Category Archives: Winter Wineland

Winter Wineland Weekend in Sonoma County

Winter Wineland Weekend– 20th Anniversary 

In January Larry and I had the opportunity to enjoy the Winter Wineland weekend put together by the Wineroad organization up in Sonoma County.  In general the wineries that participate in this weekend are in the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys.  The weekend’s theme is Wine Art, Education or Display.  We only had Saturday available to attend so we made the best of it.

We started in downtown Santa Rosa.  We picked up our glass at Lost Canyon in the Railroad Square.  It is a small but nice tasting room, which is attached to a wine bar.  It’s in a great location if you are in the mood to walk around town. 

Afterwards we drove about 2 miles and went to the Vintners Square, which is an area with three different wine tasting rooms plus the Wineyard which houses a number of different small wineries.  Some of the wineries located at the Vintners Square are:  D’Argenzio Winery, Sheldon Wines, Krutz Family Cellars and MJ Lords Wine Cellars.  We started at the Wineyard and tasted wines from Santa Rosa Community College and Jazz Cellars.  The wines were good and they had delicious chocolate samples to taste with the red wine.  I really like the decor there, they have some really nice artifacts.  We walked a few steps and went into the building where Sheldon Wines and Krutz Family Cellars share a tasting room. It was very crowded and we weren’t received with any warm feelings.  The wine was o.k. I probably should go back on a weekend when it isn’t a special weekend and give them another chance.  We walked next door to D’Argenzio Winery.  We were greeted with smiles and wine instantly.  Both the father and daughter were there pouring the wines and talking to all the guests.  The feeling of the tasting room is of Italy.  The bar goes from the front of the house to the back of the house.  In the back of the house they have tables and chairs with red and white tablecloths.  If you go into the backyard they have a bocce ball court and a fire pit with some chairs to sit and enjoy.  The wine was very good.  We tried their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Zinfandel.  The highlight was their Super Tuscany blend.  The have a special tasting on Thursday nights where they have a food truck and a live band. 

After “doing” Santa Rosa we took off north to Dry Creek Valley and went to Sbragia Family.  This is way north near Lake Sonoma.  They have a very large tasting room with a large bar.  You don’t feel cramped inside.  If the weather is nice then you need to out to their deck.  They have a number of tables and chairs overlooking their incredible view.  They were serving their Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet and Merlot.  This day they had a number of vendors with their artwork for sale.  I bought a purse, orange on the outside and zebra striped on the inside.  Pretty wild!

Views from Sbragia

After Sbragia we drove to Lake Sonoma (3 minutes away) and took some pictures of the lake, a bridge and the dam.  It was a beautiful day out, blue skies everywhere.  We sat there and ate our sandwiches we had purchased for lunch.

Lake Sonoma

We then drove 20 minutes west into the mountains to Gustafson Family Vineyard.  They are 1800 feet above sea level.  They were pairing their wines with foods by Baci Restaurant.  We started with their Rose of Syrah in the tasting room.  We then moved on to the beautiful deck and had their Sauvignon Blanc, which was paired with a beet and blue cheese salad.  Then they poured their Zinfandel and served it with soft polenta and short ribs.  We met Emmet their winemaker and Dan Gustafson the owner; they were pouring the wines on the deck. 

Dan Gustafson (left) and Emmet (right)

The tasting room and Dan’s home are one in the same.  The home should be in the Sunset Magazine!  It is so beautiful!  The views from the deck were amazing!  We could see forever.  After we had the wines that were served on the deck, we walked around the back of the house to a path that took us to an oak grove.  In the grove were a few picnic tables and benches.  Here you have yet a different view of the east and Sonoma Lake.  We didn’t want to leave, as it was so beautiful and relaxing.  On our way out we tried their Cabernet Sauvignon that they were pairing with brownie bites.  One word “yummy”!

Dan Gustafson’s Home/Winery/Tasting Room

We thought that we were done, but on our way back to the kid’s house in Santa Rosa we stopped at one more winery that was on Dry Creek Road.  The winery was called Talty Vineyards.  Michael Talty came over and poured our wines for us.  His wines were all estate Zinfandel and very good.  Another wine that they were pouring there was from MacLarenMacLaren only produces Syrah’s.  They served us at our own private oak barrel (empty of course).  This was a clever idea especially if they know that it’s going to be a busy weekend.

