Tag Archives: Sonoma County

2018 Harvest Sneak Peak

Elli checking the vineyard. Are the grapes ready yet?

The 2018 harvest has started, and the early returns are … delicious. At least so says our granddaughter Elli, shown above while helping her father Brandon (Winemaker B at Armida) check the Pinot Noir and Zinfandel grapes at Parmalee Hill Vineyard in Sonoma County.

Brandon gave a quick summary of the harvest expectations the other night over dinner.

Summer weather was good. No prolonged hot spells, especially near the end of summer, that can throw off the ripening of the grapes. Also, no hot spells in sight for the next couple of weeks. This is producing a slower start to the harvest, as some of the varietals, especially the early ripening varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, are taking longer to ripen. Interestingly, the early Sauvignon Blanc came in at about the same dates as last year, and seems really good. We’ve tasted the juice, and agree: wonderful!

The slower ripening means longer hang time (total time on the vine), and this can result in enhanced flavors in the grapes.

Brandon is cautiously optimistic, although he did say something like this could end up being the best vintage of the decade, especially for the big reds like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Of course, this is just his opinion, and he’s focused on Sonoma County and Dry Creek Valley specifically, so we’ll see how things go over the next 8-10 weeks.

L’Chaim,

Larry

Birthday Weekend Wine, Food and Spa

Lori took me for a surprise 2-day vacation for my birthday last month. We didn’t go too far; just far enough to get away. First stop was lunch at Pascaline in Sebastopol. This is a small restaurant located on Highway 116, a few miles northwest of Sebastopol. French in style, with some nice looking pastries (which we somehow avoided trying). For lunch, we split a tuna sandwich (good, but nothing special) and their “Farro-Sotto”. This was farro done in the style of risotto, with mushrooms and chicken and greens. Simply delicious. We’re going to have to try to replicate this at home when the kitchen remodel is done.

Next up was spending the afternoon at the Osmosis Spa in Occidental. We did the cedar enzyme bath, then 90 minute massages, then spent some time in the meditation garden. One of the best spa experiences I’ve ever had.

Arrowood 2007 Cote de Lune Rouge

Then the Inn at Occidental, a largish B&B in Occidental. After checking in and having a glass of wine, we walked down the hill to dinner at Hazel. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the inside, while nice, isn’t overly done up. Just comfortable. We first shared their grilled pita appetizer, which came with tzatziki, feta, olives, roasted red peppers and Marcona almonds. The tzatziki was made fresh kefir cheese/yogurt, and was amazingly delicious. Next up was sharing the lamb meatballs, served in a tomato sauce. Again, delicious. Last up was a pizza, cooked in their wood fired oven, with garlic sausage and two sunnyside up eggs. Breakfast for dinner, sort of. Again, just delicious. We paired the meal with a bottle we brought, a gift from friends, an Arrowood 2007 Côte de Lune Rouge, Lasseter Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, which is a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend. By the way, Thursday nights at Hazel there is no corkage fee for bottles from Sonoma County. This meal was one of our most memorable in the last few years, with food, wine, service (excellent!) and occasion all coming together, and yet it was just over $50 before tip.

Iceplant flowering on the Bodega headlands

The next day, after a nice night’s sleep and a very nice breakfast at the Inn at Occidental, we headed out to the Bodega headlands to wander around, watch for whales and check out the Spring flowers. Success on all counts: saw whales spouting a few hundred yards off shore, and the flowers were beautiful. Interesting to note that the California poppies, which are a bright orange further inland, were bright yellow at the coast. Soil, sunlight, wind, cold, humidity or maybe just a natural mutation of the flower.

Poppies and vineyards at Marimar Estates

Last on the list for Lori and I was a stop at Marimar Estate for a tasting. They do a very nice sit down tasting, and the weather was warm enough for us to enjoy the patio. Marimar does mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, appropriate given their location in the Russian River Valley, but they also do some Spanish varietals including Albariño and Tempranillo. Great job by Mary leading the tasting, and we really enjoyed the wines and the views from the patio.

Marimar Estates has a beautiful patio for outdoor tastings

L’Chaim,

Larry

Pride Mountain Vineyards: Tasting and Picnic

Lulu chilling in the Pride Mountain tasting room.

Lulu’s weekend of wineries concluded with a visit to Pride Mountain Vineyards. Pride sits on the ridge between Sonoma and Napa counties; actually the county line runs through the vineyards and winery. This makes for some painful logistics, having to keep track of which county which grapes come from, and having to do paperwork if grapes and/or juice is transferred from one county to the other. Also, while it’s a winding road up the mountain to Pride (which is at about 2100 feet elevation), if you haven’t been completely turned around, it seems that the counties are on the wrong sides of the line, with Napa on the west and Sonoma on the east. It’s just that the county line is not even close to straight, so it is backwards up there. (I wonder what the history of that line-drawing is, and if it’s documented anywhere.)

Pride Mountain Vineyard tasting room.

We did an initial tasting in their tasting room. Most of the grapes are grown right there, the exception being the Chardonnay, grown in the Carneros region. Lori and I both thought their Viognier was excellent: not too flowery a nose, good acid and fruit, nice body. One of the best that we’ve had. Left there with a bottle of that. They also make a dessert Viognier by just fortifying the Viognier juice. This makes a dessert wine that is not too high in alcohol (less than 14%), not too sweet, not too syrupy. We also left with a bottle of that, and we don’t ever (well hardly ever) get dessert wines. Not that we don’t like dessert wines, just that we don’t usually drink them, so we don’t buy them. We also tried the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which were excellent. And there was a 2001 Merlot open! This one had aged quite nicely; yes we brought home some of the current release Merlot.

Winemaker Sally Johnson-Blum gave us a tour of their cellars.

We then took a tour of their caves with the winemaker, Sally Johnson-Blum. They have about 20,000 square feet of cave space for barrels. As we went through, we stopped at some of the interesting barrels for tastes: Cabernet Franc from two different vineyard blocks, Merlot from different vineyard blocks, Cabernet Sauvignon field blend, and a couple more. A lot of fun tasting with the winemaker and getting her perspective on the different vineyards and varietals, what she likes about each, what she thinks about when she’s blending either the straight varietals or the Bordeaux style blend.

View from the Pride Mountain Vineyard picnic area.

Last, we had a picnic. They’ve got a few picnic tables essentially at the top of their vineyards. Tremendous view, and we had an excellent lunch of quiche, lox, salami, cheeses and fruit, together with one of those Merlots. Beautiful.

No veraison yet (July 30th) in the Pride Mountain vineyards.

By the way, grapes grow differently in different microclimates, different AVAs. Of course we knew this, but here was direct evidence. The previous day we were in the Dry Creek Valley and veraison had started; the grapes had started turning red. Not so at Pride. Sally mentioned that their harvest typically runs a couple of weeks later than that for wineries on the valley floors.

L’Chaim,

Larry