Category Archives: California Wine Travel

Pride (Mountain) and Prejudice

I admit to being a bit prejudiced about Pride Mountain Vineyards.  I like going there for the tasting, and I like their wines, especially their Merlot, which is one of the top 10 in Napa/Sonoma (IMHO). 

Lori and I took my mother wine tasting to Pride Mountain Vineyards a couple of months ago, just before harvest.  We were last there 3 years ago (and posted about the Pride visit). Mom was last there 25-30 years ago, before they built the beautiful tasting room and winery that’s now there.  We brought lunch with us, and picnicked before our tasting at the top of the hill.  Great views from there. 

I like the way Pride does tastings.  You start with a white, at a table outside the tasting room.  (In years past, you would be inside the tasting room, but not with Covid-19 rules.)  Then you walk with your tasting guide towards the caves, stopping to see the brick line on the ground denoting the county line between Napa and Sonoma Counties.  It’s an interesting complication to their operations to straddle the county line, having to keep wine from one county from moving into the other county (or else paperwork is needed). 

In the caves, you get to taste both finished wine from the bottle and wine still aging in the barrels.  Typically, you’re going to get a taste of each of their red varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  However, which is bottle and which is barrel, which is Napa and which is Sonoma, which is pure varietal and which has been blended can change each time you go there. 

After a nice long walk and taste in the caves, it’s back into the sunshine for a final taste at your table, and the discussion about which wines to purchase.  Pride does very well with Viognier and Merlot, and so that’s usually on our purchase list.  On this trip, they were sold out of Viognier, so a few bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon came home with us, along with the few bottles of Merlot.  Those are laying down, next to the Merlot from the last visit, waiting for the right “special” occasion (which could just be dinner for Lori and I!). 

Pride Mountain Viognier dessert wine.

What we did open, for dinner the next night, was a bottle of their Viognier dessert wine that we had purchased on our last visit.  A nice way to finish the weekend. 

At the time we visited, it was not clear what damage fires and smoke would do to Pride Mountain’s property and to the harvest. The last I heard from them, the fires had come all around the property, however, there had been only minimal damage. Regarding the harvest, they didn’t say, but I assume that they’re like most other Sonoma and Napa wineries and are only going to have white wines from the 2020 vintage, with most of the reds having smoke taint.



Mendocino Getaway

Goldeneye Winery tasting flight

My mother came up north to visit recently, and in addition to having her see her grandkids and great-grands we decided to take her up to Mendocino for a couple of days.  We started by picking up sandwiches at Big Johns market in Healdsburg.  Great place for grabbing your wine country picnic supplies, as they’ve got a large range of prepared foods in addition to the deli and custom sandwiches.  Our first stop was Hendy Woods State Park, near Philo in Anderson Valley.  The park is home to several stands of the huge coastal redwoods, and has the Navarro river running through it.  

After our picnic and a walk through one of the redwood groves, we continued up Anderson valley, stopping at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards.  Stacey the tasting room manager helped us with our tasting, starting with Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, then Syrah and finally Zinfandel.  All the wines were good, with the Viognier standing out as one of the best we had tasted in a long time.  

In Mendocino we checked in at the Alegria B & B, relaxing there for a bit before heading to dinner at the Little River Inn about 2 miles south of the town of Mendocino. They’ve been family owned and in business continuously for over 70 years, now with the third generation running the inn and restaurant. Excellent food — I had a nice bouillabaisse and Lori pork osso buco. Fresh ollolaberry compote a la mode for dessert was delicious. Then back to Mendocino to the Mendocino Headlands State Park, and viewing sunset over the ocean. 

The next day, after a delicious breakfast at Alegria, we headed up to Ft. Bragg to ride the Skunk Train.  Lunch was at Sea Pal at the Noyo Harbor, for the best fried fish I’ve had in quite a long time. Fresh cod, light batter, fresh frying oil with no residual taste, small pieces cooked perfectly.  I accompanied this with one of the 18 or so beers they have on tap, a Redwood Curtain special bitter ale. Sitting at a picnic table outside on the dock, watching the boats come and go and the crews clean the fresh caught fish, it was a great lunch. Then on to the Point Cabrillo Light Station, a lighthouse that’s been around for about 100 years.

Dinner that night at the Heritage House 5200 Restaurant, with another outstanding dinner. The highlight was again dessert, this time chocolate pot d’creme.  

