Category Archives: Russian River

Seafood Risotto and Pinot Noir

The holiday season provides interesting opportunities for food and wine and family and fun.  Here was one of our weekend days in December:  

– Lori took granddaughter Elli to a local (Santa Rosa area) production of the Nutcracker.  Nice little production, front row seats, and great grandmother-granddaughter special time.  

– Daughter-in-law Kim went and got a massage.  Some wonderful me-time for her.  

Winemaker B and his father (that would be me) took care of his son Eden for the afternoon, and took responsibility for dinner.  

On the menu for the evening was Seafood Risotto.  (The recipe can be found on our Food and Wine Pairing page.)  I had never made risotto before, so this was going to be a bit of an adventure.  Lori and I stopped at the fish market on the way up to Santa Rosa and picked up some bay scallops and salmon, both of which looked quite good.  We already had all the other ingredients needed.  Once in Santa Rosa, we all split up to do our thing, as noted above.  This included taking Eden for a walk to the grocery store to get a nice loaf of fresh bread to go with the meal.  Then the cooking started.  

The chef (that would be me again) needed some white wine, both for himself and for the risotto.  So out came a bottle of 2012 Armida Chardonnay, Russian River Valley.  Nice, basic Chardonnay, good bottle to get things started.  Winemaker B pitched in by cooking the fish, and taking care of Eden himself while I cooked.  I found that risotto is a bit of work, as once you put the rice in and start adding the stock, you have to keep on stirring.  It ended up being about 30 minutes of adding stock and stirring, adding more stock and stirring, until the risotto got to the right consistency.  Then the seafood and other ingredients were added in, and we were ready to eat.  

Our younger son, Jacob, his wife Brittany and their daughter Zinnia joined us for dinner.  We had interesting wines to go with our risotto:  

2011 Arista Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

2011 Armida Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Yes, two Pinot Noirs made from grapes from the same vineyard.  That was fun!  The wines were quite different, with the Armida having bigger fruit and body, and the Arista being a bit smoother, with better finish.  Both of the wines worked great with the risotto, which turned out good enough for us to publish the recipe.  

It was a great day.  I hope your holiday season went well also.  

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2014!  



Thanksgiving Wine and Ullage

Thanksgiving is always interesting from a wine perspective,
because you can do so much, and because you want to do so much, but …


Hi kids! 
Welcome to Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.  Yes, for those of us of a certain age, this is a reference
to Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skits, where things didn’t always go as
smooth as Mr. Robinson would like. 


Well, for our Thanksgiving day skit, our word of the day is


I thought I had the Thanksgiving wine situation under
control.  Thanksgiving was going to
be great, with both boys and their families coming (all three grandchildren) as
well as my parents and Lori’s mother. 
No problem.  Let’s start
with a little bubbly, then move into the still whites.  That should get the afternoon rolling
fairly well.  Then as we get closer
to the meal, I was going to open up 3 different 2006 Dutton Goldfield single
vineyard Pinot Noirs, and we would do a blind tasting.  Then we’d have the Pinot with the meal;
usually a pretty good bet, Pinot Noir and turkey.  (This year there was both turkey and turducken, but that’s
another story.  Ask Lori for that


Anyway, I had a great plan, which I told to the wine
providers (my father and Winemaker B so that they could plan any wine they
wanted to bring to fit into that framework.  And Winemaker B did bring a bottle of his 2012 Armida
Gewurztraminer, which fit in pretty well with the still whites.  And he also brought an old bottle of
Gamay Beaujoulais, which he didn’t really have much hope was any good, so it
wouldn’t disrupt any other plans. 
But my father – argh, my father – he’s past the point of anyone being
able to control him, except my mother. 
And she doesn’t interfere in wine matters. 


Well, my father got it into his head that since we are
rarely in Southern California to drink wine with him, he was going to bring up
some of his old wine to share.  So
two 25 year old Cabernet Sauvignons came up north, for the express purpose of
being opened on Thanksgiving with all the family.  It is pretty hard to say “no” to those old bottles, and even
harder to say “no” to my father when he’s on a roll. 


Ah, you thought I had forgotten about ullage.  Well, ullage is the distance between the
level of the wine in the bottle and the bottom of the cork.  For old wine, a look at the bottle to visually estimate the
ullage is a good way to guess how well the wine has been kept.  The closer the wine level to the cork,
the less evaporation has happened. 
If wine has evaporated through the cork, then air, and with it nasty
oxygen, has come through in the other direction, and has accelerated the aging
of the wine. 


