Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#ImageryWinery Second Day of Winecation in Sonoma

Imagery Winery
(notice the Parthenon-it's on all of their labels in some form or fashion)

I've blogged about Imagery Winery before because I love their wines and adore their labels. But this past June, I had the pleasure of visiting the tasting room for the first time. My hubby had been there before, and wanted to share the experience with the whole group. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that it was near closing time and there were what seemed like a hundred people crowded around the tasting counters. It was very hot inside the building and not too cool outside either.

But their wines are fabulous! We always have them in our cellar and get shipments from the wine club too! Just so you know, their prices of whites range in the upper 20's and the reds range from the 40's. One bottle we tasted was $65 (Pallas).

Now, at Imagery your tasting fee is usually for 5 tastings, but they are really laid back here and you can taste just about anything they have open. We are club members, so we tasted everything we could get our hands on. 

Go to their website and see why they were voted the best Sonoma winery two years in a row. 

I'll have to say the most interesting wine I tasted though was the 
2009 Lagrein from Paso Robles ($45). This grape is a little known red wine varietal from Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region. This wine has rich flavors of blueberry, plum and black cherry. It is Imagery's celebration of uniting a hard-to-find varietal with one-of-a-kind art labels. What a celebration! I'm proud for them!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Vella Cheese Co. Perfect with Winecation Wines!

The Vella Cheese Factory is located in Sonoma on Second Street. After dining at a little bistro on the square and meeting up with our friends from Kansas, we wandered over to this cheese shop that I had heard of from my friend. She said we just had to go there!

This stone building, that was once a brewery, has withstood a fire and numerous earthquakes. During the "Prohibition" in 1931, the Vella's converted it to the use of making cheese. And it has been its purpose ever since!

The cheese was awesome and you could taste any of it just for the asking. We all bought several cheeses for the week. In the pic, one of the employees is cutting us cheese to taste.

They have two cases full of cheese in this very small shop!

Award winning cheeses! They also make a Fiore dry Italian  and Secchi salame. They looked delicious handing in the cold storage room. The history of this family, building and how the children took over the business in 1981 is fascinating. No wonder they have won so many awards. They're keeping the secrets in the fam!

I love hand-drawn chalkboards, especially this one with cheeses! If you are in Sonoma, visit the Vella Cheese Shop. Then purchase your perfect wine and enjoy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

#ImbibeWine #Bakersfield July Trip to #California

Imbibe Wine and Spirit Merchant

So last week I was in Bakersfield, CA visiting my oldest daughter and her family. Yes, it's not the most exciting city in CA, but since my granddaughters are there, it's a must! Besides, like my daughter says, there's the Pacific Ocean, mountains, desert, and SHOPPING not too far away. Can't say that in Texas!  

My last night in town Natalie took me to a wine tasting room. It's not a bar, but a a tasting room, wine storage, wine and spirits store, restaurant with music all rolled into one small place. You purchase a card for the amount you want and then go to the wine spigots and start tasting. Pretty cool. I've only done this one other time and what I like about it is you don't get too much of the wine you try. If you like it, you can get more; if you don't, just get another glass. Of course, this all comes off the card you purchased.
 Here's Natalie getting her first taste at the white wines.
The first wine I tasted was a 2012 Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrontes ($13). This is probably the best white Argentinian wine produce in the Cafayate, Salta area. The rain is insufficient in the region, so the winemakers have to depend on irrigation ditches carrying water from rivers and the melting snows of the Andes Mountains to water the vines.
 Loved this Hermanos Torrontes! It has aromas of a flower garden! I would buy this again!

The second wine I tasted was a 2011 Pinot Blanc ($16) from Kelseyville, CA, Santa Barbara County. This county has the right maritime desert climate to provide what this grape needs. It was very good! I would buy this again also. Although it was aged in neutral oak barrels, you can hardly detect it. Drink now! 

 Another wine I tried was the 2011 Pride Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($38) from Napa Valley. This is an elegant, well-balanced wine to enjoy now or in the next decade. Loved it!
Ok, I had to try this 2010 Mendel Malbec ($25) from Mendoza, Argentina! I must really like their wines. Guess I need to plan a winecation there! Robert Parker gives it 93 points! That's says enough for me. Aromas of plums, raisins, violets and full bodied, it is the maximum expression of this variety of grape on the land in which it was created.
 Here we are enjoying our last drop of wine. This was a 2010 Ingenuity Epoch Estate ($65) wine from Templeton, CA in the Paso Robles area. It's a GSM blend, with the majority being Syrah. Now, blended wines have long been thought to be inferior wines, but nothing could be further from the truth. America has come a long way in accepting blended wines and this one would be a great one in which to begin! Don't turn up your nose at blended wines!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Heart of Sonoma! Landmark Vineyards #landmarkvyds

Friday morning we began our tasting at Landmark Vineyards on Adobe Canyon Road in Sonoma. We could have walked there because it was just right down the road from the VRBO home we rented for the week.

If anyone was ever to get married in Sonoma, there are many beautiful vineyards with Landmark being one of them. Although it isn't hilly on the property, the gardens are spectacular and would make one gorgeous destination wedding
This is the entrance to the tasting room and the gardens are beyond the breezeway in the middle of the building.

Here are four of the wines we tasted and each are fabulous. So much that we rejoined the Heritage Wine Society which is their wine club.

