Tag Archives: Sonoma

Evening with Martin Ray Vineyards and Winemaker Bill Batchelor

 

Martin Ray and Angeline wines poured tonight!

I have been a big fan of the incredible wines of Martin Ray Vineyards for many years. In my humble opinion Martin Ray Vineyards makes some of the best wines not only in California, but in the world. Their wines are constant 90-95 point scores in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines year in and year out. And here is the biggest reason I love Martin Ray:

Martin Ray wines are great buys for the quality and priced for the average consumer!

In fact I dare say the overall portfolio of Martin Ray Vineyards and Angeline Vineyards are some of  the very best values in wine today.

My friend Robert Larsen of the Larsen Projekt said he was coming to Dallas, and he invited me to have dinner. I said yes immediately because Robert is such a great guy. He knows his wines, very funny and engaging, and never forgets that wine should be fun and not always so serious. He let me know he was bringing Winemaker Bill Batchelor and samples of the great wines of Martin Ray. So you can imagine that I was beyond excited!

I met Robert and Bill at Dallas Chophouse in downtown Dallas. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Dallas Chophouse, but had never actually visited. So I was thrilled when Robert suggested this beautiful place. The atmosphere was dark and luxurious, and the aged steaks were delicious. I highly recommend the food if you are in downtown Dallas and want a great meal.

I love meeting a winemaker personally. I have to admit I am somewhat of a wine geek. So when I get the opportunity to chat with them and pick their  brains, I am in my own personal heaven.  And I have to tell you; In my opinion Bill Batchelor really knows his craft. He has a very large portfolio to take care of with Martin Ray and Angeline and he personally gets involved in all aspects of the winemaking process. Yet he is very easy to talk to and you can really tell he has a tremendous passion for his craft.

HISTORY:  Martin Ray Vineyards history dates back to 1943 in the rugged Santa Cruz Mountains in California. The current home was originally Twin Fir Winery and established by William Hill in the geographic heart of Russian River Valley in 1881. This makes them one of the oldest continuously operated wineries in California. This winery later became Martin & Prati and was well known for good jug wine.

The current owner Courtney Benham purchased Martin Ray in 1990. He then moved the brand and custom crush facilities at Martin & Prati and purchased the property. He then changed the name to Martin Ray in 2007. In the coming years Courtney modernized practically every facet or production, and also turned the property into one of the most beautiful wineries in the area. I have made attempts to visit on my winery trips in the past, and I cannot wait to visit on my next trip!

We began the evening tasting through the Angeline Vineyards wines. These are wines that Martin Ray produces and are more “Value Priced”.

Angeline Vineyards

2016 Angeline California Rose of Pinot Noir:  Both whole-cluster & saignee method used to produce this dry rose. Floral notes along with watermelon, nectarine, and ruby red grapefruit. Crisp and acidic. Perfect for the pool or beach!

Angeline Rose

2016 Angeline Sonoma Coast County Sauvignon Blanc: Mostly Russian River Valley fruit with Dry Creek sourced as well. Not grassy like some SV, more Sonoma-like. Aromas of white peach, nectarine, and green apple. Minerals are present, but not overwhelming. Crisp, clean and lingering finish of green apple and peach. Ave retail will be in the $12-$14 range so a great summer everyday wine.

2016 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir: Fruit sourced from Mendocino County, Russian River Valley, and Carneros.  Silky tannins and med light body.  Juicy strawberry, raspberry, black fruits, and cherry cola dominate with a clean finish of caramel and black fruits. Nice wine!

2016 Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir

Martin Ray Vineyards

2015 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay: Fruit is 100% from the steep hillside vineyards of Bald Mountain. Cool climate and high elevation define this chardonnay with crisp acidy and an underlying minerality. This is a graceful and elegant wine with fruit notes of key lime, golden apple, asian pear with crème brulee and hints of vanilla. 40% new French Oak, and lees are sired bi-weekly for first year to enhance complexity. 250 cases produced. Ave retail $35

2015 Martin Ray Bald Mountain Vineyard Santa Cruz

2015 Martin Vineyards Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay: Fruit from possibly my favorite AVA in Sonoma; Green Valley AVA. Only 300 cases produced so if you get your hands on this buy several! Hand picked, whole cluster pressed. Racked in French Oak barrels for fermentation. Lees stirred bi-weekly to maximize mouthfeel. Aged 12 months on 40% new French Oak. Traditional and elegant chardonnay. Complex layers of green apple, honeydew melon, key lime, grapefruit, and vanilla cream. NOT a butterbomb! Crisp, med-light body, great acidity and long finish. AT $30 suggested retail, not cheap but worth every dime.