Unfortunately, evaporation is not the only sign that an old
wine is bad.  You can have a bottle
with minimal evaporation and it can still have gone bad.  With these bottles there wasn’t
excessive evaporation, so we thought there was a pretty decent chance of some
good wine. 


With old bottles, decanting is a must, so there went my
three decanters (previously earmarked for the Pinot Noir) for the three old bottles.  With the decanters being used for the Cabs and the Gamay,
and wanting/needing to wait at least an hour to see if there was anything good
there, the blind tasting went by the wayside.  In the end, only the William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon was any
good, and at that it was past its peak. 


We did end up grabbing a couple of random bottles of Pinot
Noir from our cellar to have with the meal, which partially rescued the wine
situation.  Actually, the bubbly
and the whites were really tasty. 
Here’s a list of the bottles that were opened over the course of about 6
hours of snacks, appetizers and main meal: 


Mitchell Katz Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine, Livermore Valley

Armida 2012 Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley

Armida 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley

Optima 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

William Hill 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Louis Martini 1987 Gamay Beaujalais, Napa Valley

Desmond Estate Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Soquel Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains

Next year I think I’ll drive down before Thanksgiving and
raid his cellar myself.  



Harvest 2013: Initial Update

We spoke with Winemaker B last week, as harvest was just starting.  This is now his 4th harvest at Armida Winery; amazing how time goes by!  For his first harvest at Armida, his first child was about 3 months old, and for this harvest, his second is about the same age.  But 2010 was a tough harvest from the winery perspective as well:  first harvest as head winemaker, first harvest at Armida, and the grapes were just good, but not great, throughout the region. 

2011 was not a great vintage either in the Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, where Armida gets most of their grapes.  2012 had incredible quantity, and pretty good quality, as far as we can tell so far.  So what to expect in 2013?

Well, the initial report from Winemaker B is that this could be an excellent year for Armida.  No real weather problems during the growing season, no spikes near harvest, just a consistent warmth for the grapes.  Add to that some better technique in the vineyards, and more knowledge on the part of Winemaker B as to what each vineyards’ characteristics are and how to optimize the quality from each vineyard, and it could add up to an outstanding year for Winemaker B and Armida. 

Armida has always been known for its Zinfandels, and this year could be a lot of fun.  Winemaker B has always had a feel for Zinfandel, dating back to the early part of his career at Peachy Canyon Winery.  In his first harvest at Armida he got the Parmelee-Hill Zinfandel, which should still be sitting in the bottle and getting better.  2011 was the year for the Maple Vineyards Zinfandel to shine.  He’s still not sure about the best from 2012, although the Goldmine Vineyard Zinfandel is the early favorite.  This year, the betting money (even before bringing in the grapes) seems to be on Tina’s Block from Maple Vineyard producing the top Zinfandel.  And, of course, there’s always the Poizin Reserve, in the coffin. 

More updates to come, probably focusing on the white wines next time. 



What does Wine Tasting and the World Series Have in Common?

On a normal day going wine tasting in California you have people who are very relaxed and happy.  They are relaxed because they aren’t working and they are happy because they are drinking wine.  This is all good, especially this time of year when most of the craziness has died down from the harvest.  The grape vines are void of their grapes, so it’s time for them to start to hibernate for the winter.  The leaves on the vines are starting to change from the green to the red to the orange and yellow.  It’s a great time to go wine tasting!  So Larry, Elliana and I went wine tasting on our babysitting day yesterday.  Mid-week is a great time to go wine tasting; the crowds are less, which frees up more time with the winery staff.  They have more time to give you attention and you usually can have a nice spot at the bar.  Ask if there is any way you can see their winemaking facility.  It’s always interesting to see how each winery makes their wine, so similar, yet so differently.

So, you ask?!  What does this have to do with the World Series?  Well, as it turns out the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.  Yesterday was the first game of the series.  So as we go to our first winery, Arista Winery in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County we noticed that we wern’t the only ones wearing orange and black (those being the colors of the Giants).  It was great, we had a lot of attention to talk about wine and baseball.  These are two of my favorite subjects!  Arista is in a beautiful spot on West Side Road.  The grounds at Arista are beautiful.  It is designed with an Oriental Garden feel and as you walk through their gardens you get a sense of peacefulness.  We tasted their Gwertztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc on the white side.  Then for the reds we were treated to a Pinot Noir comparison of two wines from the Sonoma Coast.  Their ’07 La Cruz Vineyards which was a blend of two vineyards and their ’08 Sonoma Coast a blend from four different vineyards.  Both were very nice.  I have a thing about the ’07 vintage and love almost everything produced from that year.  Next we compared two Pinot Noirs from the Russian River.  Both were 2008 vintages.  The main difference of those two wines was the fact that one was a blend and the other, the Longbow, was from a single vineyard.  We were helped by Gabriel and Billy.  The staff was very nice and they have a very relaxed policy.  They want you to come and spend time in their beautiful gardens while sipping their wine.  There is plenty of seating and areas to picnic if you choose.

