Sonoma County Adventures – Day Seven


Virginia Dare Winery was suggested to us by our host at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and I must say that is was a very welcome suggestion.  Our host Vicki was charming and full of the history of Virginia Dare the person and the Legend.

2013 White Doe – a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier.  Fresh bright citrus aromas greeted my nose followed by a well-balanced refreshing flavor profile.  An excellent choice.

2015 Chardonnay – A beautiful, slightly oaked nose with hints of vanilla and tropical fruit.  Mangos and pineapple on the mid palate and super smooth texture.

2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Really nice red and dark fruits with a mild hint of earthy nature on the nose.  Silky mid with flavors carrying thru to a superb finish.

**2014 Lost Colony – A  wonderful blend of Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier.  An excellent nose of blueberries and plums which is quite robust and it continues with a silky smooth mid.  The finish is soft and slightly spicy.  Superb tannin structure.  This will be one of our Thanksgiving wines . . .the history coupled with the excellent wine.

2015 Manteo – A blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Bright red fruit aromas with a fruity, robust and silky mid.  And a slightly dry finish.

*2014 Two Arrowheads – A gorgeous blend of Viognier, Rousanne and Chenin Blanc.  A very floral nose with white peaches.  Peaches and Nectarines on the mid palate.  Texture is magnificent and finish is crisp and clean.  Had to bring one home.

Virginia Dare Winery is a gem that deserves to be researched and enjoyed.


Pedroncelli Winery in Geyserville is one of the oldest wineries in the western US and one of the several I was really looking forward to tasting.  Our host, Gary, gave us a great rundown of some of their history.  On to the wines . . .

2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Beautiful floral and lemongrass nose, peaches and melons on the mid palate with a tart, crisp finish.

*2016 Friends White Blend – 60% Sauv Blanc / 40% Gewurtztraminer – Bursting with tropical fruit both in aroma and flavor.  Nice bright acidity to finish.  I believe this one would qualify as a “porch pounder”.

2016 Dry Rose’ of Zin – Mild nose though the flavors are quite prominent on the palate.  No extraneous dry mouth feel, great balance.

*2014 Red Wine Blend – Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sangiovese – Bright cheery red fruit on the nose and a silky mid palate.  Great flavors and texture with an ever so slightly dry finish.

2015 Sangiovese – Beautiful red and dark fruit on the nose, flavors are more slight not as fruit forward as I would have hoped.  and it finishes quite dry.

2014 Mother Clone Zinfandel – From their 100+ yr old vines – Bright dark fruit and a hint of blueberries both ont he nose and the palate with a solid texture and smooth to slightly dry finish.

2014 Cabernet Franc – Light nose. . a touch earthy.  Good fruit on the mid and a nice smooth texture.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Wisdom– Great deep dark fruit ont he nose and equally great fruit on the palate.  After 18 months in French Oak this is a great classic Cab.  It finishes silky and dry.  Classic.

2015 Petite Sirah – Earthy and forest floor nose with good fruit that is slightly smoky on the palate.  Finishes quite dry.  My wife’s comment about the aroma, ” It smells like the Disneyland candy shop . . .old wood and sweet.”

2012 Vintage Port – They use four of the traditional Portuguese grapes when making this wine.  Great nose, not as much dried fruit aroma as some ports I’ve sampled, which is very good.  Gorgeous flavors and wonderfully silky satin on the palate.  A fantastic port.

Some fun facts  . . . The founders son who is currently 86 still works in the winery and with the viticulture team.  They are a 4th generation family owned property.  There are only a few of the original vines left that are 112 yrs old and still producing.  A very worth-while visit.

Back into Healdsburg to visit another long-standing institution of wine.

Seghesio Family Vineyards has been a main stay in Sonoma County since 1895 when Edoardo Seghesio first planted Zinfandel in Alexander Valley.  Their wines and their history are both exceptional.

2016 Vermentino – From Russian River Valley – Peaches and tropical fruit on the nose that carries over onto the palate.  Nice acidity that produces a crisp and clean mid palate.  Very nice.

2013 Venom – Sangiovese from Alexander Valley – Nice dark berry fruit on the nose and the mid palate that continues with a smooth texture.  The flavors are really robust.  Fantastic wine, but a bit outside my price range.

2014 Barbera – Bright red and dark fruit on the nose.  A smooth mid palate leading into a bit of spice with a moderately dry finish.

2013 Maffei Zinfandel – Dark fruit with bright aromas and a silky mid that carries with it a bit of spice.  Quite surprisingly the finish is smooth to the end, no astringent dryness.  Very nice.

*2013 Cortina Zinfandel – Beautiful dark fruit on the nose, those traditional Zin aromas and pure satin on the tongue with just a touch of spice.  The finish was extraordinarily great.  This one is going home.

2014 Monte Rosso Zinfandel – Super bright red fruit and the flavors are robust and wonderful.  A very smooth silky texture and a great finish.

2009 Aglianico – A mild nose with a slightly mineral, dried fruit flavor profile.  With a nice easy finish.

*2010 Dionigia – Port-style blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Grand Nora.  the nose is very brooding . . .deep and dark.  The flavors are wonderful, satiny texture and able to make you lose yourself for a few moments.

2013 Pagani Heriage Red – 50/50 blend of Zinfandel and Alicante.  Brooding nose.  Fruit is prominent on the palate for a minute, then transmogrifies into a warm blanket.  The tannins are incredibly well-integrated.

Our host, Amanda, was incredibly well versed in the history and stories of the Seghesio family.  They just celebrated their 115th anniversary as a winery.  They have about 400 acres in vines, primarily Zinfandel and a few Bordeaux varieties.  You can find a plethora of info on them here.

