Jun 302014

Are you searching for a personal winery experience? The old days when you met in a casual setting with the owner and/or winemaker can still be found. You just have to get off the beaten path, but not all that far. There are plenty of small boutique producers who more than willing to share their passion and wine in a small and sometimes very personal setting. This is also an opportunity to add some interesting hand-crafted wines to your collection since most are only available online or locally in Sonoma County. Here’s a few off the beaten path wineries in Sonoma we love for both the wine and personalities. Stay tuned to this list as we will add to it when we discover more fantastic and novel experiences.

Russian River Valley – Near Healdsburg, CA
Best Boutique Winery Experiences - Sonoma County

John and Diane Bucher

Bucher Vineyards John and Diane Bucher have a 38 acre sustainable vineyard of premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyard sits next to their 360 acre organic dairy farm. While most of their grapes are sold to outstanding wineries like C. Donatiello and Willams Selyem, they hold back some of their favorite blocks of grapes to make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a Pinot Rose’ under the Bucher label. Expect to meet the Buchers at their home with expansive views of the Russian River Valley. You will sit with John and Diane on their patio as you sample their wines; learn about the vineyards and dairy farm. John and Diane enjoy taking their guests on a tour of the vineyards and explain their meticulous planting and clone selection concepts. This experience is like stepping back to those early hands-on days of the Sonoma wine pioneers. Appointment Required


Ryan Kunde

DRNK Wines Pronounced Drink Wines; this is a true family project. Headed by fifth generation winemaker Ryan Kunde, the family partnership includes Ryan, his wife, Katie and his wife’s parents, Dale, Ryan, Nancy and Katie, hence the name. DRNK is tucked away off a dirt road near Sebastopol. The signage is small and easy to miss but the wines, view and the time spent with Ryan is all worth the effort. Before DRNK, the property was an abandoned wine cave with a small production area.

With offices in an Airstream trailer sitting outside the cave, Ryan will greet you at the cave’s entrance; walk with you back to his “tasting room” which consists of two old wine barrels spanned by a length of board. Ryan specializes in Pinot Noir but also has an excellent Chardonnay and Viognier. You will find young Mr. Kune to be soft-spoken yet very engaging. He is not only a wealth of wine knowledge, but also very knowledgeable regarding Sonoma history and the local wine families. Be sure to ask Ryan about his pioneering use of flying drones for vineyard management and observation. BTW their 2012 “Caver’s Cuvee” was just awarded a whopping 97 point score. Appointment Required

Best Boutique Winery Experiences - Sonoma County

Three Generations

Bacigalupi Vineyards Originally purchased in 1956 by Helen and Charles Bacigalupi, Bacigalupi Vineyards is a multi-generational masterpiece. The new farm-house style tasting room is surrounded by vineyards, While Bacigalupi does offer a traditional tasting experience, there is so much more to discover and enjoy. It is very likely you will be greeted by one or both of the third generation Bacigalupi twins, Katey and Nicole. Both cut their teeth at other area wineries before teaming up to open the tasting room in 2011. In addition to a traditional tasting, join one of the twins on the vineyard patio and hear tales of growing up in Sonoma wine country. The patio is a perfect spot to slow down and simply enjoy a great bottle of wine and take in the view.

A little known fact is that the now famous Chateau Montelena Chardonnay surprise winner of the 1976 Tasting of Paris, depicted in the movie Bottle Shock, was made in part by Bacigalupi grapes. The actual hand-typed sales receipt hangs in the tasting room. The vineyard sits on the hill above the tasting room and has not been replanted. Needless to say, those grapes are in high demand. The folks at Bacigalupi are happy to arrange a walking tour of this historic Sonoma vineyard that ironically put Napa Valley on the world stage of wine. No Appointment Necessary

Inman Family Wines

The Winemaker is In

Inman Family Wines As you approach the quaint barn-style winery, below the winery sign you may see a smaller sign stating “The Winemaker is in.” Kathleen Inman produces extraordinary Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that consistently score big. The winery is compact and Kathleen prides herself in the eco-friendly approach she takes to winemaking, vineyards and even packaging. Tucked off to side of the winery, near her organically farmed Olivet Grange Vineyard are a few tables and seating, creating a perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the vineyard view. Try her delicious Endless Crush Pinot Noir Rose. The first vintage was created as an anniversary gift for her husband, Simon.

Kathleen is a third generation Napan who came to Sonoma to make the wines she loves. She runs a very lean staff at Inman Family Wines, so it often seem like Kathleen is a one woman show. When “The Winemaker is In” sign is out, most likely Kathleen will serving your tasting, personally. This is a great opportunity to meet and chat with one of Russian River’s most respected winemakers.

