A few weekends ago we went on the Wine Road Barrel Tasting weekend in Sonoma County. We had a map and a list of the participating wineries. The weekend prior, Larry and I went onto the ViciVino.com website to check out the wineries listed in the Russian River area. Then we went through the ones that we hadn’t been to and made a list of the wineries we wanted to visit. We ended up having a great 3 days of driving along the winding vineyard roads, dining on some of the best cuisine in the Sonoma County and drinking world class wines.
Friday we left home around 10:00 a.m. and arrived in Geyserville about 11:45. It was pouring rain the whole way up there. But we got in to Diavola Pizzeria and Sulumeria Restaurant in time to be seated right away, before the crowds came. Friends of ours who were on a mission to find the best pizza in the Bay Area had told us about Diavola. We decided not to drink any wine with lunch, as we knew that we were going to be drinking all afternoon. Larry and I shared both items. First as a starter we ordered their heirloom bean and faro soup with chard, prosciutto and rosemary; absolutely delicious and perfect for a rainy day. Then we shared their Salsiccia pizza, which had housemade sausage, red torpedo onions and pecorino cheese. The crust was light and crunchy and there wasn’t an over-abundance of cheese on the pizza. You could actually taste each individual ingredients. Before we left the restaurant we stopped and purchased their homemade olive mixture to bring to the kids’ house to go toward the appetizers before dinner. (We were put in charge of this course.)
After lunch we decided to go to the Dry Creek Valley to taste wines. This was decided mostly because the views would be prettier in the Alexander Valley region, as they are up in the hills, and Saturday was supposed to be a beautiful day. We started the day at Fritz Winery. Their winery is built underground and they have a cave below the winery to store a lot of their barrels. Here we sampled ’09 Estate Reserve Zinfandel and their ’08 Estate Reserve Cabernet. They also poured for us their ’07 single vineyard Saralee Pinot Noir, their ’06 Syrah and their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc. They had really nice views and we need to go back on a non-rainy day. Then we went on to Forchini.
Art amongst the vineyards
They were pouring an ’09 Pinot Noir, ’08 Tuscan Red Blend, ’08 Old Vine Zinfandel, ’09 Bordeaux Blend and an ’09 Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room seemed nice; the people pouring in the barrel room seemed a bit burned out. We then went to Papapietro Perry. They are located in a nice spot where you can park and go to at least 3-4 other wineries and an olive company. They poured the ’09 Nunes – Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, ’09 Elsbree Vineyard Pinot Noir and the ’09 Elsbree Vineyard Zinfandel out of the barrel. We also tried their ’07 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and their ’07 Peters Pinot Noir. They offer very good wines, and are very nice people. We then went to Rued Vineyards and Winery. Here they poured us a slew of wines. They didn’t have their barrels there; they had poured the wine from the barrels into wine bottles. It didn’t feel the same as tasting right from the barrel. We sampled an ’07 Pinot Blanc, ’07 Sauvignon Blanc, an ’07 Chardonnay, ’06 Zinfandel, ’07 Zinfandel, ’08 Zinfandel and an ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon. The people were nice enough and poured us plenty but I didn’t get the best feeling about their atmosphere. We then continued to drive south on West Side Road heading to Santa Rosa. We stopped at the Dry Creek Store, the cutest little store/deli/coffee shop. There we got cheeses, Spanish almonds and crackers to complete our obligation for appetizers for the night. Next we went to an old favorite, Hop Kiln Winery.
Such a beautiful setting with a very old building that was turned into a winery in the 70’s. Here we sampled a ’09 Chardonnay and a ’09 Pinot Noir both from Alexander Valley. We took a walk through their gardens and sat at one of their picnic benches for awhile admiring the vineyards. Next A left on River Road and a right onto Olivet Road found us at De Loach Vineyards. Here we got to meet their winery puppy, Pooka. She was very cute and friendly, though still learning some of her manners. We tasted an ‘08 Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, ’07 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, ’07 Golden Coast Chardonnay, ’07 Boedreaux Vineyard Pinot Noir, ’07 Green Valley Pinot Noir, ’06 van der Kamp Pinot Noir, ’07 Riebli Valley Zinfandel and their Tawney Port. Overall we enjoyed their wines and our experience there. It was at the end of the day and they still had smiles on their faces.