Then the slow trip back home the next day, after another great breakfast at Alegria. We wandered around Mendocino for an hour, then had ice cream for lunch. Coming back through Anderson valley we tasted Pinot Noir at Goldeneye Winery. Our final stop was at Pennyroyal Farm, which we had visited earlier this year. This was just a buying stop, as we knew about their cheeses, and had just opened up a bottle of the Pennyroyal Pinot Noir the previous week. It’s a great value. 

So ended a nice weekend in Mendocino County.



Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

We are getting ready for another road trip. This time we are heading down south to Buellton which is in Santa Barbara County. It’s about 1/2 hour north from Santa Barbara. We are heading there specifically to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014, #wbc14. We went to the first and second wine bloggers conference when they were held up in Santa Rosa. The first year, 2009, they concentrated on the wines from Sonoma County and in 2010 they concentrated on the wines from Napa Valley. We had so much fun and met so many nice and interesting people. This year we are very much looking forward to learning more about the Santa Barbara County wines. We will be doing a lot of tasting wine, pairing wine with food, wine blogging, learning and networking with other wine bloggers.

We are leaving Dublin on Thursday and stopping along the way at two wineries in the Central Coast region. More on those in a later post. We are going to be staying at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott and going out to dinner at Mirabelle Restaurant in Solvang. This restaurant was suggested highly to us by my brother-in-law. After 2-1/2 days at the conference we will end our stay in Buelleton by watching the final Wold Cup game. Once that game is over then we will be heading up to San Luis Obispo to the Granada Hotel. This is a small boutique hotel near the center of town. There we will be celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. We will most likely have dinner in the bistro at the hotel. On Monday we will drive back up to Dublin stopping at one or two wineries along the way.



Sierra Foothills Wine and Dine

December and January are big months in our family for
celebrations.  Aside from the usual
holidays we have a daughter in law’s birthday, my father’s birthday, my mother
in law’s birthday, Winemaker B’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, and my
brother’s anniversary.  More than
any other two months on the calendar. 


For my mother in law’s birthday, we headed up to her place
in the Sierra foothills.  Usually
there is snow on the ground this time of year, but not this year.  Drought years are interesting, and this
year looks particularly bad.  From
a wine/grape perspective, there are likely two issues.  First, the warm weather now may cause
early budding of the vines which, if there is a late frost, will significantly
impact grape quantities.  Second,
just getting water to the vines will be interesting.  Older vines with deeper root systems will likely have a
distinct advantage this year. 


But enough of drought. 
We were up there to celebrate, and so we did.  Nothing too elaborate or fancy, but we took Lori’s mom and
her husband, and their best friends, out to their restaurant of choice, the
Sierra Banquet Hall in Camino, near Placerville.  Their facility is a modern log “cabin” that the owners built
themselves.  Cabin does not do the
structure justice, as it is two stories, and just beautiful.  So a good start, just walking in to the
beautiful building, and finding a nice fire going in the fireplace.  While the menu had pretty good variety
to it, 5 of the 6 of us opted for steak that night, either filet mignon or
ribeye.  And we were not


For wine we brought a bottle from a local winery, a 2008
Auriga Wine Cellars Barbera, El Dorado County.  We’ve posted about Auriga before, as it is conveniently near my mother in law’s house, has good
wine and very nice people.  We’ve
used it for rehearsal dinner wine, as well as enjoying individual bottles.  We had brought up the bottle of wine
from home, but luckily for me I had a few minutes to spare during the day, and
was able to go say hi and pick up a half case.  (Their French Columbard sparkling wine, a few bottles of Zinfandel and more
Barbera, since you asked.)  The
Barbera went great with our steaks. 
I’ll probably be stopping in again next year for some birthday






Edna Valley Wine Tasting

We recently celebrated my
mother’s 80
th birthday by gathering the family in Pismo Beach.  Lori has already written about the
celebration, and about wine tasting in Paso Robles, on her
.  On the way to Pismo we
stopped for wine tasting in Edna Valley. 


Edna Valley is about 45
minutes south of Paso Robles, still in
San Luis Obispo County.  We had never been to any of these
wineries before, so Mom’s birthday was a great opportunity to explore a new



We stopped first at Tolosa
.  Great views there, and
a beautiful tasting room.  We had
arranged a special tasting for Mom and Dad, and Lori and I, and also our
younger son Jacob and his family, including their first child, 5 months old in
the picture below.  The special
tasting was a wine and cheese pairing as follows:


2011 Chardonnay (No Oak) <-> Bucheron


The No Oak Chardonnay is
crisp, fruity, light.  The Bucheron
is a goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley in France, fairly mild, a little
bit soft.  The No Oak Chardonnay
was our favorite wine of the day. 