Williamson Wines was suggested to us both by our resort and by one of the stops we had made previously.  So, since we were walking around Healdsburg taking in the sites, we figured . . .why not.  This tasting was a little different from all the rest.  This was a seated food pairing and tasting, very fancy.

2015 Rousanne – Bright lemon/lime aromas and a crisp mid palate.  Very nicely balanced.

2015 Viognier – Bright and crisp though no distinct aromas came to me.  It was very clean and refreshing.

2014 Grenache – Bold red/dark fruits . .almost like Pinot Noir on steroids.  Good texture, a tiny bit spicy and a great finish.

2014 Cuvee – A bit of spice on the nose alongside the red fruit, very subtle fruit though.  Dark fruit on the mid and it goes dry immediately.  The paired food was a pepper jam relish and that intensity went way up.  So, positive note there.

2013 Indulge – Cabernet Sauvignon – Classic Cab Sauv aromas, moderate dark fruit flavors and finishes dry.  The food pairing was a cheese that changed the finish to something much smoother and longer.  Nice save.

I wasn’t really a fan of these wines.  They seemed too engineered for my tastes, not a natural outpouring of the fruit itself and their price point were double what I had seen pretty much everywhere else.  OK . . one more.

La Crema Winery came to my attention for several reasons.  I have seen them readily available on the store shelves, they are one of the many wineries in the stables of Jackson Family Wines and they create Pinot Noirs from fruit purchased near my home in the Yamhill Valley.  Many good reasons to see what they have to offer.  Unfortunately for us, they didn’t have any of the Willamette Valley Pinots available to try in their tasting room.

2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Beautifully light chocolate cherry nose, smooth texture and great structure.  And a warm, mildly spicy finish.

2014 Saralee Vineyard Chardonnay – Nice tropical fruit aromas, some pineapple notes and a silky mid palate texture.  Coupled with a Citron truffle it is fantastic.

2013 Bennet Valley Pinot Noir – Traditionally good Pinot Noir nose and good fruit carry through.  A smooth mid and a great finish.

2014 Fog Veil Pinot Noir – Light cherry notes on the nose and onto the palate with a more pronounced baking spice mid palate.  The fruit carried through nicely and the finish was nice as well.

2013 Saralee Vineyard Gewurtztraminer – Honeysuckle and tropical fruit caress the nose.  Luscious peach flavors greet your tongue.  A really nice balanced and refreshing wine.  The passionfruit truffle was greatly improved by this offering.

An excellent last full day of wine tasting in the Sonoma Valley.



Sonoma County Adventures – Day Six


Our journey continues with a trip out to Alexander Valley to the namesake winery.  The advice we got from our new friends Dena and Ari was that “You can’t go wrong with anything” from Alexander Valley Vineyards.


Our host John was our tour guide through the many offerings from AVV and he was happy to share stories about the family and the meanings behind the wines that they make.  A very entertaining and educational experience.

2016 Gewürztraminer – Nice floral nose with a crisp and clean finish.

2015 Estate Chardonnay – Great tropical fruit nose, and nicely balanced mid palate.  Very fruity and easy finish.

2016 Dry Rose’ of Sangiovese – Bright fresh fruit on the nose which carries nicely on to the mid and finishes slightly dry.

*2015 Homestead Red Blend – A gorgeous blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cab Sauv, Mourvedre and Syrah.  Bold fruity nose and a silky mid palate.  Beautiful fruit all the way through with a lightly spicy finish.  Definitely going home with me.

2015 Estate Syrah – I got a vegetal aroma as well as fruit on the nose.  Quite robust fruit on the mid palate with a great smooth finish.

2015 Wine Club Reserve – Wine club members designed this blend . . . Big fruit on the nose, loads of dark fruit . .a nice spicy smooth mid and finish.  great job wine club.

2015 Estate Cabernet Franc – Mild nose, vegetal but silky mid . .nice fruit on the mid as well and a spicy finish.

2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – Lots of dark fruit aromas, a smooth mid and good fruit flavors carry thru.  Good texture and a dry finish.

2014 100% Organic Cabernet Sauvignon – Robust fruit on the nose and a smooth mid palate . .similar to the previous Cab, but the finish is a more mild dryness . . probably because of the longer time for the tannins to settle.

AVV has a 3 tiered Zinfandel offering, one of those grapes that grows very well in Alexander Valley.  We start with the “second tier” offering and move thru.

2013 Temptation Zinfandel – Nose is bursting with plums and dark berries. and it has a hint of cherries on the mid palate.  Smooth texture and very nice finish.

2013 Sin Zin – Their “entry-level” offering . . . a milder nose and mid palate than the previous . . but similar in flavors and texture.

*2013 Redemption Zinfandel – All the fruit for this wine is from Dry Creek Valley.  A great nose. . .dark fruit, peppers and baking spices.  A silky smooth mid, flavors translate across well.  And a mildly spicy finish.  One of these came home.

2012 Reserve Alluvia – This one is a Rhone blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache.  a mildly peppery nose greets you.  nice fruit in the smooth mid palate and a surprisingly smooth (not at all dry) finish completes the show.  Very nice.

2013 Reserve Old Vine Zin – Great nose like so many of these Zins, mildly peppery but good solid fruit flavors thru to the super smooth finish.

2013 Reserve Primitivo – This grape is the Italian cousin to Zinfandel . . .Bold and bursting fruit on the nose, silky smooth mid and a mildly dry finish.

2012 Cyrus – This wine is their FLAGSHIP wine named for Cyrus Alexander.  They have won multiple awards over the years for this one wine in particular.  A bordeaux blend with a beautiful nose of red and dark fruits, satiny smooth mid palate texture with great fruit thru the exquisite finish.  I can see why it commands so many accolades.