2015 Martin Ray Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Primarily sourced from the incredible Dutton Ranch in the heart of the Green Valley AVA. Primarily Dijon Clones from Marty’s Vineyard and Hallberg Vineyard. Basket pressed and put into barrel for 12 months in 50% new French Oak. Anyone that knows me has heard me claim: “Russian River produces some of the finest Pinot Noir in the world”, and I believe this to be true! Med light body, bouquet and notes of cranberry, red cherry, boysenberry, Jasmine and vanilla, baking spices. Juicy palate and fine silky tannins. This is a truly great example of Russian River Pinot Noir, and I love this wine. Average retail is $40, and this may be a little rich for some. I for one think this is a steal considering this is Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir! Only 250 cases produced.

2015 Martin Ray Green Valley or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2014 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon: Fruit comes from the tiny plot on the South face of Ben Lomond Mountain, from the distinguished Bald Mountain Vineyard. This site produces small compact clusters, and the long growing season allow the grapes to reach maturity late in the season, with deep color, concentrated flavors, and bright acidity. This is a big bold cabernet, with notes of ripened black cherry, boysenberry, mushroom, lavender, and dark chocolate. Healthy solid tannins and great acidity and graphite minerality give a strong hint of long cellar time possible for this big wine. In fact I would love to have this wine again in 10 years because it should age beautifully. Only 450 cases produced. Suggested retail of $75.

2014 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon

 

2014 Martin Ray Synthesis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cab Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Fruit is sourced from the best of the best from vineyards in Rutherford (35%), Stags Leap District (30%) and Diamond Mountain (20%) for a very special “Synthesis” of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon! This Cali Cab begs for a big juicy steak, and that is what I enjoyed this wine while cutting into a big delicious juicy Ribeye at Dallas Chophouse. Dried herbs, black cherry, and baked plums on the nose. Chewy tannins are evident, but not nearly overpowering as you normally find in mountain cabernet. Blueberry, black cherry, red plum, along with ever so slight  oak and dried figs. I highly recommend this cabernet sauvignon.  At $50 suggested retail that is a great buy for a true Napa Cab! 2200 Cases total production.

2014 Martin Ray Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon

Thank you again Robert Larsen and Bill Batchelor for a wonderful evening, and thank you Dallas Chophouse for the wonderful dry aged steak!

Winemaker Bill Batchelor and Robert Larsen

And thank you to my followers for reading and sharing this post. If you would like more information on any of the wines poured and how to find them please contact me at friscokid8758@yahoo.com.

And please…leave a comment below so I will know you were here, and come back from time to time!

Terry Hill is the TEXAS WINEAUX!

 

 

An Evening With Winemaker Stephanie Cook and Wonderment Wines

This is the story of an evening with Stephanie Cook and Wonderment Wines.

Sharing gourmet food and great wines with a beautiful talented winemaker is a hard life…

But someone has to do it!

Stephanie Cook of Wonderment Wines
One of the most exciting things I get the opportunity to do on occasion is meet Winemakers in person. I enjoy as they share their passion with me  on how and why they make this beautiful nectar of the gods called wine. I enjoy this, well… mostly because I am a wine geek deep down inside.  I love talking wine, and I get to pick their minds about their theory and process of making wine. Mostly I admire them greatly for doing what I secretly would love to do myself; grow grapes and make wine. However most meetings with Winemakers and producers of wine are short and to the point. Rarely do I get to spend time with them and get to know what really makes them who they are.
And then there are exceptional evenings like this!

About 6 weeks before this fun evening my good friend Samuel  shared a bottle of  Wonderment Bacigalupi Vineyard Petite Sirah, and quite frankly… It blew me away.