These last two were not taking part in the Winter Wineland weekend but they were still open.  We were really done for the day and probably shouldn’t have stopped here but we were glad we did.   I liked the vibe at this tasting room.  I want to go back on a quieter weekend.

We had a great day, went back to the kids house to watch the last 10 minutes of the 49er vs. Saints game, which they won.  It was very exciting.  Another Winter Wineland Weekend in the books.

I love going to the wineries in the winter as it is in general very quiet, you usually can meet the owner and or winemaker and have a nice discussion with them.  Some of the wines are freshly bottled and just released.  Can’t wait to go again next year.  We covered a lot of ground on this day and all the wineries we went to were new to us except Jazz Cellars, which we have tasted at a few industry events.

Winter Wineland, Northern Sonoma County – Day Two was very fortunate to receive two complementary tickets to the 2011 Winter Wineland Weekend.  This is a weekend in which over 140 wineries in the Russian River Region, from Santa Rosa through Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley get together to let wine lovers experience the different wineries.  The theme this year was “Education and Art”.  Some of the wineries are not normally open to the public, some by are by appointment only but on this weekend all the participants are open and ready to receive you.  More wineries than not offered food to be sampled with their wines.  Larry and I went through the map and listing and tried to locate wineries that we either haven’t been to or haven’t been to in a long time.

Day 2 – Sunday January 16 – We had slept over at our son and daughter-in-laws house in Santa Rosa, so we were able to get a later start.  We left about 10:30 and headed way up north to Silver Oak Winery up in Geyserville.

Silver Oak Winery – It seemed like a good idea to go way up north to start out the day and then go south from there.  When you arrive at Silver Oak Winery you walk through their stone foyer where there is a beautiful fountain.  They were pouring the first of two Cabernets there by the fountain.  We enjoyed the view, went into one of their barrel rooms where they were pouring the other wine.  In there they were also serving a mushroom cake and had information on sustainable farming.


                           Silver Oak Barrel Room                                                              Silver Oak Foyer with Fountain

Geyser Peak – We went to Geyser Peak one because it was on our way south from Silver Oak, but more because we were familiar with their Sauvignon Blanc.  They were a bit crowded in their tasting room.  We sampled some of their wines but they weren’t pouring the Sauvignon Blanc.  So we left rather quickly and were disappointed.


                               Geyser Peak Winery                                                                       Geyser Peak Winery                                    

Frick Winery – We had heard about Frick Winery but had never been.  It’s a very cute house like building with a front garden, a fire pit and a picnic table.  We went inside and just so happen to have Bill Frick the owner and winemaker pour for us.  He makes Rhone varietals and blends.  We did a vertical tasting of their Syrah from ’03 to ’08.  That was fun.  People were roasting hot dogs and making s’mores out in front using the fire pit.


                                        Frick Winery                                                    Roasting Hot Dogs and S’mores at Frick Winery

Kachina Vineyards – To get to this winery you have to go up their very, very long driveway.  This driveway takes you way up into the woods.  Once you are at the winery it is very quiet and private.  They make Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and a Zinfandel Port.  They were pouring in their barrel room.  They are only open by appointment normally.  They have some nice picnic tables outside to take in the view.  Sonoma Chocolatiers were there passing out truffles made with their Zin Port.


             Kachina Vineyards Barrel Room and Winery                                       Views from Kachina’s Vineyards Deck

Maurtison Winery – This winery is in its 6th generation of wine making.  They own 230 acres throughout the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys.  When we got there they were having the main tasting in their barrel room.  But first you walked into their tasting room and there they poured a white wine.  Then as you walked into the back they had it decorated with tiny white lights all over the stacked barrels.  They were pouring both bottled wines and wines from the barrel.  They had their vineyard manager sitting at a location ready to talk about different soil samples from Rockpile Vineyard.  They make estate Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.  From the Rockpile vineyard they do a Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, Syrah, Malbec and some blends.