2014 Late Harvest Zinfandel – A dessert wine made from Zinfandel. . . intriguing.  I got dried fruit and almonds on the nose and a hint of chocolate on the mid palate.  Sweet and quite powerful.

Alexander Valley Vineyards is one of those locations that is tucked away, off the main path.  But, it is well worth the journey to find it and discover how wonderful their wines are for yourself.

Simi Winery was suggested to me by a friend.  We visited the tasting room in Healdsburg as the first of three that we would visit this afternoon in this cool town.

2014 Russian River Chardonnay – Bright tropical fruits,  a smooth full-bodied texture that is well-balanced and more viscous than I had expected.

2013 Alexander Valley Chardonnay – A brighter, more crisp aroma than the previous.  Flavors of green apple and citrus that is lighter and more refreshing than the previous also.

*2014 Cuvee 1876 – A white blend of Gewürztraminer, Muscat Cannelli and Chardonnay.  Beautiful fruity and floral nose with flavors of apricots and peaches.  A gorgeous easy drinker.  We took 2 of these home.

NV Maiale Cieco – Simple translation from Italian is “Blind Pig”.  We were told a quite entertaining story by our host about how this wine came to be.  The whole story can be found here.  Great nose, very bold though the flavors that follow are less than what the nose promises.  It finishes mildly dry.  It seems the story has more interest for me than the wine itself.

2013 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – Nice red fruit on the nose as the dark fruit comes thru nicely on the palate.  It continues with a smooth evenly balanced texture and a slightly dry finish.

2013 Alexander Valley Merlot – Good nose and good fruit.  Mid is smooth and it has a dry finish.

2013 Malbec – Nicely bold nose and a smooth mid texture.  Also has good fruit in the mid and it finishes dry as well.

2012 Petite Verdot – Great bright red fruit on the nose and good fruit carry thru to the mid palate, though that flavor in its texture fades quickly.  It finishes moderately dry.

2009 Late Harvest Riesling – Honey, apricots and peaches on the nose. This dessert wine has 14% residual sugar so it is quite sweet, but lighter than some others I’ve tried  before.


Portalupi Wine has a tasting room in Healdsburg so we stopped by there.  This stop was suggested to us by our new friends from Lake county.

2016 Vermentino – Clean citrus aromas, a bit of lemongrass . . . crisp mid palate, very nice texture and very refreshing.  Great balance.

2013 Pinot Noir Paso Robles – Deep dark brooding nose with aromas of dried fruit like plums and figs.  Quite hot for a pinot, alcohol is at 15.5%.  It is so high that (for me) it negates any potential flavors that are there.  This will wake up your tongue.

2015 Barbera – Dark cherry nose with a hint of fig.  Flavors carry over nicely onto the palate.  A bit spicy with a slightly dry finish.

*2016 Bianco – White blend of Viognier, Muscat and Sauvignon blanc.  It has a fresh and floral nose as well as a bright refreshing mid palate.  Great patio wine.

2014 Zinfandel – Russian River Valley fruit.  Very bold and robust nose.  It starts very smooth and the flavors carry into the mid.  Then the alcohol level hits (15.2%) adding spice and warmth to the finish.

2015 Rosso – A blend of Zinfandel and Barbera.  Bright and jammy on the nose.  Flavors follow with a smooth entry that gets warm toward the middle, but stays smooth all the way to the finish.

Our final stop for the day was to be Toad Hollow Vineyards in downtown Healdsburg.  I had only heard of these guys because of a random bottle we got from another winery in a “Mystery Box” of wine.

NV Amplexus Cremant Brut Sparkling – A gorgeous blend of Chardonnay, Mauzac and Chenin Blanc.  Very fresh and fruity and lots of bubbles.  A nicely tart and dry finish.  Very refreshing.

2016 Unoaked Chardonnay – Fresh citrus aromas with a smooth slightly vanilla mid and a tart finish.

2016 Dry Rose’ of Pinot Noir – Beautiful rose and strawberry aromas.  Crisp and clean but the flavors fade very quickly.

2016 Pinot Noir Monterey County – Forest floor on the nose and a smooth mid.  The flavors are more Umami than fruit on this one.

2015 Merlot Sonoma County– Big juicy nose, very typical Merlot . .smooth mid and great fruit following (Cherry and dark berries) and a not dry finish.

2012 Erik’s The Red – A proprietary blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir.  Hints of dried fruit on the nose, but the flavors seemed muddled, nothing really distinctive . . other than disappointment.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – Lodi – Nicely bold dark berry nose with chocolate, cherry, and blackberry on the mid.  Smooth dry finish.

*NV Toad Hollow Risque’ Sparkling – The one that started this for me.  100% Mauzac grapes.  Aromas of honey and nectarines present and the flavors confirm.  Crisp and bubbly.  A very nice refreshing wine.  Taking a couple of  these home.

Day six is now in the books.  Time to hit the hot tub.

Sonoma County Adventures – Day Five


Today we were planning to investigate a few of the more lavish looking facilities in Sonoma County.  I was interesting in checking out Chateau St. Jean and Ledson Winery.  Both of these are grand homes that were turned toward the business side of wine.


Chateau St Jean was originally built as a summer home in 1920.  when the current owners purchased it and the land surrounding it in 1973 they restored the chateau to its original glory, used primarily for reserved tasting and special occasions.

We decided to try some of the wines here . .

2016 Pinot Gris – Beautiful floral and citrus nose, crisp and slightly tart.  A very nice balance.

2013 Dry Creek Merlot – Plums and blackberries on the nose.  Smooth mid with a dry lingering finish.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – 90 pts on Wine Spectator – Nice red fruit nose including cherry and blackberry.  Silky smooth mid that finishes dry and clean.