Samuel Rickords has a Wine Distributorship based in Dallas by the name of Redoux Wine. He specializes in boutique wines from small talented producers. He is also a member of the wine group I started many years back called the Dallas Wineaux. I had asked him to let me know if the Winemaker for Wonderment was ever in the Dallas  area. So, ever the idea man, Samuel put together a tasting menu at Jaspers Gourmet Backyard Cuisine in Richardson, TX and arranged for Stephanie Cook to fly in to join several of us from the Dallas Wineaux group.

Jaspers Richardson. Photo by Swan Photography

First let me start by saying Jaspers Richardson is brand new, state of the art, high tech, and absolutely beautiful. You can see and read more on Jaspers Richardson and the location by clicking here! Most of the restaurant is bar area, with high top seating and upscale area that would be perfect for a small groups of 4-8. It sure makes me want to grab the Dallas Wineaux group and head to Happy Hour. The Chef Evan Tanner had a terrific spread of appetizers, charcuterie, and small plates to nibble on. Everything was scrumptious.  And I assure you we will be back to Jaspers soon!

Gourmet plates courtesy of Jaspers Richardson!
Dallas Wineaux Wine Group At Jaspers Richardson

I had done a little research on Wonderment Wines and about Stephanie Cook beforehand.  So I had an idea she was a beautiful woman. But when she walked in you understand immediately she is even more lovely than her pictures. Her beautiful smile and stunning looks are dramatic. But after a few moments you realize she is also very intelligent, talented, extremely gracious, and very engaging. And her passion for Wonderment Wines is evident immediately.

After a quick meet and greet with the other Dallas Wineaux including Kelly Nolan of www.winedowndallas.com and Lori Sullivan of www.loristwistedcork.com Stephanie started pouring her wines and telling her story.

Talking wine with Stephanie Cook! Photo by Swan Photography

Stephanie is a very driven woman and is not one to take no for an answer. I loved as she told fascinating stories of traveling the world as a Fashion Model in Milan, London, and more. Then going back to school where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. Soon after turning her sights to winemaking. She literally informed Bob Biale of Robert Biale Vineyards that she was coming to work for him and furthermore, he was going to teach her how to make wine! After stints at Spottswood and in New Zealand for Spy Valley Wines and then at Staglin Family Vineyards she felt like she was ready to make her mark in the glorious world of winemaking.

The rest as they say is history… or as she likes to say a “balancing act!”

Balance and terroir is the key to everything Stephanie does when it pertains to wine. She makes 7 wines, and about 1500 cases per year total.

She insists on getting only the best fruit available from premium sites, and so every wine she makes is a “vineyard designate”. So…No Blending!

Wonderment Wines. Photo by Swan Photography

Any real wine enthusiast will recognize these incredible vineyards that Stephanie is sourcing her fruit: Oak Knoll, Dutton-Campbell, Dr. Stan’s, Bacigalupi, Rockpile, and Burton Ranch just to name the few that she brought for tasting!

Tasting Notes from Wonderment Wines at Jaspers Richardson. Photo by Swan Photography

Tasting Notes:

2015 Oak Knoll Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Stainless steel fermented. Floral on the nose with a citrusy lemon, grass, Asian pear, and a terrific saline quality. Floral, grapefruit, and saline/stone  finish. I like this wine, and I really need a few bottles for this summer at the pool!

2013 Dutton-Campbell Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Very juicy fruit forward style from Green Valley AVA. Floral notes and black cherry dominate the nose.  Supple silky tannins. Black cherry, strawberry, cranberry, current, with touch of oak  and spice. This is a very sexy and sensual  style of Pinot Noir. Trust me when I say “you will like it”.

2013 Dr Stan’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros. Dr. Stan’s Vineyard only has 1-1/2 acres of Dijon Clone 115 that was grown primarily for a certain well known sparkling wine producer (I promised not to tell for whom). Translucent in the glass, but definite tannins give a good to great structure.  Juicy bing cherry and slight cola on the palate turn to mushroom and earth. This earth & mushroom character gives the wine somewhat a Burgundian feel that I was not expecting. Very nice wine!