                               Mauritson Winery                                                                     Mauritson Winery Barrel Room

Armida Winery – When we arrived we lucked out and found a parking space near the tasting room.  It was crowded.  They had a football theme and had TV’s in different locations with the playoff games going.  We were hungry and so we went and got a plate of    sausage and smoked turkey.  We grabbed some wine and sat out on their beautiful deck, which overlooks their bocce ball court and lake.  They make Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Barbera, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and they are famous for their PoiZin.  Their winemaker was barrel tasting hisChardonnay and Zinfandel.  That was fun to try.


                        Armida Winery Tasting Room                                            Armida Winery Football Celebration and View

Michael Bernard – This is a new tasting room.  It just opened late summer 2010.  They have a very beautiful copper counter inside.  Their tasting room isn’t large but it wasn’t crowded feeling either.  They have a very nice deck with tables and chairs over looking their vineyards.  They make a sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended wine. 


                            Michael Bernard                                                                  Michael Bernard Tasting Room

Hudson Street Wineries – We drove into the town of Healdsburg.  Just a few blocks off the square is the Hudson Street Wineries.  Here they host five different wineries.  It is just a tasting room in a small warehouse building.  They had plenty of parking across the street.  The wineries they pour there are Bluenose Wines, Rocking Z Vineyards, Sadler-Wells Wines, Teira Wines and Willowbrook Cellars.  The staff was nice.  They were service a French onion soup, very tasty.


                                                                                    Hudson Street Wineries Tasting Room

Longboard Vineyards – A few blocks from Hudson Street Wineries heading back towards the center of town we ran into Longboard Vineyards.  As you enter this winery you see about a dozen different longboard surfboards hanging from the ceiling.  They make a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Noir.  We got there near the end of the day so they were all out of the food they had been serving.  We had some troubles getting the staff to pour wine for us.  It is a nice tasting room and I would like to go back when it isn’t so crowded. 


                Longboard Vineyards Tasting Room                                                  Longboard Vineyards Tasting Room

Hauck Cellars – This tasting room is just a few doors down from the Healdsburg Square.  Parking is more challenging but worth the effort.  Both the owners Greg and Jennifer were pouring the wines.  We sampled their Sauvignon Blanc, Rose’ of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Meritage (which was on sale).  They also make a Petite Sirah and a Cabernet.  This was a very nice tasting room with items for sale.  They had a large counter and room to stand.


                                Hauck Cellars                                                                          Hauck Cellars Tasting Room

Selby – Just a few doors away from Hauck Cellars.  When we arrived their tasting room was packed.  But, they noticed us and we able to serve us wine.  The crowd there seemed to be having a good time and didn’t want to wander away.  They offer Sauvignon Blanc, Rose of Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel.  They had their ’06 Chardonnay on sale, which we bought a case of for our son’s wedding this summer.


                                                                                    Selby Tasting Room

This day of wine tasting ended about 4:30.  We were pretty tired again.  Larry spit out all of his tasting so he was able to drive us around safely.  I however, just took little sips all day long.  We got back to the house and made some nachos to have before dinner.  We then had a nice birthday dinner for our son Brandon once he got home.  We enjoyed some more wine with dinner including a very good Windy Oaks Pinot Noir to go with the steaks.  We slept over that night as we were going to be watching Elli the next day so Kim could go to work.  The weekend was a huge success.  We went to 20 wineries in the two days.  Next trip up there will be the first weekend in March for the Barrel Tasting Weekend.  That is always fun.  We will have to go and explore more wineries that we’ve never been to.  Until then, Cheers!

Winter Wineland, Northern Sonoma Cnty – Day One was very fortunate to receive two complementary tickets to the 2011 Winter Wineland Weekend.  This is a weekend in which over 140 wineries in the Russian River Region, from Santa Rosa through Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley get together to let wine lovers experience the different wineries.  The theme this year was “Education and Art”.  Some of the wineries are not normally open to the public, some by are by appointment only but on this weekend all the participants are open and ready to receive you.  More wineries than not offered food to be sampled with their wines.  Larry and I went through the map and listing and tried to locate wineries that we either haven’t been to or haven’t been to in a long time.