Hint: Kathleen has a farmhouse to rent, right in the vineyard. Billed as a “Bed and Get Your Own Breakfast,” the three bedroom, one bath home is perfect for those who want an authentic taste of wine country life. No Appointment Necessary

Petaluma Gap – Near Petaluma, CA
Best Boutique Winery Experiences - Sonoma County

Kaveh Azari

Azari Vineyards Take a series of winding roads beyond the town of Petaluma up into the hills of the Petaluma Gap and you may find yourself at an unmarked gate. The gate serves as the entrance to the Azari family estate, vineyards and winery. Appointment only and well worth the effort. Founders Kamal and Pari Azari, Persian immigrants, still live on the property and are generous hosts. Their son, Kaveh, a self-proclaimed refugee from the “boring” high tech world, has now taken over the winery reigns so his parents can slow down.

The winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Shiraz. They choose to refer to their Syrah as Shiraz in honor of their Iranian homeland. Their winemaker, Nico moved to Sonoma only three years ago from his native France. A visit to Azari includes a stroll through the vineyards and estate grounds, a tasting in the wine cave and homemade pizza from their wood fired oven. Azari offers two labels, Azari which is their premium wines and Corkscrew, more affordable yet still delicious.

On our visit we were greeted by Keveh and Nico who showed us around and fired up the pizza oven. While tasting in the caves, we were joined by Kamal and Pari for a lovely afternoon which in addition to the amazing pizzas included hand-made cheeses from the elder Azaris. This is a fascinating family with much to offer in conversation, in addition to the wines. We easily could have spent the afternoon taking in the views, enjoying the wine and fellowship. Isn’t this what wine is all about anyway? Appointment Required

Jun 132014

Father’s Day Wine Pairing – This article originally appeared on the award winning site; Tasty Chomps from Orlando, FL. I was honored to contribute my personal suggestions for wine pairings.

Tasty Chomps' Orlando

Father’s Day is soon approaching. If you haven’t picked out something special for good ol’ dad, don’t sweat it – we have a few recommendations to make this Father’s Day extra special. For those of you who were triumphant in braving the busy shops and malls to find that perfect gift, we’d like to remind you that no gift is perfect without wine. If you got him chocolate – get him wine! If you’re taking him out to dinner – get him wine! Is he receiving a beautiful white dress shirt? Again, get that man some wine, STAT.

After surveying a total of 81 dads across the nation and figuring out what they really want for Father’s Day, Roger Beery of Bacchus & Beery and I discussed which wines pair exquisitely with these suggestions. Continue reading »

Apr 022014

Last October we attended a wonderful event, Pinot on the River, on the town square in Healdsburg. It is a Pinot Noir lover’s dream, featuring over 100 of Sonoma’s best Pinot producers. As you’d expect, we tasted some amazing wine and met some outstanding winemakers.

Bucher Vineyard

John and Diane Bucher

As the afternoon crowd dwindles towards the end of the event, the buzz begins from those in the know. Some of the loudest buzz was around Bucher Vineyard, a 38 acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley, not far from Healdsburg. Single vineyard designated Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noirs have been created by some of the most renown Sonoma vintners, including Williams Selyem, Siduri Wines, Papapietro Perry, Arista, HoldredgeC. Donatiello Winery, and Thralls Family Cellars.

While I was familiar with the vineyard name and the wines made by other producers, the buzz was actually about the wines under the new Bucher Vineyard label. So we had to check them out. I must say they were indeed buzz-worthy. Just a day later we spent a few relaxing hours with John and Diane Bucher at their home on their 360 acre ranch which includes the vineyard and a 700 head organic dairy farm. Continue reading »

Mar 262014

“…Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.” William Shakespeare, Henry VIII – 1613

“All good things must come to an end.” Geoffrey Chaucer – 1374

My emotions are today ranging from melancholy to near sadness. The Buddhist in me is reminded that attachment only causes pain. But for all my human failings, I find myself attached to what was and feeling some modicum of pain.

Tonight we will be attending a celebration of sorts, or maybe more like a wake. For tonight marks the closing of the place we thought of as our second living room, our other home and extended family, CRU Wine Bar in Park Meadows. Our Cheers Bar, if you will. Before you roll your eyes and judge, I encourage you to read on about this wonderful little wine bar that lost its lease because the mall property owner preferred to move in a high volume chain steak house. What once was interesting is now becoming another cookie-cutter experience. CRU is not the first victim as leases have come up for renewal. No doubt the little wine bar could never generate the rental revenue of the newer high volume tenants…but not all food and wine options need to cater to manic disengaged crowds when there is space for the large and intimate alike. Continue reading »

Mar 122014

Cartograph wines

Cartograph’s Alan Baker and Serena Lourie

Winemaker interview with Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines – We at Bacchus and Beery, are always on the lookout for stories of people who left successful careers (not millionaire investors) to start over in the wine industry. When asking around northern Sonoma, the name Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines came up over and over again. Alan walked away from career in Public Broadcasting with few prospects, a little wine knowledge and a lot of wine passion. We have now had the pleasure of getting to know Alan and his partner (in life and wine), Serena Lourie . Together they have recently opened a lovely new tasting room right off the square in Healdsburg. Being hands-on owners and winemakers, you are more likely than not, to be greeted by Alan, Serena or both, when you stop by for a visit and a glass of wine.