2013 8555 Sonoma County Blend – (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, Syrah) . .Big juicy nose, velvety smooth mid but dries right out . . finish is non-existent.

2013 Cinq Cepages – Beautiful nose, silky mid and finishes subtly dry.


Ledson Winery is a gorgeous former home turned tasting room, executive offices and retail space.  A remarkable structure known as The Castle.  I would strongly encourage you to watch the videos of the castle and the story surrounding Ledson Winery.

We decided not to sample any wines here, rather just to enjoy the grandeur of the facility.

Our next stop is one I was really looking forward to seeing . . .St Francis Winery.


A dear friend (Kelly Hale) discovered and subsequently introduced me to St Francis Old Vine Zinfandel.  She got it for a good price and it was delicious.  What more is there?  So, of course, we had to go and see what else there was to be tasted and enjoyed.  The answer is. . . A LOT.  Here is our journey . . .

2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Crisp grapefruit and nectarines on the nose.  It was amazingly both creamy and tart and exceedingly refreshing.

2016 Rose’  –  A tantalizing blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay – It had a light aroma, mostly of strawberries.  Flavors were delicate and tart.

2013 Merlot-Behler Vineyard – Marvelous nose, loaded with dark delectable fruit aromas and a silky smooth mid palate and finishes a touch dry.

2014 Malbec-Wild Oak Vineyard – Mild nose on this one, a bit earthy . .mushrooms etc.  Silky mid, good fruit all the way through and slightly dry finish.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon-Moon Mountain – Like blackberry jam in a glass.  Delicious dark fruit and silky mid with a moderately dry finish.

**2015 Pinot Noir-Sonoma Coast – Beautiful nose of bright dark fruits and baking spice.  Consistently silky mid palate and medium body.  An excellently balanced wine with a very pleasing long finish.  This one is going home.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon-Lago Marsino – Lighter nose than the previous Cab, and still silky.  Also a great texture with a slightly dry finish.

2014 Zinfandel-Giovanetti – Really different aromas on this one. . .quite earthy with hints of lavender and sage brush.  Silky mid and nice spice with a great finish.

2014 Old Vine Zinfandel – The one that drew me here.  CLASSIC . . .Great dark fruit on the nose, smooth slightly dry mid and finishes mildly dry.

**2014 Claret – Traditional bordeaux blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon . . . Excellent nose, loaded with bright dark fruit that carries through all the way.  Superb from start to finish. . .Taking 2 of these home.

2015 Pinot Noir-Sonoma County – Nice fruit on the nose, a bit of earth also.  silky mid and a smooth, slightly spicy finish.  Distinctly different from the Sonoma Coast blend.

I was NOT disappointed.  A magnificent stop on our adventure.  With so many great wines to choose from . . . I decided to go with what really piqued my interest the most, but I think I would have been happy with any or all of them.


Kendall-Jackson Winery is a huge name in the wine industry . . . and they are almost right next to our resort, so we had to stop.  Beautiful grounds and a stately tasting room greeted us.

2016 Rose’-Grand Reserve – A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Noir.  A quite floral nose, aromas of roses and oranges, though I got strawberry flavors in the crisp mid palate.  A clean, refreshing and slightly tart opening round.

2014 Jackson Estate-Santa Maria Chardonnay – A very different Chardonnay.  I got honey, peaches and a hint of citrus on the nose.  A very creamy mid with flavors of buttered biscuits and vanilla.  Quite an adventure in one taste.

*2015 Grand Reserve Chardonnay – Meyer lemons and a hint of lime on the nose.  Silky mid and superb texture.  also a really nice finish.  Taking this one home, my wife’s choice this time.

2015 Jackson Estate-Camelot Highlands Chardonnay – Pineapple and mango on the nose.  Silky mid palate.  I got a sort of vanilla creme cookie flavor and a great finish.

2014 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir-Monterey and Santa Barbera County – A mild nose, slightly earthy . .almost like a campfire.  The flavors gave me berry pie and a bit of baking spice.  A Warm silky mid and a slightly spicy finish.

2015 Jackson Estate-Seco Highlands Pinot Noir – Nose of red berries and a hint of black.  Satiny mid with great fruit and texture,  it has a lot going on.

2012 Grand Reserve-Red Meritage – Mild nose with good fruit on initial taste.  Solid texture and flavors with a nice even finish.

2014 Jackson Estate-Taylor Peak Merlot – A subdued nose, though I did get a hint of dark berries.  Smooth mid but not as fruit forward as I had hoped.

2013 Jackson Estate-Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Robust dark fruit on the nose.  But, it was hiding a secret.  The nicely smooth initial texture finished immediately very dry.  Like falling off a cliff.

2013 Jackson Estate-Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – Moderate fruit on the nose and solid smooth mid texture, but quite tannic/astringent.  Not for me.


Overall, Day Five has been quite a great time.  We got to see some beautiful landscapes and architecture as well as wet our whistles a few times with some pretty great wines.  All in all, a great day.



Sonoma County Adventures – Day Four


This day brings with it a load of anticipation.  We connected with my wife’s cousin Kim and she agreed to join us for our adventures of the day as well as adding a couple of her own.  She had arranged, through another winery connection, to get to sample wines at location new to her as well.  And we got to enjoy a very intimate tasting at one of her wine clubs with the winemaker as our host.  It was a truly awesome day . . . so let’s get started.

We decided to start at the southern most point of our adventure, near Sonoma.  Our first stop of the day was Viansa-Sonoma Winery.  The property was much larger and grander than I had realized.  What a wonderful surprise.

2014 Arneis – A spunky white wine that starts with honey and pear on the nose and is tart but smooth in its texture, along with a refreshing finish.