Day 1 – Saturday January 15 – We started off the day by leaving our house in the East Bay, San Francisco area around 9:30.  We got to the first winery just past 11:00, which is when it opened. 

Martin Ray – Their parking seemed limited, but it is a small winery with a nice tasting room.  They have merchandise to sell.  Their staff is very friendly.  They offer picnic benches and have a beautiful view of their vineyards.  They were pouring their Angeline ’09 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and their ’04 Santa Cruz Cabernet.

                        Martin Ray Winery                                                    Martin Ray Winery Tasting Room

Graton Ridge Cellars – Another small winery right on the 116, Gravenstein Highway.  I liked this tasting room.  There was a nice large bar, plenty of room to wander inside and look at all the gift items they have for sale.  Here they had made homemade chili that they were serving.  They have a nice outdoor bocce ball area with comfortable chairs to sit at while either having a picnic or playing.   They were offering their Chardonnay at 25% off.

                           Graton Ridge Winery                                                    Graton Ridge Bocce Ball Court

Dutton Goldfield Winery – Also on Gravenstein Highway, this winery is one of our favorites for Pinot Noir.  They have been written up several times, been the Winery of the Year and have received above 90 points on over 4 of their wines.  We met our daughter-in-law and granddaughter here.  We tasted ’08 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, ’08 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, and ’08 Devils Gulch Pinot Noir and a ’08 Syrah.  As we enjoyed the wines we sat out on their front deck and ate our picnic lunch.  They have good parking and a very well informed, educated staff.  They have nice art and a fireplace indoors which is perfect on those cold days.

                                       Dutton Goldfield Winery                                        Kim and Elliana Lapides having a picnic

Red Car Winery – This winery is right next door to Dutton Goldfield.  They had just opened up their tasting room recently.  They don’t have any picnic benches but they have a very art deco tasting room.  They were pouring a Chardonnay, and two ’09 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs from different vineyards.  I would definitely go back and try them on a day when it isn’t so crowded.

Mueller Winery – This is a nice winery in a very remote location.  We had to drive through rolling farmland with cows on one side and vineyards on the other.  Here we tasted their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, which we liked very much.  They had a live band, the Surf Brothers, playing soft rock and roll songs.  They also had Claudia Sanchez, an artist, who displayed her cat art.  The tasting room is in the cellar.  They purchase all their grapes.

                         Mueller Winery Tasting Room                                                 Surf Brothers performing

Russian Hill Estates – Here they were pouring their new releases.  Their Viognier is what stood out to us.  But more importantly, the views from their backyard are amazing.  They have a few tables and chairs and welcome you to relax and take in the view while sipping their wine.

                              Russian Hill Winery                                                  Views from Russian Hill Winery

Sonoma-Cutrer – Known for their Chardonnay we tasted a few different vineyards of Chardonnay.  Their building is beautiful with African animal art displayed; they also have photographs of different vines growing in different soil.  They were pairing their wines with a black bean/corn salsa on a corn chip.  The backyard is enormous and would be perfect for an outdoor function.  They have two full-size croquet courts with immaculately groomed lawns.

                          Sonoma-Cutrer Winery                                             Sonoma-Cutrer Croquet Court     

Inman Family Wines – Here we met the winemaker and owner Kathleen Inman.  She was very nice.  They just recently opened up this tasting room.  They will be making their Chardonnay here soon.  They are very popular for two things.  One is being very organic.  The building they have their tasting room in, is made by using all re-used products.  Second, they use screw caps for all their releases.  They are firm believers that this keeps the wine from going bad and makes it easier to open. 

              Inman Family Wines Tasting Room                                        Inman Family Wines Barn

Benovia Winery – Known for their Pinot Noir, they were pouring their wines in the barrel room.  We tasted a Pinot blend, two different Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel.  All of their grapes will eventually be harvested from their own vineyards.  They are open by appointment only and have a beautiful visitors center with a fireplace, dining room table, and a very nice outdoor deck overlooking their vineyards.  Here they had an educational video on how oak barrels are made.