2013 Bacigalupi Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Russian River come from 40-50 year old vines. It is a “Feminine Zin” if you can have such a thing, in that it is very floral  zinfandel (Lilac). Integrated silky tannins, incredible acidity. Red & black fruits such as black cherry, strawberry, blackberry,and slight white pepper with a LONG finish. Outstanding.

2012 Rockpile Zinfandel was more of what most people would think of when you think Sonoma Zin, but it has a very restrained edge. Very balanced with black cherry, cola, and a long spicy finish that goes for days. Impressive.

2013 Burton Ranch Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Lake County. This is a BIG wine, but plenty of finesse as well. Truly “old vine” from plantings from Lake County dating back to 1890’s.  Tannins are evident in this young wine so plenty of structure and a real aging potential in my opinion. Sweet cherry compote, Asian spices and white pepper. Classic Zinfandel in every way except only 14.5% alc (most big zins are closer to 16% alc). If you are a Sonoma Zinfandel fanatic this Old Vine Zin fits the bill!

2011 Bacigalupi Vineyards Petite Sirah Russian River Valley This was my favorite. I am a sucker for a great Pitite Sirah, and this one hits all the marks from the nose to the long finish! Deep Dark Devilish of a red wine that isn’t for wanmby pambies! Full bodied with black fruits and a spicy finish that just keeps going and going in your mouth long after you have swallowed. Absolutely stunning wine from start to finish!

Across the board these wines from Wonderment are very good to outstanding. It is exciting to think what the wines from Wonderment will be when Stephanie has decades of vintages behind her.

You can find Wonderment Wines in select restaurants and order direct here. They are very fairly priced, especially considering the quality of the wines and across the board ‘Vineyard Desinate” only wines.

Pictures of the event are all courtesy of Asher Swan and Swan Photography.  If you would like to contact him click here or call him at 707-217-4381.

Wonderment Wines. Photo courtesy of Swan Photography

Wonderment Wines Mission Statement

“Wonderment Wines represent intelligent effort, value and balance which create a sense of ‘Wonder’. Our wines are focused on specific terroir where each wine represents the vineyards distinctive style and expression. Thru artisanal methods and minimal intervention in both the vineyard and the cellar along with a focus on environmental and social consciousness we look forward to providing each customer no less than exactly what they desire.”

Every Wonderment cork has a great message! Photo by Swan Photography

Go to her web sight and buy her wines. And tell her the Texas Wineaux sent you!

 

Tips for Napa and Sonoma Valley

Headed to Napa or Sonoma? Tips on wine tasting & “must stops” for great food in Napa and Sonoma Valley!

Airports: Fly into San Francisco!

Even though it is much easier to fly in and substantially easier to get out of Sacramento International Airport from Dallas, Texas, we nearly always fly in to San Francisco International Airport for one reason; I LOVE SAN FRANCISCO! San Francisco is my 2nd favorite city in the world (next to Paris). I simply adore this incredible City by the Bay. Besides being so visually stunning; the arts are incredible, the people are so diverse, so much to see and do, and some of the absolute best restaurants in the entire world. Plus there is just something special about crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to wine country that excites me now just thinking about it!

A few Tips for Wine Tasting and Food

Just after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading to Sonoma & Napa Valley’s, you will find an incredibly quaint little town by the name of Sausalito. You need to spend some time here walking around town, investigating the quaint shops and bookstores, and enjoying the many great restaurants. Lunch  or dinner on the pier at Salito’s Crab House or my favorite French Bistro in town “La Garage“!

When you continue on to Sonoma or Napa you have a choice; Turn on Hwy 37 and head to Napa Valley, or keep going on Hwy 101 and head to Sonoma Valley. If you are new to the Wine country of Napa and Sonoma Valley, I would go to Napa and see it first. Especially if you have never visited in past. Napa Valley in my opinion is what most folks will normally think of as “Wine Country” and the visions it brings to mind.

 Get on line or call the wineries the week before you decide to visit and schedule appointments if possible.

I will give you some examples of wineries and tasting rooms that we love, but keep in mind; If you see a sign or a winery that looks interesting just stop in! Most wineries will take guests if you simply walk in (more in Sonoma than Napa Valley). But be aware; if you want a tour or a library tasting be sure and call in advance and set an appointment.