2013 Vino Rosso – This house blend is a combination of Cab Sauv, Syrah and Sangiovese.  Quite jammy nose and a very Cab Sauv aroma.  The flavors are homogenous, meaning nothing really takes center stage . . .sort of . . ok.  And it finishes dry.

2012 Barbera – It starts with an earthy nose, a bit brambly as well.  Medium body and a smooth mid palate.  Great texture and a moderately dry finish.

2012 Sangiovese – A Deep fruity nose starts this show.  A very bright, silky mid palate and finishes slightly dry . . .Very nice.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – Light aromas on nose of nice dark fruit.  A mild, smooth mid and dry finish with a touch of spice from the Cab Franc included as a blend.

2013 Primitivo – A Fruit Bomb in the nose.  Satiny smooth mid, excellently integrated tannins.  It finishes dry and lingers quite long.


Our next stop was just up the road about 1/4 mile to Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.  This property was also much grander than I had originally imagined . . .much like a Tuscan Villa, perched on a hill overlooking the vineyards.  Just a wondrous site.

2016 Gilia – Made from Vernaccia grapes, and because of strict naming conventions, was named after one of the ladies of the Jacuzzi family.  I got peaches and lemongrass on the nose.  Aromas very much like Viognier, light body and nicely balanced.

2014 Aglianico – Nice dark berries hit your nose, and a silky smooth mid.  Flavors carry over quite well from the promise.  Very easy drinking.

2013 Nebbiolo – Cherries and black fruit on the nose with a dry but smooth mid.

2014 Dolcetto – Chocolate and a hint of red fruit greet your nose.  Light body and smooth mid, with raspberry flavors continuing to the dry finish.

2014 Barbera – Dark berries on both the nose and the palate, silky mid and mildly dry at the finish.

2015 Primitivo – A bit of a brambly nose but a silky mid palate.  Awesome fruit flavors and extremely nice . . .this guy was 16.5% alcohol, but I never knew.  That strong alcohol burn wasn’t apparent at all.

2014 Nero D’Avola – The most important grape in Sicily . . Deep dark fruit on the nose, satiny mid, dry but not too dry and great carry through flavors.

2014 Estate Merlot – Super dark, plum nose, med-heavy body, very smooth mid and an excellent finish, and just a touch dry.  This one went home.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Blueberries on the nose along with the traditional dark fruit, silky mid, quite dry but great structure.

2014 Moscato – Lightly floral and semi citrus mid.  very nice

2015 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo– The 2nd most heavily planted grape in Italy after Sangiovese . . . Red berry nose, good solid fruit in the mid, med-heavy body and quite dry.

2014 Valeriano – Blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Barbera, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. . . .Very nice blend of red and dark fruit aromas, though it does smell a bit green.  Very silky and a great texture.

Our next stop was literally across the road at Cline Cellars . . . Have you ever had one of those feelings, where you are second guessing a decision, then discover . .to your amazement . .A TREASURE?  THAT is what Cline Cellars was for me.  Their wines were luscious and bold, fruit- forward and excellently balanced.

2015 Nancy’s Cuvee – A sparkling Chard/Pinot Noir blend . . .Bright, crisp nose, slightly effervescent and finishes dry.

2016 Cashmere White – Floral and crisp peaches and pears grace your nose.  Bright but subtle flavors . .very refreshing.(Muscat Canelli, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier)

2016 Mourvedre Rose’ – These 100 yr old vines have produced grapes that give a Jolly Rancher Strawberry aroma on the nose, clean and very pleasing.  Virtually no dryness on the finish.  This a great patio wine.

2016 Pinot Noir – Earthy and light fruit on the nose, medium body with a nice moderately dry finish.

2015 Ancient Vines Zinfandel – Another 100 yr old vineyard . . .Producing grapes with a great dark fruit aromas with a hint of vegetation.  Satiny soft mid palate and a mouth coating finish.  Luscious.

2015 Cashmere Black Magic – Beautiful red fruit nose, satiny mid and great structure with little to no dryness at the lingering finish.  Going home with me.(Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache)

2015 Farmhouse Red – Bright red boysenberry on the nose, silky soft mid and a solid structure (very light but the texture is distinctive, yet not over powering)  Also going home with me

2013 Bridgehead Zinfandel – Bright blackberries and toasty vanilla nose,   Silky mid and a great finish.

2014 Heritage Zinfandel – Robust dark fruit nose and super smooth.  excellent structure and a superb finish.  More like dessert than a main course.

Cline Cellars was a lovely surprise.  We were on a bit of a time table, so I didn’t get as much time as i would have liked to view the grounds and the facility.    And next we had 2 more fun surprises, courtesy of cousin Kim.

MacRostie Winery  is different from most of the places we had planned to visit.  It is primarily a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer.  And what had been arranged was a sit-down tiered tasting of their Chardonnays in horizontal as well as their Pinots in the same fashion.  Something we hadn’t really done before.  We’ve done several vertical tastings of the same wine from different vintages.  So this should be fun and interesting.

2016 Clockwise Sauvignon Blanc – This was presented as our “walking up to the tasting room” wine.  It was delightful.  Aromas of grapefruit, quite light and crisp and it finished very nicely, very refreshing.  A great start . .

Each of the Chardonnays and the Pinots we were to taste were to give great representation of terrior, soil, elevation, coastal influence, moisture, heat, etc.

2015 Sangiocomo Chardonnay – Light citrus and vanilla nose, bright acidity and stone fruit on the finish.

2014 Wild Cat Mtn Chardonnay – Mineral and earthy notes on the nose, evident minerality in the mid along with the crisp fruit and a nice finish.

2015 Charles Heintz Chardonnay – Beautiful citrus nose, tart in the mid with that citrus as well as currants, peaches and lemons.  Very elegant.

We then moved on to Pinot Noir.