After all of these wineries we were exhausted. We made it to Brandon and Kim’s house around 5:30. Brandon was stuffing a whole chicken with limes and we turned on the Cal vs. UCLA basketball game. Some of you might remember that Larry is a Cal alumni. Kim got home with salad ingredients and we all sat together and snacked and got caught up on things. I got to rub my grandbaby in Kim’s tummy. She is getting way big now. She is in her 33rd week. After we dried out a couple of hours Brandon then opened a bottle of wine to go with dinner. Cal won the game on Friday, but it was close. After dinner Kim and I knitted and the boys rested while we watched Robin Hood, Men in Tights. It’s such a classic Mel Brooks movie; so funny, glad we got to see it again.
Saturday we woke up a little bit slowly to the smell of bacon cooking. Brandon and Kim were already making breakfast, as Brandon had to go to Dutton Goldfield to pour for Barrel Weekend. We had a delicious egg scramble with onion, peppers and cheese, the bacon and toast. Brandon left and Larry and I got ready and left the house around 11:30. We got in the car and realized that it was going to be a beautiful day; the sky was blue without a cloud in the sky. We drove straight to the Chalk Hill Region within the Russian River Valley. We first went to Chalk Hill Winery. There we barrel sampled their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc, and their ’08 Chardonnay. They were also pouring their ’06 Chardonnay from the bottle to compare the two vintages. This is a large facility with many, many acres of beautiful vines. We need to go back another time and try more of their wines. Just up the hill from Chalk Hill Winery was Chateau Felice. We had met Samantha (Sam), the director of sales and marketing and the daughter of the owners, at the Hog in the Fog event last summer. Here we sampled a ’08 Cabernet Franc, ’08 Syrah and a ’09 Zinfandel. We really loved the Zinfandel. We tasted at their new tasting room, which is outside under a covered arbor. Very nice people and a good vibe. From there we went to Sausal Winery, which is in the Alexander Valley. They were the only winery that offers complementary wine tasting that we visited that day. Most have you pay between $5-10 and you get that back if you buy wine. Here we sampled an ’08 Private Reserve Zinfandel, and an ’08 Century Vines Zinfandel in the barrels plus an ’06 Family Zinfandel and a ’06 Private Reserve Zinfandel. They also were the only winery we went to that had cats as the meet and greeters. Next was Hanna Winery and Vineyard, Alexander Valley tasting room. The facility here is beautifully situated amongst the hills and vineyards. We could see most of the Alexander Valley from here. Here we sampled their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc and their ’06 Bismark Mountain Zinfandel. When we finished sampling we decided to get out our sandwiches that we had purchased at Raley’s and have ourselves a little picnic enjoying the beautiful views. It was so nice.
Views of the Alexander Valley from Hanna Winery
Afterwards we went to Hawkes Vineyards and Winery. Here the winemaker and his two sons were each pouring out of a barrel. They offered a ’08 Red Winery Cabernet, a ’08 Stone Cabernet and a ’08 Pyramid Cabernet. We went into the tasting room and sampled their Chardonnay and their ’05 Alexander Valley Cabernet, ’05 Pyramid Vineyard Cabernet and the ’05 Stone Vineyard Cabernet. The wife/mother was pouring the wines. This was only the second family run winery we went to. We then decided to go to Clos du Bois since we hadn’t been in a number of years. This is a very large facility with beautiful grounds for picnicking and letting the kids run off some steam. We went into the barrel room and sampled their ’09 Chardonnay and their ’09 Pinot Noir. Both were very nice. We then went into the tasting room and sampled some more wines and looked around at their very lovely gift shop. They offered samples of a number of mustards and sauces. Right next door was Trione. We had heard about them but have never tried their wines. Here we sampled their ’08 Syrah from the barrel and their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc from the bottle. They had a very nice winery with an outdoor covered deck with overstuffed chairs to take a load off. We sat there for a few minutes and enjoyed looking at their outdoor Viking kitchen. We spent a little bit too much time here and when we got to Frances Ford Coppola Winery they were closed! We parked, walked down the hill to the winery where there were a lot of people sitting outside enjoying their wines. When we got to the tasting room the lady there informed us that the barrel tasting was over. It goes from 11-4 and it was four o’clock. This was fine, we