Next we went to Thomas George Estates , just a couple minutes drive from Arista.  After you drive up their driveway and park, you will just fall in love with their grounds.  They have their wine cellar caves on the one side and the tasting room and winery on the other.  They have many tables and chairs for you to sit on to enjoy a picnic if you choose to.  We were the only ones in the tasting room at the time.  We sampled their Sauvignon Blanc (which I liked) and Chardonnay.  Then we sampled a Russian River 2008 Pinot Noir and a 2008 Sonoma Coast single vineyard Pinot Noir.  I enjoyed the single vineyard but liked them both.  Finally we sampled 2008 Dry Creek Zinfandel.  It had a nice body, light on the fruit forward, but a very nice finish.  They do offer events and weddings in their caves.  Shannon who was behind the bar was also a Giants fan and was wishing that they could close early that afternoon.

Through all of this Elliana was a trooper.  She batted her dark eyes and smiled every so often.  We got back to the kids house in time to see the pre-show of the World Series.  Thankfully there is a happy ending to our wonderful day as the Giants beat the Rangers 11-7.  What does Wine Tasting and the World Series Have in Common? Fans everywhere!

Wine, Artisan Bread & Babysitting

I had a great day yesterday.  Larry and I drove up to Santa Rosa for my weekly babysitting gig with my granddaughter Elli.  Larry came up with me because currently I have a bad back, so I can’t lift Elli quite yet.  When we arrived nearly at noon Elli was just waking up from a nap.  Kim had already made Asian spiced meatballs and put them in the crock-pot to be ready for dinner.  We had a little bite to eat, a nice turkey sandwich, and then got our day moving along.

Kim went to work at Arista Winery.   After Elli got fed and cleaned up we left and drove to Forestville where we had heard about an amazing bakery there.  The bakery is called Nightingale Bakery , and if you blink too many times you will miss it and the whole downtown area.  The bakery is known for their Artisan breads.  We came out with a loaf of rye bread, sliced whole wheat with oats, and a sweet mini baguette.  Afterwards we made our way to Guerneville and found the Guerneville Park, which has a few parking spaces, walking trails that lead to the Russian River, and picnic benches amongst the redwood trees.  We parked there and walked along a passenger bridge over the Russian River to the small downtown area.  We stopped at My Coffee Bazaar and had a nice coffee drink and sat outside in a little garden area.  My Coffee Bazaar was a nice little place with fantastic coffee drinks, baked goods, breakfast and lunch items.  Halfway through our drinks, Elli decided that she was thirsty too.  So Larry fed Elli her bottle of milk.

                 Larry and Elli, 5 months old with a full belly

It was a very leisure afternoon.  The sky was blue, it was about 70 degrees outside, and there was a light breeze that blew the downed leaves around.  After we were all done with our drinks we walked back over the bridge to our car and went off to our next location.  

As we were driving west on River Road we decided to take a right hand turn onto Olivett Road.  Along this road the wineries are known for good Gewurztraminer, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.  We stopped at Hook and Ladder Winery .  We have passed by this winery several times but never stopped there.  Their vineyards and wine making facilities are there as well as the tasting and barrel room.  We sampled their Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Zinfandel blend and their Tillerman, which is a Burgundian blend.  There was another couple there when we arrived.  Elli was in her stroller and when she woke up we gave her a cup of water with a hint of grape juice.  Their tasting room is in their barrel room.  What they have decorating the tasting area are t-shirts from different firehouses from around the country.  They also have a board with patches from different firehouses as well.  They sell t-shirts and sweatshirts and a few earrings.  Outside they have a well landscaped yard with a number of picnic benches.  If you sit on one of the benches you will have a nice view of their vineyards and the surrounding hills.

We then got in the car and went back to our son and daughter-in-laws home.  Larry and Kim prepared the vegetables and the rice sticks to compliment the meatballs that were smelling very good.  I got to feed Elli Squash and oatmeal for her dinner.  She is 5 months old and has been eating solids now for about 3-4 weeks.  She really enjoys it and had a big wide mouth open for each spoonful.

After dinner we got into our car and went on our way back home.  So, another 12-hour day with Elliana in the books.  We didn’t get to see Brandon as he was literally knee deep in grapes at Armida Winery , as the bulk of harvest has finally started to come in.