If you only have 3 days to spend tasting and exploring wine country I would spend 1 day in Napa Valley, then one day in Southern Sonoma and the last day in Northern Sonoma. If you have more time then you can easily spend 3-4 days in each area and never get tired of the beauty, great food, and some of the best wines worldwide. You may get tired of the crowds on certain times of the year, but not the beauty!

Wise words to live by!
Wise words to live by!

You need to understand the differences between Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.

Napa Valley is compact and you can easily drive from the city of Napa  in the southern valley to Calistoga in the northern Napa Valley on Hwy 29 in about an hour to 1-1/2 hours (depending on traffic). And there is almost one winery after another up and down Hwy 29 all the way to Calistoga.

Sonoma Valley is much larger, longer, and much wider! You should not try and visit one winery in Glen Ellen, Northern Sonoma Valley for example and then head to one near the city of Sonoma  in the Southern part of the valley. You will spend most of your day driving instead of doing what you came for; tasting new and different wines, eating incredible foods, and reveling in exactly how phenomenally beautiful wine country is!

So when you are in Sonoma Valley, plan your visits around the wineries and restaurants that you want to visit, then plan the next day in the other part of the valley.

Always the question when wine tasting!
Always the question when wine tasting!

Winetasting Pro Tips: 

  • SPIT! You will be consuming a lot of wine. Some you will like, some you will not. So learn to spit into the spit bucket, it is not rude.
  • Have a designated driver, or rent a car service. Even if you spit 100% of the time you will still get some alcohol in your system, it is just the way it is. Stay safe!
  • Try and stay away from a winery that has one or more tour buses out front unless you have an appointment. You will be part of the masses and will spend way to much time fighting to “get a pour” and this isn’t fun.

  • Enjoy the time you spend in each winery. Ask questions, try different styles, and immerse yourself in the culture of wine. This is a passion for most of the people working there at the winery, and they love to share information with people who are genuinely interested.
  • Be courteous and use common sense. Yes you are there to have fun and laugh, but if you are obnoxious, you can ruin the experience of others around you. Once again…SPIT! Also if the person pouring the wine enjoys spending time with you they are more likely to give you a “little something extra” like a heavier pour or a discount on products, or even no charge for the tasting!
  • Try Different wines that you would normally NOT buy at home. Keep in mind; it is a 2oz pour. If you do not like the wine, simply pour it into the spit bucket and try something else.
  • Buy a bottle or two if you like the wines to take home with you. Often the tasting fee (especially in Sonoma) will be waived or reduced if you purchase wine. Ask upfront for the rules. And remember to be pleasant!

NAPA VALLEY

Welcome Sign to Napa Valley!
Welcome Sign to Napa Valley!

 Restaurants in Napa Valley to visit:

Rutherford Grill is always a stop for us when in Rutherford and Napa Valley. American food with a great atmosphere and patio. Good wine list.

 Auberge du Soleil  is A MUST! Great spa and ‘adult only luxury hotel’ sitting up on the mountain overlooking the valley with stunning views. French bistro with over 40 wines by the glass. A terrific spa as well if you are interested!

Brix has a French / Napa inspired menu sitting on 16-acres of gardens and vineyards with spectacular views of the Mayacamas Mountains. One of the best wine lists in Napa Valley.

Wineries to visit Napa Valley:

Domaine Carneros.  Sparkling wines produced and poured here in a stunning French style Chateau setting just outside the city of Napa. You can buy wine by glass or bottle and sit out on the patio and soak it all in with bubbles in your glass! A great way to start your wine journey. Need to set appointment for best service but not mandatory.

Cuvaison is next door to Domaine Carneros outside of the city of Napa. Modern tasteful tasting room; nothing fancy but great views and exceptional wines. No appointment needed.

Darioush on the Silverado Trail in the City of Napa is built to look like a Persian Castle. The wines are outstanding and the property is one of the most impressive in all of wine country! They take walk-ins, but do yourself a favor and get appointment.

Whitehall Lane in St Helena has a great garden that you can picnic. The Whitehouse wines are outstanding, and always garner top reviews and scores from Parker, WS, and Tanzer. No appointment is needed for standard tasting, but is recommended, especially for library wines or big groups.

