Barring another wine country emergency (sarcasm), our visits this fall were our last California wine journeys for 2013. The sigh of relief from winemakers across both Napa and Sonoma was audible as the harvest came to an end.
A textbook growing season created much excitement in all the wineries we visited as bin after bin of near perfect grapes arrived to be carefully converted into the elixir of the Gods. The excitement and anticipation for these wines once bottled, is the talk of most winemakers we met.
Fall in wine country is a surreally beautiful time with acre after acre of vineyards turning Technicolor shades of yellow, gold, red and maroon. Interestingly enough some of the older vines fighting various vineyard plant diseases create the most vibrantly colored fall leaves. Could this colorful display be the vine’s farewell gift to those of us who loved their annual gift of grapes?
This blog post chronicles a few of our adventures, some of which will find their way into their own more detailed post in the months to come. In any case, some of our adventures may be ones you’d like to add to your stops next time you are in Napa and Sonoma.
Late October and early November brought on a flurry of awesome events and experiences in which we were lucky enough to take part. First was the Halloween Party at Jordan Winery – Theme 007 Dress to Thrill. This is an exquisite party. Bond Girls in full costume posed with guests, wine and martinis flowed and casino tables added to the early entertainment. As the evening wore on a cigar and brandy room opening onto the terrace gardens proved popular, later giving way to dancing amongst the barrels and Jordan’s famous oak fermentation tanks. Our costumes, you ask… Well, no tux for me. I wore my full dress kilt dressing as James Bond from the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only time Bond wore a kilt. Donna dressed from the same film as “Chinese Girl” (Donna is half Chinese), the villain Dr. Blofield’s angel of death.
A few days later we received a call from our friend, Blake, who owns the farmhouse where we often stay, Healdsburg Garden House. BTW, this quaint farmhouse complete with vineyard and fresh eggs is one heck of a deal in a place where good deals are hard to find. Unbeknown to us, Blake had set up a day of touring with T3 – Tesla Tours and Transportation. More on T3 – Tesla Tours and Transportation to come in a later post.
Mike and Chris from T3 picked us up in their new $100,000 totally electric Tesla Model S sedan. The Model S is fast, sleek and sexy with plenty of range to make it though a day in wine country. These guys have a great knowledge of hidden gems in Napa and Sonoma, introducing us to a number of spectacular wineries we had yet to visit. The service was impeccable…but the car was amazing and very comfortable even for my 6-3 frame in the backseat. T3 provides winery tours, airport pickups, weddings and other transportation services at a shockingly reasonable fee when you consider the quality of service and the unique automotive experience. Check out their Tour Packages.
2013 was our first year to experience Pinot on the River on the square in Healdsburg. Pinot lovers dream of this type of experience with over 100 small and boutique producers offering their wines. This is a Pinot tasting extravaganza second to none. Pinot on the River also serves as a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma.
The weather proved perfect for this outdoor event. While most of the wines were amazing, the longer we stayed the buzz about a few smaller producers became apparent. In some cases like Bucher Vineyard and Nunes Vineyard, they sell most of their grapes for others to produce vineyard designated wines, but they hold back a few tons to make their own wines. The theory is it makes them better winegrowers…but in my opinion they were damn good winemakers, too. In other cases small producers like Papapietro Perry Winery and micro-producer Ed Thralls of Thralls Family Cellars offered wines to impress the most ardent Pinot fan. Any of these would make a great addition to your Pinot collection.
Last but not least on the docket was A Food and Wine Affair sponsored by Wine Road. This was our second year at this event and it again did not disappoint. In fact, I believe this is the best value of any wine event around at only $70 for the whole weekend.
Over a hundred wineries in northern Sonoma wine areas of Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and more, offer samples of their best wines along with foods made to pair perfectly with their wine offerings. Some of the wineries even brought in celebrated local chefs and caterers to prepare their food pairings. The Food and Wine affair is a wonderful opportunity to explore new to you wineries to expand your favorites list. As a bonus, each ticket holder walks away with a beautiful hard-bound cookbook with all winery recipes and the wine pairings.
I could not finish this post in good conscience without a thank you to two Healdsburg tasting rooms that we treat more like our home-away living room. First is C. Donatiello Winery owned by Chris Donatiello. Not only are the wines great (Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot and Maddie’s Vineyard Chardonnay – personal favorites) but the space is inviting with comfortable leather couches and chairs. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and frankly fun to hang with. Chris is often in the house to mingle and taste with guests.
Our new find on this trip was the just-opened Chartograph Wines tasting room only a block off the square next to Zin Restaurant, another favorite. Winemaker Alan Baker and his partner Serena Lourie are outgoing and usually one if not both are in the tasting room. During our visit, the tasting room was so new not all the seating furniture had arrived but it should be ready for your visit. Cartograph offers Pinots for every palate (Floodgate Vineyard and the Pinot Rose’ are personal favs) along with a tempting Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer.
We were fortunate this year to spend even more time in wine country than previous years. Thinking back on the events of just the last couple of months in wine country leaves me excited for 2014….Cheers!