2014 Wild Cat Mtn Pinot Noir – Bright red fruit, silky mid, light body and a rather abrupt finish.  The flavors just disappeared.

2015 Glass House Pinot Noir – Not quite as robust as the previous, but still nice fruit on the mid, with a smooth average finish.

2015 Thale’s Vineyard Terrace Block Pinot Noir – Much lighter nose but more fruit in the mid and a much better finish.

Suffice it to say, I am a bit spoiled by our Oregon Pinots . . .it’s a bit unfair to judge these fine purveyors harshly . . . .but I do enjoy Oregon Pinots more than these.

Our final stop for this day was at Colagrossi Wines . . . a small urban production house in Windsor.  I wasn’t fully prepared for the great wines we were about to sample.  Craig Colagrossi was our host and he was so gracious.  The wines he produces are superb and very deserving of tons of accolades.

2014 L’inizio – A white blend of Viognier, Rousanne and Grenache Blanc.  Nice stone fruit and honeysuckle on the nose.  The flavors didn’t carry through for me.  A bit unremarkable.

2013 Russian River Pinot NoirBrilliant dark fruits and great structure.  A well-balanced warm, lingering, slightly spicy finish.

2015 Russian River Pinot Noir – This one was brighter and concentrations were on the red fruit.  Silky smooth mid, hints of baking spice and a bit of pepper.  Really nice long finish.  Going home!

2014 Vino Rosso – (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc) Red berries and blueberries on the nose.  Silky smooth mid with a bit of spiciness and baking spices.  Nice lingering finish.  Also going home.

2015 Russian River Zinfandel – Bursting with dark fruit aromas, and the promise is kept on the mid palate.  Baking spices accentuate the long, lingering finish.

2015 Sangiovese – Gorgeous nose of a magnificent blend of berries, silky mid and a fantastic finish.  Going home.

We finished off this visit with some barrel tasting of a grape I’d never heard of before.  I understand that it is usually used just as a blending grape.

Ciliegiolo (pro. Chili Jolo) . . Bright fruit aromas, the mid flavors fade a bit but the tannin structure is great.  He blended this with about 5% Sangiovese and BAM . . . .The Sangio filled out those missing notes in the mid and it really came together nicely.  Looking forward to trying this once it is blended and bottled.  Should be awesome.


Sonoma County Adventures – Day Three


From Redding, CA we continued our jaunt down I-5 for about another hour then veered off onto Hwy20 for a drive which would take us over the mountains and around Clear Lake.  Clear Lake is the largest freshwater lake completely contained inside the US.  It is 19 miles long . . .yeah I can confirm that.  There are also several small communities and towns along the way around the lake.

We eventually  made our way into Mendocino County and the real beginning of our Sonoma Wine adventure.

Our first stop is Parducci Wine Cellars .  An impressive monument sign greets us as we pull off the highway into their street . . . but then we pass thru a small community area . . . oh there it is.  Their tasting room was in a Spanish style, a nice space and friendly staff.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Hints of grapefruit and lemon greet the nose, nice acidity and a clean crisp mid palate finish.  Pretty nice . .took one home

2016 Viognier –  Roses and citrus aromas, as well as a hint of violet.  Creamy mid and very well-balanced.

2016 Rose’ – A blend of Grenache and Syrah . . .light nose, not much there.  Starts dry and finishes there quickly.  Flavors just disappeared.

2016 Muscat Canelli – Lychee and peach on the nose.  Lovely sipper, sweet and creamy.  Really nicely balanced.  Took one of these home too.

 2013 Petite Verdot – Robust dark red fruit aromas greet my nose.  Silky mid with flavors that carry thru, a bit dry and a nice lingering finish.

2013 Reserve Red – Bright red and dark fruit dance across the nose. . .Its a party.  Satiny smooth and fantastically integrated tannins and acidity.  Great all around.

2014 Petite Sirah – Brooding nose . . . loads of dark fruit.  And they carry over onto the flavors.  Warm like your favorite blanket.

2013 Coro Mendocino – There is a really cool story surrounding the CORO program in Mendocino County.  Follow this link to find out more.  This is a wonderful blend that centers on Zinfandel . . . I got slightly dried fruit on the nose coupled with dark berries and plums.  A silky mid palate and really nicely balanced.  The flavors linger for a long time.  Great blend and really interesting program.

Next we headed a short way down the road to Testa Vineyards.  We discovered some very old vines, really interesting blends, and got to chat for a bit with some local ladies that gave us tons of information about Mendocino County and some great places to check out in Sonoma County.  Thanks Dena and Ari for being so friendly, inviting, and for sharing our passion of great wines along side fun experiences.

NV White – This Simply White is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, with a tad bit of Viognier, Muscat and Pinot Gris to round it out.  I got hints of pear and citrus with nice acidity.  It finishes fruity, crisp and clean.

2016 Rose’ – A blend of Petite Sirah and Grenache.  Light strawberry and slightly earthy aromas.  Flavor falls off fast.  A good patio wine.

2012 Coro Mendocino – Their blend is slightly different from previous.  It includes a grape called Charbono. It’s a lighter style Zin based blend.  Plenty to like about it.

2014 Black – Nice dark fruit nose, flavors follow.  It is hearty and rich, smooth and balanced. Black fruit, earth and soft tannins give this wine a nice full mouth feel.

2014 Petite Sirah – Brooding dark nose, great dark fruit aromas, Smooth mid structure.  Like a nice warm blanket.

Our next stop in Mendocino County was Nelson Family Vineyards ,  Their empire is more than just grapes: plums, olives, as well as other fruit, and even Christmas trees occupy their ranch.  But on with the wines . .

NV Brut – 60/40 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Nicely balanced and lots of bubbles.  Have to take one home.