Ehlers Estate in St Helena requires an appointment, and is well worth the effort. Exceptional wines, and do NOT forget to taste some of the best Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the valley!

Frank Family Vineyards in Calistoga is a world class winery, and produces outstanding wines that consistently score mid-90’s with the wine pundants. They are open to the public and take walkins, but they are usually very busy. Make an appointment if possible.

Chateau Montelena is a “must see” when in Calistoga! This is the winery that helped best the best French wines in the famous Judgement Of Paris tasting in 1976, made famous by the movie Bottle Shock a few years ago. While the wines went through an awkward stage in the early 2000’s, the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are once again world class. The property is beautiful as well. No appointment required, but if you want a tour then call first and get appointment. Take a picnic basket!

Chateau Montelena..legendary!
Chateau Montelena..legendary!

Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Restaurants:

The Town of Sonoma Square is a fun area with lots to see and great restaurants. Here you will find The Girl and the Fig is a good restaurant for lunch or dinner with a good patio if weather permits. Sunflower Café for truly impressive breakfast.  Or soup, salads, and sandwichs for lunch. Both are on the square in City of Sonoma.

Fremont Diner just outside the Town of Sonoma is a legendary institution in the area! It really is a old dive that has “some” inside seating and picnic tables outside. Terrific chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, smoked ham, chicken sandwiches, and don’t leave without a slice of the sweet potato-pecan pie!

Barn Diva in Healdsburg has a really impressive back patio, hip night scene, good wine list, and an ever changing fresh menu according to the season. Order the Goat Cheese Croquettes with Lavender Honey as a starter!

Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg Square is incredible! Wine list is almost exclusively Sonoma Valley and over 500 selections. White Table cloths and fine dinning in modern atmosphere.

Russian River Brewing is a world famous brew pub in Healdsburg. If you are a craft beer aficionado you know about the 8% ABV Pale India Ale “Phliney The Elder“. And the ever sought after (and very rare) Phliney the Younger that beer lovers camp out for days once a year upon release!  Pub food, wings, good pizza but go for the best craft beer in Sonoma or Napa Valley.

Release date for Phliney the Younger is Feb 5-12th!

Wineries in Sonoma Valley To Visit

Southern Sonoma Valley:

B.R. Cohn in Glen Ellen. This winery was established and until recently was owned by the Manager of the Doobie Brothers Band. Good wines and great olive oil! No reservation needed. Often they will have live music as well, so check out the website and adjust your schedule accordingly!

Chateau St Jean The 250 acre estate and 3550 sq ft house, property, and gardens are stunningly beautiful, and the higher end wines are very good. No appointment needed for tasting unless you want something special.

Middle and Northern Sonoma:

You should plan on spending 1/2 day in city of Healdsburg. Very cool town with tons of great restaurants and tasting rooms in the square.

When in Dry Creek, don’t forget to stop at Dry Creek General Store. The locals hang out here. You can stop and buy goods for lunch basket, or get a beer and sit on the front porch and hang out with locals!

Dry Creek general Store
Dry Creek general Store

Martin Ray Winery in Santa Rosa. Incredible chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel that are a consistent 90-95 point scores with Wine Spectator! The estate grounds are very pretty too, but call in advance and get an appointment several days in advance if you want to taste their wines.

Benovia Winery in Santa Rosa has EXCEPTIONAL Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Grenache, and Chardonnay that are perennial favorites of Parker WS, and Tanzer. By appointment only.

Pappietro-Perry  in Dry Creek. This is some of my favorite Pinot Noir in Sonoma. But DO NOT expect a fancy tasting room, but don’t let that stop you from tasting! Ben and Yolonda Pappietro make artisanal Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel wines that will impress you. Bonus: The Dry Creek area is easily one of the most beautiful areas of Sonoma. Tell Yolanda I said hello! No appointment needed.

Dry Creek Vineyards  in Dry Creek. Good to exceptional and large portfolio of wines with exceptional value. The property is very pretty and you can pick up picnic supplies at Dry Creek General Store and picnic here! No appointment needed.

Ridge Vineyards  in the Healdsburg / Dry Creek area. Known for their award winning Zinfandel, but do not pass up the terrific Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, and Rhone Style Blends! But do not leave without buying some of the BEST ZINFANDEL produced in the world! No appointment required, but most times a waiting list will apply. So call and make an appointment to save time.