B&B Wine Blog: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Alan Baker Picking grapesAB: A guy who has more tasks on his list than he has time to complete them. I think the days are long gone when a winemaker could just focus on making great wine. If the world doesn’t know about your wines, it won’t matter how good they are. So I’m almost always in the tasting room, online, or on the road interacting with our customers. Continue reading »

Feb 032014

Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Originally published in Indulge in Denver Magazine – Feb/March Issue

Napa Sonoma Travel planMany dream about a luxurious tour of the Napa and Sonoma wine country; maybe other wine regions, the choices, experiences and outcomes can be infinite. Planning a tour of any famous icon may be overwhelmed if planning is not accurately investigated. Yes, it can be very overwhelming; often ending with frustration if not properly planned. We ask our friend Roger Beery who has logged numerous excursions in the wine country to give us his insight on how to plan the best possible wine adventure. Roger is so into wine that both of his children are employed in the California vino business.  Here are some sound tips on planning a trip to the wine country…Enjoy. Continue reading »

Jan 212014

Clos du valNearly two years ago we interviewed Kristy Melton of Clos Du Val shortly after she was named their first female winemaker. Since that interview Kristy has risen to Head Winemaker with a broader set of responsibilities and a new vision for Clos Du Val. Kristy has undertaken the task of taking Clos Du Val to “the next level of premium” by improving the winemaking and vineyards while refurbishing the historic facilities. Expect some exciting additions to Clos Du Val’s wine lineup including single block and single clone wines. 

As you will see, Kristy is still a hands-on winemaker, not afraid to get dirty. As we spoke, I was glad to see there is still quite a bit of the spunky Texas rodeo queen (really) left in this rising Napa winemaking star. Maybe that’s what makes her special. Read Kristy Melton’s first interview Continue reading »

Dec 072013

T3 Tesla Tours

Napa Valley and Sonoma Limo Tours – Try T3 Tesla Tours

There are any number of car, limo and driver services across wine country with varying levels of service, professionalism and vehicles. We were fortunate enough to spend a day touring with Napa’s T3 -Tesla Tours and Transportation. Instead of the standard limo or SUV you can find anywhere, we toured in a sexy, new, all-electric $100,000 Tesla S sedan. On top of that, Tesla Tours is no more expensive than most other services. Interestingly, all their fees and packages include taxes and driver gratuity, so total costs are disclosed up front. Visiting stunning wineries in a unique vehicle with courteous professional service…can you think of anything better? But if you need more traditional modes of transportation, T3 has that too. Continue reading »

Dec 022013

Wine Blogger Roger Beery of Bacchus and Beery – Interview

I was excited to be interviewed by the premiere European Food and Fashion website, Webflakes. So if you wanted to know a bit more about the guy behind Bacchus and Beery…Here you go.

Roger Beery

Wine Blogger Roger Beery from Bacchus and Beery

This week we introduce you to Roger Beery who, along with his wife Donna, started the wine blog Bacchus and Beery, which is dedicated to tasting, enjoying, discovering, and of course, just drinking wine. 

They started their love affair with wine back in college and it is now a shared passion in their family, with both their son and daughter working in the industry. 

With years of experience, Roger is now a self-appointed Wine Evangelist spreading the Gospel of the Grape – from sharing an interest with lifelong friends to passing down his family’s passion to their children. Continue reading »

Nov 302013

Angle 33 Thermal WineThermal Concrete Wine Chiller: This chiller by Angle 33 looks great and works exceptionally well. We now use ours almost every evening. The wine thermal can act as a chiller but we find it works best to maintain temperature for a perfectly chilled or cellared wine. The thermal is chilled in the refrigerator so ice is never used. The attractively colored thermal concrete is sealed so it does not sweat or get wet on the sides and bottom. Therefore there is no sloppy ice chiller drip.

The Angle 33 Thermal is hand crafted in Montana (see how it is made here). Priced at $64.99, the Angle 33 Premium Concrete Thermal is as handsome as it is functional. Angle 33 also offers matching coasters.

Grapeseed Oils and Flour: Earlier this year we found these delicious grapeseed oils from Salute Salute SanteSanté! in Napa, CA. They make a high smoke point cooking oil as well as herb-flavored and grape variety-specific finishing oils. GMO free, they have replaced olive oils in our kitchen. The gluten-free grapeseed flour is a great addition (20%-30%) to whole grain bread flours and gluten-free flours, creating a nutty richness. Read my personal story about the natural cholesterol reducing effects of Salute Santé! Grapeseed Oil Continue reading »