understood, but there tasting room says that it is open until 5:00 and she wouldn’t let us in, not even to take a look at it, so I can’t say anything about the winery except that that lady pissed me off! We then went back to Brandon and Kim’s house and watched the second half of the Cal vs. Washington game. Cal lost. Too bad. Kim left to drive to Berkeley to meet up with some friends for dinner. We took the opportunity and took Brandon out for a nice Parent/Child dinner. We went to Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa. We had met the chef Brian Anderson from there at the P.S. I Love You event last month. We were impressed with his choice of food and execution. Brandon brought a bottle of ’07 Dutton Goldfield Freestone Vineyard Pinot Noir. Brandon and Larry agreed to order a Michel Barat – Petite Chablis, Le Pradu, from France as our starter wine. They opened the pinot and poured us a glass but we enjoyed the Chablis first. Brandon and Larry shared a dish of Monterey Bay Sardines, grilled with olive oil and served with fresh greens. And the three of us shared a Buckwheat Crepe filled with Basque-sautéed shrimp, roasted tomato, roasted peppers, cave Gruyere and saffron butter. You can imagine how good that was. We had sent our business cards plus a glass of the Pinot Noir to Chef Brian in the back. He came out and talked with us at the table for a couple minutes as the evening went along. Very nice guy. For the main entrée Brandon and I ordered the same dish, which was Ribeye Steak with potatoes and vegetables. Larry ordered their brick roasted “spring” chicken with tarragon jus and truffle pommes frites. His dish was served with asparagus and the fries were in a glass lined with paper. Larry was nice enough to share the fries with us. They were so good. Larry loved his chicken dish and we loved our beef! For dessert we shared a sampler plate with 3 desserts on it. One was a thin crispy cookie sandwich filled with a lemon mascarpone cream, a mini brown sugar crème brulee and profiteroles. We spent 2 ½ hours enjoying this dining experience. Great food, conversation and wine. We got back to the house and basically went to bed.
The next morning I woke up to bacon smell again! This time it was Kim cooking the bacon. Brandon made over-easy eggs and we had toast. We packed up. Brandon went off to the winery for his 14th day in a row! We left and went first to Harvest Moon Winery. There they were pouring a ’09 Zinfandel and a ’08 Cabernet. We were looking for Randy Pitts, owner extraordinaire. He was busy running all around so we just sampled what they were pouring, a Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon. We bought a bottle of his sparkling Gewürztraminer for Brandon who wants it for the celebration of his new baby. Next we drove to Copain Winery, which recently received a great write up in the SF Chronicle. They are in the middle of no man’s land. You have to follow a map and be good at reading it in order to find it. But we are sure glad that we did. They have beautiful views and good wines. We sampled from their barrel a Syrah and a Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. We took some pictures and then headed to Dutton Goldfield, which is in the process of opening their new tasting room. They had their back warehouse open. This will eventually become their wine making facility/cellar/storage area. They were pouring from five different barrels. They had a ’09 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir, and a ’08 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah. It was so great to try the same year of Pinot Noir but from different vineyards. They are all very different and very delicious. Winemaker B was there pouring. It was fun watching him “work”. After we were there a little bit he gave us a personal tour of the new facilities. It is going to be very nice when it is done. The nice thing for Dutton Goldfield is that everyone has his or her office now at one location. This will makes it a lot easier for communication, sampling and blending the wines etc. We then went to the table where they were pouring all their bottles of wine. The table was very crowded and since we were familiar with the wines we only sampled a couple of our favorites.
Winemaker B (right) talking with happy customers.
After this nice visit we got on the road and headed back to Dublin. It was a beautiful drive home. We were pretty happy with our weekend as we went to 3 distinct wine regions, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley; we went to a couple new restaurants and even had a picnic lunch, not to mention the delicious breakfasts we had with Brandon and Kim. This time with them is most likely the last time we will see them at their house without any children! ☺