Francis Ford Coppola  in Geyserville.  No appointment needed. The director of Godfather & other classic films. Museum inside, with a pool and bar outside, lined on one side by  Cabanas. You can spend the day by the pool and rent a cabana with personal showers and toilets. Wines are ‘ok’, but go to see the facility and museum. Bonus: Coppola is one of the only spots in wine country that you can taste wines AND order a cocktail at the same establishment, because they were grandfathered in with a liquor license from the previous winery owner!

There is just so much to do and see in the Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma Valley. I hope this guide helps you with a few choice places to spend your time and money. And if you have more suggestions, comments, or ideas please share them in the comment section below!

Thank you for visiting the Texas Wineaux and reading my ramblings.

Please stop back from time to time for new content. Please leave a comment on your thoughts, favorite spots you love, and favorite restaurants in the comment section below.

Terry Hill is the Texas Wineaux!

Cheers From The Texas Wineaux!
Cheers From The Texas Wineaux!

Weekend in California Wine Country – Day Two

A  Weekend in Wine Country is Never Enough!

There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do; visit all the Wineries, see all the incredibly beautiful places, eat at all the terrific restaurants, and taste all the wines you want to taste!

As I stated in the Day One article, I could have every minute taken up with appointments if I chose too. But that wasn’t what my lovely bride Margie and I wanted to do on day two. We both have been burning the candle at both ends the last several months at our jobs, and we needed some Margie & Terry time. We wanted to just let it happen as it came with a two basic starting points:

  1.  Start in the City of Healdsburg, Sonoma County
  2.  Spend time together talking, laughing, meeting people, and making memories

We awoke on Saturday morning at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel in Santa Rosa needing coffee really bad. While the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is comfortable and in a great location for Sonoma, I have to say the hotel needs a serious renovation. They do offer a full service restaurant, large rooms, and amenities such as wine tastings in the evening. However the rooms look like they were decorated in 1980. And the pool was completely torn apart and we had to listen to the workers refinishing the pool. But… we don’t spend a lot of time in our rooms; we basically sleep there and go, go, go! I personally prefer the newer Marriot Courtyard for my money.

We dressed, had coffee and a light breakfast at the hotel and back to our room to get ready for the day. We decided to drive to Healdsburg Square, park the car, and just discover the town. We arrived about 11:00 AM. After parking we strolled around dipping inside the many shops lined around the square, as Margie dearly loves to shop. I think it is something in women’s DNA. I am convinced that the word “SALE” works as a pheromone that draws women into a store, where they can nearly always find something “cute”! Along with clothes, you will find terrific restaurants, candy shops, bakeries with lots of goodies, ice cream shops, and lots of places with home and kitchen goods..

Square in Healdsburg, CA
Square in Healdsburg, CA

I really did not mind walking around the shops, because about every 4-5 shops it seems is a wine producer sampling their wines. Well, it would be rude not to do a tasting right? We first stopped for a tasting at Roadhouse Winery tucked away in the corner of the square.

Roadhouse Winery
Roadhouse Winery

I have to tell you I was a little hesitant at first, but also intrigued as well because I am currently on my Pinot Noir kick. Plus I really liked the label. The young men inside were laughing, joking around, and NOT taking much very serious…except their pinot noir. This they were very serious and enthusiastic about the product. And they should have been because the Pinot Noir that they were pouring was great! In fact I bought 4 bottles  and brought them back to Texas.

Next was an ice cream break at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie. With a great selection of delicious deserts to temp you! And anyone that really knows me understands I love my ice cream as much as my wine.

On around the square for more shopping and wine tastings. We enjoyed the wines at Portalupi Wines so much we bought a glass each and sat down to chat and sip the terrific wine and decide our next move!

Portalupi Tasting Room Healdsburg Square
Portalupi Tasting Room Healdsburg Square

Remember, we had very little agenda upfront and decided to just let the day come to us. So we decided since we love the Dry Creek AVA so much; let’s drop the top on the convertable and go discover!