2015 Pinot Noir – Earthy nose with a mild and light body.  Light fruit but very delicious.

2016 Rose’ of Pinot Noir – Lightly floral nose, Dry-ish mid . . Light flavors and finishes dry.

2015 Zinfandel – Jammy nose, loads of dark berries.  Very smooth mid, and bursting with those same fruits.  Very nice.  Taking one home.

2016 Barn Blend – A blend of Cab Sauv, Zin, Petite Verdot, and Viognier.  A nice bright nose, dark fruit on both nose and palate and quite nicely balanced.  Good show.

2014 Petite Sirah – Bright dark berry fruit aromas with pronounced blackberry flavors.  Satiny smooth mid, and a nice lingering finish.

2015 Orange Muscat – Gorgeous aromas of tropical fruit and floral scents, A superb summer wine.  I think this was my wife’s fave . .so of course one is going home.

2016 Vernache – This one is quite unique.  They fermented Viognier about 3/4 of the way and stopped the process to leave residual sugars behind.  This dessert wine is very crisp and bright, not cloying sweet at all.  Really nice citrus overtones as well as peach.  Very refreshing, a good palate cleanser.  This one is also going home.

2015 Ice Riesling – Suffice it to say . .very flavorful . .but very sweet.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – Plummy and Jammy dark fruit and a satin-smooth mid to finish.  Very nice.

2014 Top Row Cabernet Sauvignon – Grown at a higher elevation than the classic.  It still has a similar aroma profile, but the mid palate is more complex, a bigger texture and a bit more tannins.  Quite excellent.

2014 Petite Verdot – Beautiful dark fruit aromas, very aromatic with a satin-smooth mid palate . . .Glorious dark fruit thru to the finish.

This winery was a big surprise.  I almost didn’t choose to stop here.  I am very glad we did.  In fact we ended up joining their Wine Club.  I didn’t think I’d ever join a club where I’d have to have wine shipped.  This one is really worth it.  Everything was superb.

Our last stop of the day was the most elegant.  We had to see Francis Ford Coppola Winery.  The resort is so much more than wine: the grounds and architecture, memorabilia, swimming pool, restaurant, bar, and tasting room.  The movie memorabilia is showcased around the tasting room and gift shop in the themes of the movies for which Coppola is most remembered: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Tucker, Marie Antoinette, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and more . . . a museum to his art.  We even got up-close to his many awards, including several Oscar statues.  The restaurant is very nice and casual; the dishes we ordered were superb.  An all around great experience.  I had only been familiar with their Diamond Collection before our visit today, but they have a lot to offer.  Our tasting was centered around the Director’s Cut series.

2016 Director’s Cut Sauvignon Blanc – Bright fresh tropical fruit notes, carrying into the palate.  Nicely balanced and crisp on the palate.  Very nice.

2015 Director’s Cut Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – Strawberries and earth greet the nose.  A silky smooth mid and medium body carry those fruit flavors thru.  Excellent balance that finishes ever so slightly acidic.

2014 Director’s Cut Dry Creek Zinfandel – Dark jammy fruit up front, dark cherries and plums dominate with a satiny smooth mid palate texture.  And that great fruit carries over well onto the palate.  The finish is excellent and lingers a long time.  *14.5% Alcohol . .slightly higher than most.

2013 PitaGora – A red blend consisting of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Petite Verdot.  So much going on with this one.  Great nose with a mix of red and dark fruit.  Medium body and great texture.  Finishes dry.

2014 Technicolor Red – Similar nose to the PitaGora with a slightly more subdued mid palate and with a more feminine style  . . . and really delicious.  Taking one home.




Sonoma County Adventures – Day Two


Ah . .the adventure continues.  We’re a bit further down the road. . .but still in Oregon.  We just had to stop and visit with one of our favorite winemakers, and one of the most knowledgable wine person I’ve ever met, Dyson Demara of Hillcrest Vineyards.  Susan Demara literally met us at the gate to greet us . . . because we got there as they opened.  She was our hostess for the morning.  It was nice to chat with Dyson for a couple minutes; he was making ready for the wineries 50th Anniversary celebration that day.

2013 Jordi – A blend of Merlot, Malbec, Syrah and Tempranillo.  Deep dark fruit nose with moderate acidity.  Deep tannins and a dry long finish

2013 Pinot Noir – This is made from fruit from the vines that were planted in 1968.  A blend of red and dark berries, silky smooth mid, moderate acid and finishes dry.

2009 Bulls Blood – Earthy nose and a silky mid palate with moderate tannins that are well incorporated into the whole.  Dyson explains it better than I can . .from their webpage . .

*Our family’s 2009 Bulls Blood is the product of years of aging.  This new release spent three years in barrel, two in a large tank and finished with two in bottle. Yes, that’s SEVEN years in the making!
Time not only integrates flavors and textures but provides wines with their bouquet – the flavors developed in bottle.  A blend of Pinot, Cabernet, and tempranillo, this wine shows the depth and richness of Pinot with the gentle power and complexity of the latter two. It drinks great and can be enjoyed for many years to come.*

2014 Umpqua Ribera – An 80/20 blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Earthy nose with a silky mid palate.  A bit higher in tannins which makes it much more astringent than the previous wines.  And it finishes quite dry.

2013 Anonymous – As the name implies . . .we don’t know what is in it . . . Only Dyson knows.  I can tell you there is a whole lot of delicious in it.  First thing to hit you is plums and dark berries in the nose, then a silky smooth fruity middle.  It does end slightly dry.  Definitely a personal favorite.

2011 Perfecti – Jammy nose of dark fruit from Carignan, Grenache and Syrah.  A silky mid palate and a lingering semi-dry finish.