2010 Chardonnay <-> “Lamb Chopper”


A more conventional
California Chardonnay, paired with a sheep’s milk cheese from Holland. 


2010 Pinot Noir <-> Taleggio


This is a cow’s milk cheese
from an area northeast of Milan, Italy. 
This was the favorite cheese among those of us who like soft


2010 Cabernet Sauvignon <-> “Barely Buzzed” 


This is a cow’s milk cheese
from Utah, semi-firm, with the rind rubbed with espresso and lavender.  Unique and delicious. 



This was a relaxed and fun tasting. 


Next we went to Saucelito
Canyon Vineyard
.  This was a
completely different wine tasting experience for a few reasons.  Where Tolosa has a large and immaculate
facility, Saucelito Canyon is small and quaint.  Tolosa was Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Saucelito Canyon was
Zinfandel.  Where Tolosa was a
relaxed and special tasting, at Saucelito Canyon we were joined by my brother
and sister and their families, and the noise level went up considerably.  Fortunately they have a really nice
outside tasting area that we took over, so as not to disturb their other guests
inside the tasting room. 


Here’s what we tasted: 


2011 Sauvignon Blanc:  Good, but we came here for the Zinfindels.  Let’s move on. 


2011 Zinfandel
“Backroads”:  A lighter bodied Zin,
with nice fruit.  Bought a couple
bottles of this, and opened one last night when we cooked a turkey breast.  Worked quite well. 


2011 Dos Mas:  Zinfandel plus two more:  Grenache and Petite Sirah.  Those two more gave it a bit more
oomph, and a nice finish.  This was
the favorite of a few people in our group.  And it comes in a bottle with a slightly unconventional
shape, which makes it different and unusual. 


2011 Muchacho:  Zinfandel and Tempranillo.  OK, we’ve tasted blends like Dos Mas
before; they’re fairly common.  I
can’t remember tasting another Zinfandel-Tempranillo blend.  And why not, why haven’t other
winemakers put these two grapes together before?  This was great; my favorite and the favorite of a few others
in our group. 


2011 Zinfandel Estate:  For those purists who like just the
Zinfandel and only the Zinfandel, especially when it comes from 100+ year old
vines.  This wine is a tribute to
the winemaker being able to get out of the way and just let great grapes make
great wine.  The other favorite of
some of the group. 







Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

Last weekend was a special weekend.  We celebrated my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.  My husband Larry, and his father Al, spent a number of months consulting and doing research as to where this event would take place.  Half of the family lives in Southern California and the other half lives in Northern California.  So, the final plan was to meet in Pismo Beach, which is just about half way in between.


Some of us started this weekend by meeting in Edna Valley on Friday afternoon where we went wine tasting.  Larry is going to write a blog about that so all I’ll say is that we went to two entirely different wineries with totally different tasting experiences.  Both nice.  After wine tasting we went and checked into the Seacrest Hotel.  Then we all met at the Chinese Restaurant Mei’s.  They had 2 large tables all set up for us, as there were 21 of us including our 3 grandchildren.  The four generations sat down and started the gift of gab.

Throughout the weekend the family did different things during the daytime within our individual families like 4-wheeling in the dunes, or walking around the Cal Poly campus or taking a stroll along the Pismo pier and having clam chowder.  Larry and I just went down to the beach with our children and enjoyed watching our 3-year-old granddaughter run in and out of the ocean and play in the sand.  The two little ones, 5 months and 2 1/2 months, stayed close to their parents. 


We met up again for dinner on Saturday night, this time up in Avila Beach at a restaurant called the Custom House.  It was very nice.  We sat outside and had steak or fish for dinner.  Some of us brought a bottle of wine that we had brought from home and some had purchased mixed drinks.  It was a lovely night, we sang happy birthday to the birthday girl and gave her presents and cards.


The next day was spent mostly by the pool.  Elliana, our 3-year-old granddaughter was in the pool 2 separate times.  She had a blast.  The more time she spends in the pool the braver she gets.  Our sons Brandon and Jacob went to play tennis with their younger cousins Alex and Daniel.  They have been trying to do this for years.  Larry’s sister’s family left before dinner.  The rest of us went to Steamers.  We had a nice dinner and especially enjoyed watching the dolphins swimming in the ocean.  We were looking for whales as Brandon had seen some from his hotel room earlier that afternoon.  But no luck for us.  After dinner Larry’s brother and family left to go back home.  So that just left our family with Larry’s parents.  We were down to just 11 of us.


