Monthly Archives: March 2013

2013 Wine Road Barrel Tasting – Not Healdsburg

I’ll talk about our
Healdsburg tasting experiences in a not-too-distant future post, but I’m
starting with the non-Healdsburg wineries we visited.  We’ll start with Armida,
because it’s first alphabetically, and because our Winemaker B (Brandon
Lapides) is the winemaker at Armida. 
And he makes great wine there, and the view from the deck at Armida,
southeast across the Russian River Valley, is just fantastic, as you can see for
yourself below.  The first wine of
the day, in the barrel right now, tasting great, is the 2012 Armida Chardonnay,
Stuhlmuller Vineyards.  This is not
your stereotypical California Chardonnay, with oak and butter.  Nor is it really like a white Burgandy,
with more acids and minerality. 
This is a Chardonnay, grown in the Alexander Valley, and it tastes like
Chardonnay, grown in the Alexander Valley.  Which tastes different than Chardonnay from the Russian
River Valley.  (See Brandon’s 2010
Armida Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch.) 
At this point in time, the Stuhlmuller has more stone fruit flavors,
like a bit of peach in it.  The
second wine I tasted from the barrel was their Il Campo estate blend of
Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. 
Brandon is still working on the final blend, which will probably end up
somewhere in the range of 15-20% Petite Sirah.  Tasting really good right now, and should only get
better.  The last point about the
tasting experience at Armida is that the winemaker is there greeting all the
guests, introducing himself as the winemaker and making himself available to
answer questions about the wines. 
With many of the other places you go to on a weekend like this, the
winemaker isn’t there, and while others know about the wines, the winemaker can
tell you exactly what happened with each and every barrel.  A better tasting experience for


The Armida deck is a great place to enjoy the wines and the view.

Next on the list was Dutcher
.  When we first
visited, and I
wrote about our visit
, I said that we’d be back.  Well, too many new wineries to visit, not enough time, and
it’s been nearly 4 years.  I’m
almost embarrassed about that. 
Beautiful winery, also with great views, and a nice arbor under which
are some nice picnic benches. (We ate our lunch there.)  They were serving a mushroom bisque to
go with their barrel wines, which were 2012 Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  The Zinfandel was from Maple Vineyards
grapes, in the Dry Creek Valley, which is one of the top Zinfandel growers in
the area.  We also tasted the 2009
Dutcher Crossing Maple Vineyards Zinfandel, to see how we might expect the
barrel wine to evolve.  Very
nice.  Hopefully it won’t take us
another 4 years before we return. 


Last for this post is Limerick
.  Limerick Lane was once
one of the standard bearers for Russian River Valley Zinfandel, with a well
deserved reputation for great Zins. 
And then there was the reputation, but it wasn’t so well deserved.  Not quite sure why.  And then there was new ownership (Jake
Bilbro), taking over right before the 2011 harvest.  And then there was the new winemaker, Jake’s brother Scott,
taking over the winemaking reins at the same time.  Scott was able to do the final blending on the 2010 wines,
but his influence is really noticed on the 2011s.  There was a marked difference tasting 2010 and 2011
Zinfandels and Syrahs side by side. 
The difference was more than just the vintage, because neither vintage
is “great”.  One of the truly great
things about California though, is that there is rarely a poor vintage, so the
winemaker should always have at least good to very good grapes to work with.  The 2011 shone bright in our tasting,
like the winemaker put some TLC (tender loving care) into the wines.  The 2010, well, I’m sure they’ll be
able to sell those bottles.  Looks
to me like Limerick Lane is well on its way to once again deserving their
reputation for great wines.  

Limerick Lane tasting room and estate vineyards.  



Auriga and Celebrations

We started in December last year with big birthdays and other life
cycle events, and continued in January with my mother-in-law’s 75th
birthday.  We had a nice simple
lunch, with the group meeting in Auburn, somewhat equidistant between people
coming from Reno, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa.  And somewhat close to my mother-in-law in the Placerville
area.  Not too much to report from
the lunch, but we did have a great time, including our granddaughter having her
chocolate ice cream for her dessert.