River Road, Wine Barrel Weekend

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 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

                                Hopkiln 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! ☺

Russian River Valley – Grape to Glass Weekend Aug 14-16

Want a good excuse to head up to Northern California?  Here is the perfect reason.  It’s summer, the area is beautiful, there are more wineries than you know what to do with and the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association is holding their annual Grape to Glass fun-filled weekend.  The festivities start Friday August 14 and go through Sunday the 16th.  This is not like your normal festival.  There are activities that you sign up for in advance and participate in.  Here is a sampling of things to do:

• Get your boots dirty and your wine knowledge refreshed while taking part in our Behind the Wines grower and vintner presentations.
• Taste your way to a winning hand at the Winery Poker Run.
• Take in Sip ‘N’ Cinema – Where Hollywood meets Wine Country at MacMurray Ranch – A Sensory Experience.
• Experience the Russian River Valley Lifestyle by land, water and air – on bikes, kayaks and in hot air balloons.
• Enjoy wine country at its best at the Hog in the Fog Winegrower BBQ, Tasting Fest & Auction showcasing samplings of more than 50 of our wineries.

                      Grape to Glass                                                                              Hog in the Fog

• Wings, Wine and Wind-down is where you can relax, watch the“Wings Over Wine Country” Air Show, experiment with salts and wind-down from your Russian River Valley weekend.

There are so many things to see and do while in the area from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg!  If you need any help in planning it out for you go to, their Education Wine Tours will guide you if you want to stay overnight or make a vacation out of it.

Go to the Grape to Glass website and order your tickets today.  You can order the tickets for individual events or as a whole package (this saves you $$$).  Bring some friends and take a day or the whole weekend.  You will be glad that you did!

Russian River + Turning 50 = Fantastic Day

Last week I took my friend Chris who had just celebrated her 50th birthday up to the Russian River in Sonoma County.  A few days prior we were at her house to celebrate with her family and friends, but I wanted to take her out for a “special day”, something she would remember for a long time.

We left the Dublin area around 11:30 and arrived in Sebastopol for lunch around 1:00.  We were given the suggestion of K & L Bistro on South Main street, downtown.  A very cute place, not too large, but quant with dark woods and art placed around.  It felt very Parisian.  I ordered their “Stimulus Lunch” (the special of the day), which included a cold cucumber gazpacho soup and salmon served with vegetables and red baby potatoes.  Chris ordered their Spring Risotto, which is described as having in it – Meyer lemon, asparagus, tomato confit and goat cheese.  Both of us enjoyed our lunches very much.  Neither of us had wine with lunch as we knew that wine was in our near future.

Next we went to Dutton Goldfield, where Brandon a.k.a. WinemakerB, is the assistant winemaker.  They share their tasting room with Balletto Vineyards.  So you can taste two for the price of one!  We tasted and compared chardonnays, had some D.G. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah.  Brandon took Chris and I for a quick tour of the winery.  They were cleaning out a lot of the barrels, letting them dry, then sterilizing them and plugging them shut.  After those steps they get racked again and wait for the harvest.  Balletto was getting ready to bottle yet another wine that is ready.  

After Dutton Goldfield we went to Gary Farrell Winery.  They are on Westside Road in Healdsburg, but not very close to town.  Gary Farrell is known for its Pinot Noir.  Their tasting price is $10 for the premier and $15 for the limited release.  We tried their ’07 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Ranch*, ’06 Chardonnay, Russian River Selection, ’06 Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, ’07 Chardonnay*, Westside Farms, ’06 Pinot Noir, Ramal Vineyard, ’06 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard* and the ’06 Pinot Noir, Rochioli Vineyards*.  The ones mentioned that have an “ * ” were my favorites.

The views from the tasting room were incredible!  They are up about 1,000 feet or so, nearly the top of tree line.  All you see are trees, blue sky and the hawks swaying in the wind.  

Our next stop was at Porter Creek Vineyards.  They are also on Westside Road but much closer to the town of Healdsburg.  They are a certified organic winery. 

Their tasting room is in what used to be a single car garage and is now a historic structure.  It’s decorated with local artwork.  The winery is up the road a bit, not visible.  But what is visible is some of the many acres of vineyards they have.  Jonathan was there pouring for us and we tried their ’07 Viognier, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Pinot Noir, Estate Point, ’06 Pinot Noir, Fiona Hill Vineyard, ’07 Carignane “Old Vines”, Mendocino County, ’06 Syrah, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Zinfandel “Old Vine”*.  I really enjoyed my tasting experience there.  We closed them down for the day but didn’t feel any pressure to leave.