The next morning after hugs and kisses we separated from the in-laws and started to head north.  We treated our kids to a nice breakfast in San Luis Obispo called Big Sky.  We had some good grub.  From there we went to Paso Robles and all went to Peachy Canyon Winery. 

            Peachy Canyon tasting room at the Old School House

This is where Brandon and Kim used to work and got married seven years ago. Their grounds are perfect for picnicking and running around and have gorgeous views of their vineyards.  After walking around the beautiful grounds we went into the tasting room and did some tasting.  We had a great experience.  The tasting room is full of nice items to purchase.  They have a refrigerator with a few picnic items in it.   We started off tasting their Chardonnay and Rosé.  Then we tasted a number of their Zinfandels and a couple red blends.  They are known for their Zins.  We all bought a couple bottles of wine before leaving there.


From there Brandon and family and Jacob and family left to drive back home since they still had a 5-hour drive.  Larry and I continued to go wine tasting while we were in Paso Robles.  The next winery we went to was Calcareous. 

                          Beautiful views from Calcareous Winery

It is way up Peachy Canyon Road.  They have a beautiful tasting room and a very large outdoor area with beautiful views of the valley and quite a number of tables and chairs to have an amazing picnic.  For a $10.00 tasting fee we tasted 5 of their wines from a 2012 Lily Blanc to a 2012 Vin Gris of Malbec to a 2009 Grenache-Mourvedre to a 2010 Tres Violet which is their signature wine and finally a 2010 Lloyd Bordeaux blend.  Our favorite was the Tres Violet, which is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache.  Anna was the one pouring for us.  She was very nice and informative.  They produce about 10,000 cases with two labels.  The tasting room opened in 2007 and their first harvest was in 2006.  Going back to the outdoor area, they have a pizza oven; bocce ball courts and they sell picnic supplies in the tasting room.  Their supplies are limited to salamis and cheeses.  I would bring my own picnic lunch next time I went there.  They have a nice selection of books, garments and other goodies for sale in their tasting room.  It’s a great place for kids to run around.


The next winery we went to was just up the road about a mile.  It is called Minassian Young Vineyards(MYV). 

                The tasting room at MYV and their wine making facility

This tasting room and property were so different from Calcareous.  The winery and tasting room are on the same property.  They produce about 5,000 cases and have about 5 acres of grapes right there at the tasting room.  They use about 5% of their estate grapes in their wine.  Allison was the one pouring for us and her 8-month-old son Wyatt was wrapped up and on her back the whole time.  They have a pizza oven outside, but not much room for sitting and picnicking.  They didn’t charge for tasting.


We shared a tasting of 2010 White, which is a Roussanne and Grenache Blanc blend, a 2011 Field Blend which is Mourvedre and Grenache Blanc, a 2009 Mourvedre, a 2010 Estate Syrah, a 2010 Estate Zinfandel and a 2008 Cabernet.  We bought a bottle of their Estate Syrah.  We enjoyed the wine tasting experience.  They didn’t have any music playing but their views of their vineyards and others across the canyon were just beautiful.  No dogs are allowed as they have a couple that like to greet you when you arrive.  Their tasting room opened in 2005 and all their fruit is dry farmed.


We then drove back down Peachy Canyon Road through downtown and went out to Hwy 46 heading east and we found Derby Wine Estates. 

                      View of Derby tasting room and water feature

They have a few tables out in front for picnicking, but they are right on the highway so it is a little bit noisy.  They have a cute tasting room and Victoria and Seth took care of our tasting needs.  They produce 2,000 cases of wine, which is even smaller than MYV.  They have a nice selection of items for sale in their tasting room.  We started off our tasting with a 2010 Pinto Gris, which we really enjoyed.  Then went to their 2010 Fifteen Ten White Rhone, which is a blend of four different grapes.  Then we had the 2009 Fifteen Ten Red Rhone, which is a blend of four grapes.  We then tried their 2010 Pinot Noir and their 2007 Pinot Noir.  After that we sampled the 2007 Implico, which is a Cabernet blend, then the 2009 Syrah and finally their 2009 Petite Sirah.  We left there buying a bottle of their Pinot Gris, the White Rhone and the Red Rhone.  We had another great tasting experience.  They have a $10.00 tasting fee.

It had been many years since we had been to Paso Robles.  It is always enjoyable going there.  We went out to lunch in the square at Basil Thai and remember that restaurant as always being consistently good.  I would highly recommend going to Paso Robles for their wine tasting.  We will go back someday in the not so distant future.