2015 Fuder Reserve Riesling – Lemon grass and grapefruit greet your nose and a lusciously creamy mid palate will caress your tongue.  The tropical fruit is mild but apparent on the finish.

2015 Europa – This dry Gewurtztraminer has a very floral sweet aroma and a satiny middle.  It is really well balanced and delicious.  This is our Thanksgiving wine of choice.

2013 Alten Schule Riesling– This one has a clean and lightly juicy aroma done in a Mosel style.  So creamy and slightly tart on the finish.

We continued down the Umpqua Valley further south to 2Hawk Winery just a bit south of Medford.

2Hawk Winery is a gorgeous up-and-comer of huge proportions.  The new owners (since 2014) have built a beautifully rustic tasting room and a new custom crush facility on property.  Dane was our host and was terrific in not only making sure we were enjoying what he was pouring for us, but he also regaled us with information about the facility, the owners, and the nuances of there particular wines.  It’s a wonderful place that you need to check out.  Here is my take on the wines we tried.

NV Plume Blanc – White blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne.  Bright and lightly citrus with a clean nicely balanced mid.  A great easy drinker.

2015 Viognier – Nice grapefruit on the nose and a light and fruit forward (not tart) mid.  This one is a bit more viscous than most done in a n old world style.  Really great.

2015 Rogue Valley Pinot Noir – Dark berry nose and a bit of baking spice, chocolate and nutmeg on the mid palate.  It has a long lingering finish and a great texture.

NV Red Tail V2 – The nose on this is deep and brooding . . I could smell this all day.  It’s a blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot.  So luscious and silky smooth.

End of day two of our adventure . . . we ended our travels in Redding, CA.  Just a few more hours to our resort and many new California wine experiences.


Sonoma County Adventures – Day One

We headed out on vacation to Sonoma County on Friday and made our first stop . .in Eugene Oregon.  We had decided to see some old friends on the way thru AND hit a couple of tasting rooms we have never been to before.

Stop one was at J SCOTT CELLARS.  Jonathan superbly produces 15 wines of various varietals.  Our host was Eric . . .he was so vivacious and full of enthusiasm for what we were about to embark on.  He kept suggesting more and more great wines . . . his laugh and personality really made the experience in this quaintly appointed tasting room amidst the production floor even that much more inviting and enjoyable.  They had all of this wine and these great moveable bar segments that dressed up the production floor really well. . .it made it feel homey to me.  And since we were there on a Friday evening, they had a singer and a keybaord player adding to the ambiance.  Truly a place you NEED to checl out.

Our adventure in tasting went like this. . . .

2016 Semillon – Robust tropical fruit nose, light body and great balance.  A true patio wine.

2014 Grenache Blanc – A bit of green apple nose, med body, tight acidity in the mid but balances at the end.

2016 Grenache Rose’ – Strawberry nose, tight acid and light body.  Great finish

2016 Sauvignon Blanc – Light pineapple and grapefruit on nose, smooth mid, lightly acidic and a clean finish.

2014 Cotes Du Rogue – Blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne.  Very light nose, superbly balanced mid, delicate flavor profile.

2015 Susan’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – Bright nose and a very solid backbone.  Smooth and silky mid with lingering cherry notes on the finish.

2015 Cabernet Franc – Warm full fruit nose with plums and dark berries.  Super smooth mid with an excellent balance.  Slightly higher alcohol level at 14.9% gives it some warmth on the finish.  I’d call this my “Sitting around the fire” wine.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – Very floral nose . . .hints of violet and rose.  Heavy body but silky smooth.  Dry but not too dry finish that lingers for days.

NV Sweet Rose’ – Summer in a glass.  A blended rose’ with gorgeous aromas of peaches and red berries.  My comment upon tasting this for the first time . . “Oh Holy Crap this is great!!”  Hope you think so too.  We took home a CASE . . . so delicious and vibrant.  Love it.

NV Siren’s Song – Peaches prominent in the nose, Slightly syrupy (residual sugars are a bit higher) and quite pleasant.

2015 Dessert Riesling – Peaches and honey on the nose, Much lighter in texture than I expected.  Med body.  Truly a dessert.

2014 Vin Glace’ – (Ice Wine Style) Gewurztraminer – Very interesting aroma, almost vegetal, but not.  Tight acid and sugar balance.

2014 Rousanne – Slightly vegetal on nose, maybe more herbal.  Not a very pronounced flavor profile.

2014 Viognier – Slightly tropical nose, a bit of lemon with moderate acidity.  A good palate cleanser.

Next we went all the way . . across the parking lot to

Noble Estates tasting room.  This too is setup in a production floor atmosphere, barrels stacked to the ceiling (almost).  Very open and airy . . .ready for a big crowd to come and enjoy.

2015 Chardonnay – Bright citrus note on nose, med body, slightly acidic.  Good solid structure and finish.

2015 Pinot Noir Rose’ – Slightly floral / slightly fruity aromas . .solid mid palate with a strawberry finish.

2016 Blanc de Noir – Lightly fruity, nicely effervescent.  Great mild texture.

2016 Riesling – Slightly orange aroma with some stone fruit to back that up.  Smooth mid palate, mild acidity that cleanses the palate at the finish.  Had to grab one of these to take home.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – Smoky, meaty nose.  A bit higher in acidity and warm due to higher alcohol content and a tight finish.

2013 Syrah – Plum on the nose as well as a bit of dark berries.  Acidic front end with a bit higher alcohol.  Less fruit flavors than I’d hoped.

2016 Ruby – Bright red fruit on the nose.  Slightly effervescent and tingly red fruit flavors favoring raspberries and strawberries.  A Superb patio wine.  Another one of these is one it’s way to our house.

Day one was in the books . . .and we’d made it 2 hrs down the road . . . much more to come.