On the way up to Placerville we decided to stop at Auriga Wine Cellars, in El Dorado County
in the Sierra Foothills.  We had
been there before, a few years ago, and had really liked their Sangiovese.  Great taste, great value.  Actually, we liked it so much that we
bought it for our younger son’s
rehearsal dinner
.  This time we
weren’t looking for wedding wine, just for some nice wine for everyday
drinking.  And we found some.  

When we arrived there the
owner/winemaker, Richard Sturgis, was behind the bar and, not surprisingly for
a Friday afternoon, the tasting room wasn’t crowded.  We tasted through almost their whole selection:  sparkling french columbard, sauvignon
blanc, sangiovese, super tuscan, barbera, zinfandel and syrah.  We didn’t taste the dessert port-style
wine.  This is a pretty typical
range of varietals for a Sierra Foothills winery, because these are the grapes
that grow well in the Foothills.


We’re not huge fans of sparkling wines, but we really liked this
one, and with a few more – events grandchildren being born, weddings, big
birthdays – coming up this year we thought a few bottles might be good in the
cellar.  On to the others now.  Most of the reds were from 2010.  We weren’t as excited about the
Sangiovese this time, but we really loved the Super Tuscan, which is a blend of
Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel (only a “dash”).  The other one was the Barbera.  And while we enjoyed the wines, the
best part was talking with Richard about his wines, grape growing in the
Foothills, other winemakers, and more.  




Larry Lapides

PS.  We now have opened one of those Auriga Sparkling French Columbards, for the birth of our second grandchild, another granddaughter.  It was delicious, especially the first sip for the new mom!  

West Wines Viognier, Curry Chicken Salad

In my real world job – not this fun world of writing about
wine-related experiences – I go to England at least once a year.  The company that I work for has its
headquarters just outside of Oxford, in what used to be the milking shed of a
farm.  Actually, the farm is still
there, next to the office, and it’s pretty typical to hear roosters and other
livestock throughout the workday. 
It’s a bit isolated though, so for lunch we usually get a sandwich from
the catering truck that comes around. 
And my favorite sandwich from the truck is curry chicken salad. 


(As a side note, I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for the little catering trucks.  When I was young, Cousin Louie drove one, and occasionally we would get to help him count coins from his day’s business.  Not much, but then it doesn’t take much to make a 6 year old kid happy.)  

Last week I decided to try to replicate that sandwich for
dinner.  I just used canned chicken
breast meat, plus mayonnaise, spicy mustard, curry powder, chopped peanuts,
celery, green onions, cilantro (probably not in the English version, but I love
the flavor) and raisins.  Turned
out pretty darn good.  Lori made a
berry salad with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries to go with it.  And we opened a nice bottle of wine (2
paragraphs into this, and I finally get to the wine!), a 2008 West
Dry Creek Valley Viognier.


We visited West Wines last March, where we met Katarina
Bonde and
Bengt Akerlind, the owners of West Wines.  Katarina and Bengt are originally from Sweden, which goes a
long way to explaining why in 2010 the West Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 was
the first American wine ever served at the Nobel Prize Banquet.  We really enjoyed the atmosphere at the
winery and tasting room, and enjoyed the wines.  They only make Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and
a Cab blend, so they’re pretty focused. 
We walked away having purchased Chardonnay, Viognier and Cabernet


The curry chicken salad and Viognier was a really nice
pairing, as it turned out.  The
West Wines Viognier was all we remembered it to be:  nice floral nose, bright flavors on entry, medium body and
just a bit of acid on the finish. 
Worked really well with the curry-based flavors. 


So now we’re eyeing the Chardonnay and Cab in the cellar,
and thinking about when to open those!




Larry Lapides