                       Benovia Winery Cellar Room                                         Views of Benovia Winery Vineyards

This day of wine tasting ended about 4:30.  We were pretty tired.  Larry spit out all of his tasting so he was able to drive us around safely.  I however, just took little sips all day long.  Needless to say we didn’t have any wine with dinner that night.  The day ended up being about 70 degrees!  In the middle of January!  Wow!  We needed to go to bed early this night so we would be ready to go to more wineries the next day.

Wineries, Birthday and Babysitting

Last weekend Larry and I went up north to Santa Rosa to attend the annual Winter Wineland event in the Russian River wine region.  Over 140 wineries were participating and the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County comp’ed us two tickets.  We started out on Saturday morning and drove straight to Martin Ray Winery to check in and receive our weekend bracelet and wine glass.  I’m not going to go into details of each winery on this post as I will dedicate a post to each day of wine tasting.


Suffice it to say that we went to nine wineries on Saturday and eleven on Sunday.  On Saturday we met up with our daughter-in-law Kim and granddaughter Elli at Dutton Goldfield Winery.  We went and talked to some of the staff that we all knew because Brandon used to work there.  We tasted some good wines and had a picnic lunch there.  The temperature that day got up to 70 degrees!  Yes, 70 degrees in the middle of January!  It was such a perfect weekend for touring around different wineries.


After lunch we continued onto a few more wineries and ended up at the meat market.  This is where Brandon and Kim suggested we go to buy the beef we were interested in for Sunday’s dinner.  We bought 4 nice rib-eye steaks and a package of 4 lamb sausages for our dinner that night.  After a quick trip through the grocery store we got to the kid’s home.  We visiting a bit, then Brandon got home.  We were going to be babysitting Elli so that Brandon and Kim could go out for an evening alone.  After a bit they left and we were there with Elli.  We fed her and played with her.  We even gave her a bath!  Then we put her to bed.  We then got working on our dinner, which was lamb sausages and sautéed vegetables consisting of onion, mushroom, red pepper and zucchini.  The sausages really hit the spot in a delicious sour dough roll with a nice porter mustard.  We watched a little T.V. and relaxed.  The kids got home before 10.  They saw the Black Swan, which we had already seen.  So we discussed the movie a bit before heading off to bed.


The next morning I was awoken to the smell of bacon cooking.  What a treat, Brandon was cooking eggs and bacon for breakfast.  We all ate together then we all dispersed to different locations.  Brandon went back up to his winery, Armida, where he was pouring his Chardonnay and Zinfandel all day.  Kim and Elli went off to church and then to the winery for a little lunch and visit, and we went off to our day two of wineries.  We went to four wineries before we got to Armida for lunch.  Once we got to Armida, which was very crowded, Brandon was ready to take a little break.  So we grabbed some food and sat out on their beautiful deck.  This day the fog had just lifted and it was a bit cooler.  But it was nice to spend 10 minutes with Brandon.  We went back into the winery and watched a little bit of football and watched Brandon sell his futures.  Afterwards we went to a few more wineries and got back to the house around 4:30.  I made nachos for a pre-dinner snack.  Brandon got home around 5:45 and he opened up a bottle of 2006 Pinot Noir from Windy Oaks Winery from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We started making dinner.  I did the stuffed baked potatoes, Larry did the green beans and Brandon did the steaks. This dinner was in celebration of Brandon’s 29th birthday.  There was a 2007 Petite Verdot opened also but it wasn’t as good as the Pinot Noir.  Elli finally went to bed and we enjoyed the birthday dinner.  For dessert we had chocolate chip/oatmeal/dried cranberry cookies that I had made and brought up.  We watch the Golden Globe awards and gave Brandon his present, which was a dehydrator.  This is something he can really use since he has such a big garden.  A good time was had by all. 


The next morning Kim went to work and I took Elli for a 45-minute stroll.  We went on a couple errands, she had lunch then she went down for a nap.  After her nap we went to Benovia Winery where we went to check out their new visitor center.  It is a beautiful center with couches and a fireplace for casual fare, a nice dining room table for more formal fare, and the backyard deck which looks onto their vineyards and beyond.  We then drove home, Kim got home and Larry and I got on the road back home.  It was a very full and eventful weekend.