rattle my cage, not in in same way that you admitted that I made you run to your closet to count your bottles of cheap zinfandels.

I was just pointing out the fact that the wineries you liked and suggested are as ordinarily available in all drugstores and supermarket counters as the one that you specified to be.

LLindaC May 4th, 2007 12:19 AM

bill boy, you are one pompous [email protected]@

What I have in my CELLAR, not closet, is not all I taste in a winery. Don't I wish I could own every wine I taste. My bottles are between $25-70 of the Rosenblum, that is a small fraction of what we have in our CELLAR, not closet.Just because YOU don't enjoy CA Zins doesn't make you smarter or have better taste than anyone else. Wine is a highly personal thing. To the OP- the winery experience is different from place to place. There are some small fun wineries such as Foppiano whose winery boasts lots of old train memorabilia. J Winery- very smart, modern food pairings. Places such as Imagery have a wine art exhibition. We've been there every year over the last 7 years and there are always new discoveries. Ask for advice from winery owners, innkeepers, etc.

AngelaDD May 4th, 2007 06:04 AM

LLindaC, Thanks so much for all of your suggestions. They all look like great unique wineries to visit. That is exactly what we are looking for -- different types of wineries that offer different experiences and great wine.

bill_boy May 4th, 2007 11:52 AM

LlindaC, you degenerate one!

You'd better watch what you call me in your posts.

Just because I pointed out out that your winery suggestions are pretty much the supermarket brands that you claim them as not to be, you get your panties bunched up in a terrible knot.

Where in my posts did write that I did not like CA zinfandels? Yes, I posted that I don't drink the ones that you keep in your basement closet, but that was it.

Given your recent response to me, I am definitely sure and will declare that I am much more smarter and have better taste than you with your cheap wines theat cook up in your closet!

LLindaC May 4th, 2007 03:35 PM

Angela, here's a link to William Harrison.
It's worth visiting because of the history. We have a bottle of that $90 one that I'm hiding.

billboy, my husband read all that you wrote about me and he says whatever gender you prefer, you need some lovin. And not with yourself.

gaelle May 5th, 2007 06:42 AM

Everyone is talking about the wines they have in their cellars...I only have two in my refrigerator. I'm going to Sonoma in June and I think i'd like advice on where to go for a basic wine tasting/appreciation course.

SAnParis May 5th, 2007 07:09 AM

I'll second the seggestions of Imagery (in Sonoma) & Regusci (in Napa). BR Cohn also has some great olive oil. Also, the wine maker @ Armida is great - they make Sin Zin & some other fun stuff, gaelle - Sonoma is very user friendly. Many will be happy to share their knowledge & answer any questions you may have. If you have the time and are staying in Healdsburg or Sonoma go to one of the local wine consortiums. You may be able to taste a larger variety there, and many offer very informative tastings. The best way to learn, is to just do it.

elnap29 May 5th, 2007 08:35 AM

We like Peju in Rutherford (Napa Valley). It is fun there and the gardens are lovely. Often lots of singing and silliness in the tasting room and I love their cabs. Also I really like their Savignon Blanc and, surprisingly, the Chardonnay. Wines only available at the winery, small family-owned.

kimamom May 5th, 2007 10:15 AM

We visited Peju Province in March and had a great time there. We purchased the Carnival white wine that was very good. Beautiful grounds here with a pretty fountain, also. ***kim*** ((f))

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