First stop is one of our favorite places in Sonoma; Dry Creek General Store. Established in 1881, the Dry Creek General Store is a very historic and unique establishment that is still to this day a local hangout. They offer great crafted sandwiches, soups, salads, and local gifts. We have a a tradition of buying coffee cups every time we stop to remind us of our great times in the valley. You can get a great sandwich or salad made to order, then head to the gardens or on the front stoop to enjoys with the locals. Many times we will load up on picnic supplies and head over to one of the local wineries to picnic. Regardless this is a MUST STOP when in the area!

Dry Creek general Store
Dry Creek general Store

After a great sandwich, and wine out of our new coffee mugs, we are off to explore!

Dry Creek General Store Mugs
Dry Creek General Store Mugs

Feeling adventurous we just took a road and drove, looking and exploring until we ran upon a small winery by the name of Zichichi Family Vineyard.

There was a small sign out front that got my attention: “Wine Enthusiast 95 Points”

Zichichi Sauvignon Blanc wowed us!
Zichichi Sauvignon Blanc wowed us!

Zichichi

Now we were WAY off the beaten path, but what the heck? Let’s check it out. We were extremely surprised and pleased.

A little history of Zichichi:

In 2000 a New Orleans Physician Steve Zichichi and his wife Kristen purchased the 22 acres in Dry Creek Valley. 14 acres of zinfandel and 4 acres of petit sirah, all planted in 1928 and 1964 by the previous Bartolozzi Ranch. After several years of selling grapes to local wineries, the Zichichi’s built their own winery in 2006. They now produce an Estate Zinfandel, an Old Vine Zinfandel, A Cabernet Sauvignon, a Petite Sirah, and an incredible Sauvignon Blanc that blew me away!

In fact, we loved the Sauvignon Blanc so much that we bought a case and shipped it to Texas, where we almost immediately drank every bottle and wished we had bought 2 cases! I am on the very short member list now, and have already bought the next vintage. They are very unique in that they sell out most of their wines to members every year, usually within 3 months.

We were taken to the back for barrel samples of the upcoming vintages of Old Vine Zinfandel and this was quite impressive. You can really see how well the wines have been made, and the promise to come in a few years. We will stop in again next trip to the area.

After driving around the wondrous beauty of Dry Creek and Russian River Valley, we headed back to the room to rest up, then clean up for dinner. I made dinner reservations at Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa. Margie and I had visited, and loved the original Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris, and in fact have artwork in our entryway of our home from the famous establishment in Paris. While I understood already that they were not affiliated, I was still intrigued.

While Willi’s Wine Bar was almost nothing like the Paris version, it was a very nice wine country restaurant, lots of character, and a very impressive wine list.

We like to arrive before our reservations and sit at the bar. We meet a lot of wonderful Bartenders and staff, as well as the patrons at the bar. We enjoyed a terrific bottle of Black Kitty Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard that was a suggestion of the Bartender. It was nicely perfumed with aromas of raspberry, violets, chocolate, and somewhat earthy. Chew tannins, and black cherry bursting in our mouth. Delicious Pinot Noir! We had a wonderful time at dinner, food was very good, and I would suggest it when in Santa Rosa.

Willi's Wine Bar Santa Rosa, CA
Willi’s Wine Bar Santa Rosa, CA

The next day was pack up and go home day. I carry with me a great packable wine shipper called “Wine Check”. It holds 12 bottles of wine in Styrofoam, covered by a very sturdy box, and then covered by a padded heavy duty vinyl cover. It has a removable strap and wheels on one end for easy transport. It weights 45-48 lbs full and you can check it as luggage on the plane!

Wine Check - Holds 12 bottles
Wine Check – Holds 12 bottles

I always bring back a nice booty of wine to enjoy!

Wine Booty March 2015!
Wine Booty March 2015!

Margie and I had a short, but incredible time in Wine Country. I hope this article helps you plan your next trip. If you ever want me to assist you with where to go taste wine, great places to eat, and beautiful places to visit feel free to email me. I would be happy to help you with suggestions.

Just keep in mind:

A Weekend in Wine Country is Never Enough!

Thank you again for reading the ramblings of a Texas Wineaux!

(Please leave a comment,good or bad, because I need the feedback.)

Grape Harvest