We then drove to downtown Healdsburg, (one of my favorite wine towns).  We parked, grabbed our Giants folding chairs, walked to the town square and placed our chairs in a great spot awaiting the upcoming “Jazz on the Square” they have every Tuesday night during summer.  We took a walk all around the square, which was having its Farmers Market.  Chris bought a couple nectarines and I bought last of the season cherries.  We peaked in some of the art boutiques and unique shops around the square.  Luckily most of them were closed.  We had to stop into my favorite candy/gelato shop, Powells Sweet Shoppe.  There we treated ourselves to a kid’s size scoop of chocolate peanut butter gelato.  We also bought some candies for later.  We then made our way to the Oakville Grocery market, which is known for its deli with meats and cheeses, they also have different bread choices, condiments plus much more.  While we were there they had two huge chioppino pans, about 3 feet in  

diameter.  The chef was making two differenty types of chioppino.  One pan had chicken, sausage,vegetables and rice (foreground).  The other pan had seafood with different cut up fish and huge prawns on top with vegetables and rice.  Had I known about this in advance I would have waiting the extra 20 minutes, but we ordered sandwiches instead.  Chris had their curried chicken sandwich with mango chutney mayonnaise, and leaf lettuce on a Dutch crunch roll.  I had (to keep with the French theme) an apple wood smoked ham & brie sandwich with whole grain mustard, leaf lettuce and red onion on a Dutch crunch roll.  We got a bag of chips and drinks.  Just as we got to our chairs we had enough time to take out our sandwiches from the paper wrapping and then the music started.  The band was great and the people watching perfect.  There were people of all ages from babies/toddlers to the very experienced folks.  They had an area set aside for those who wanted to dance, and there were plenty!  We stayed for 1-½ hours and headed back to the car to drive our 1 ½ hour drive home.  

Yes, this was a long day (10 hours), but it couldn’t have been more perfect!   Three wineries, one tour, two meals, good friends having a great time and plenty of beautiful scenery along the way!

California Wine Festivals in June, July, August and Beyond

This is an update of what is going on in the California wine
regions.  I’m not going to post what the individual wineries or wine
shops are doing, but I will post the wine festivals that I’m aware of. 
If I’ve missed anything, please inform me at, so I
can add it to the list.  Some future events are listed down below.


          Current California Wine Events June – August ’09

June 6th & 7th, 11-5pm – Santa Cruz Mtns. (western side) June 13th & 14th Santa Cruz Mtns. (eastern side) Santa Cruz Vintners Festival

June 6th, 1pm-4pm – Two Harbors, Avalon 8th Annual Wine Festival, Catalina Island

June 13th, 3pm-7pm – Historic Escalle Winery, Larkspur – 5th Annual Marin County Pinot Noir Celebration

June 24th-28 – San Francisco San Francisco Pinot Days 2009

June 26-28th, 11-5pm – MurphysCalaveras Passport Weekend 

June 28th – San Francisco Pino Days, Grand Festival Wine Tasting

July 9, 5:30-9pm – Sacramento California’s Grape and Gourmet

July 23, – 6pm-9pm – Livermore Taste of Terroir

July 26th, – 1-6:30pm – NapaJewish Vintners Wine Trail

July 26th,  1-4 pm – Camarillo22nd Annual Wine Food Festival

August 8th, 6pm-9pm – Paso Robles Winemakers Cookoff

August 8th, 12-3:30pm – Monterey 17th Annual Winemakers Celebration

August 14-16th – Sonoma County14th Annual Russian River Valley Wine Growers “Grape to Glass” Weekend

August 16th, 2-5pm – MoragaSaint Mary’s College Wine Festival

August 29, 10am-6pm, August 30th -10am 5pm – Bodega Bay Bodega Seafood Art and Wine Festival

August 23, 3-6pm – San Francisco – Family Winemakers of California

     Belly Dancers at Mounts Winery – 2009 Dry Creek Passport Weekend –   Live band at Martorana Winery

                                   Future Wine Events

September 4th – 6th,  Healdsburg – Sonoma Wine Country Weekend which includes TASTE of Sonoma

September 6th & 7th, 12-5 each day – Livermore – 28th Annual Harvest Wine Celebration

September 11 & 12, 11-5 each day – Fort Bragg, – 25th Annual Winesong!

September 27, 12pm-6pm – LodiTaste of Lodi

October 25th – Russian River, Sonoma County 6th Annual Pinot on the River

November 18-22 – San Diego  –The 6th Annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival

June 12th, 2010Russian River Passport Weekend – Sonoma County