From top left to bottom right:

2011 Overlook Chardonnay ($25) is lightly oaked, medium bodied.

2011 Grand Detour Pinot Noir ($35) shows rich notes of plum, chokecherry and cinnamon on the nose and finishes with blood orange, bacon and ginseng.

2011 Kiser Chardonnay ($40) has a straw gold core, citrus zest, and subtle oak complement.

2011 Kivelstadt Syrah ($30) has aromas of black currant jam, ripe plum, sage and black pepper.

 We also tasted a 2011 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay ($35) which is a medium bodied Chardonnay with plenty of ripe citrus and tangerines.
This is a 2009 Kanzler Pinot Noir which is not on their website. The fruit is from Kanzler Vineyards and their winemaker used to work the vineyards at Landmark Vineyards. 

One last bottle we tried before leaving was a 2010 Justification ($50) from Justin Vineyards in Paso Robles. My daughter and son-in-law have been there and raved about their wines and now I know why! Justin Winery is a sister winery to Landmark Vineyards. No wonder their wines are so great!

This is a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend. So good!

Well, Landmark sure made a mark on my palate! I can't wait for the first shipment!


Monday, July 22, 2013

#FabulousWines #HamelFamilyWines Second Day of Winecation #boutiquewinery

We all know that honey badgers don't give a ****, but let me tell you these badgers do! This family has three generations of alums from the University of Wisconsin. If you go to their website they have an entire page about how they came up with the idea of settling on this logo for their wines. 

Did you know that badgers reside natively in Sonoma County but not in Wisconsin? That's something to give a **** about!

Now, about the experience above all experiences!

We called the day before and made a reservation for the eight of us to have a private tasting. Little did we know that they would make us feel like royalty. When we arrived, they came out of the building to greet us, led us into the "tasting room" (their new tasting facilities are under construction). It looked more like an urban condo in the woods and we were in their dining room.

Their portfolio was very impressive which included a wine tasting menu with our name and date printed on it, a color flip storybook of the family winery, the Badger Clan wine club and of course an order form.

 George Hamel, a very young, smart, third generation "George" came out and talked with us for quite a while about Hamel Family Wines. He is the managing director of the business.
We were led through each wine tasting by a young girl that attends UC Davis for her degree in "wine" everything. (I think she said business). 

Every wine we tasted was excellent. Anytime you come upon a small family business like Hamel Family Wines, it's going to be good because they don't concern themselves with large production. All of the wines we tasted were under 220 case production and most under 200. The Rose' ($22) was fresh, dry, and delicate. The Sauvignon Blanc ($28) was crisp and pure. The Zindandel ($30) was bold and fruity, and the Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) was intense, powerful, and full! 

I could go into detail about each wine and bore you to death. Just saying this family is going far in the years to come. We bought every wine they offered! You can order it online and enjoy it yourself. I don't think it's a good idea to ship wine to Texas right now, but later in the fall when it cools off, just do it!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Run to Trader Joe's! #ValleyoftheMoon #PinotBlanc #Saleofthecentury

Run to Trader Joe's CA!
(don't know about texas)

I know I haven't finished sharing the June vacay in Sonoma, but I haven't been home in two weeks! I've been in Key West for five days with my hubby and his family and then left for California for five days to visit my daughter and her family. Whew! It's all fun though! Especially when you can score on the price of some good wine. My daughter and granddaughters picked me up at LAX and we drove down to Huntington Beach to visit some friends. 

love Virgin America Airlines
While there, we made a stop at the local Trader Joe's and that's where we found Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc for $5.99. At the winery in Sonoma, it costs $19 a bottle!

 receipt from our favorite store

Of course, Natalie had to buy 6 bottles of the wine and we enjoyed one on the beach in Newport with her friends from SoCal and one at home by the pool!

This is a very good summer wine or anytime wine. It is a blend of grapes from the Russian River Valley and Souther Sonoma Valley. 98% Pinot Blanc, 1% Chardonnay, and 1% Pinot Gris.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Olive and Vine Restaurant-Sonoma Winecation June 2013

Everyone who has ever been to Sonoma knows about this restaurant. I first went there in 2009 during a wine bottling trip my husband put together after a wine label competition in the spring. 

Back then it was a place to eat and also listen to a local band that the owner's friend played in. Now that friend is married to the owner. Catherine and John are shown below. Go to their website and see the amazing dishes that she and her team cook and cater. The food is fabulous and John is the sommelier on staff. My husband has been long time friends with him and he takes very good care of us when we are there. Don uses his tour services each wine bottling year. John is a very fun man to have on board a bus of thirsty wine bottlers! He plays/sings and jokes all day when you are on his tours in Sonoma or Napa!

 Here are some of the wines he served us the night we were there on our winecation.
First was a Scharffenberger Brut Excellence Sparkling Wine ($20) made in the traditional way champagne is made. This is made from its own 120-acre vineyard in the Anderson Valley in the greater Mendocino County, California. It has received 90 points from both Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits.

The next bottle of wine he served us was the 2011 Stark Grenache Blanc ($28) from the Santa Ynez Valley. It's a crisp clean white wine! Oh so good!
The last bottle of wine served was the 2007 Berthoud Ursus ($38), a proprietary blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. It is a muscular wine with an elegant balance.  It is an old world style wine.

We had a delicious dinner, finished with amazing desserts to share with the group!  If you get the chance, go by the restaurant, make reservations, and get ready to enjoy a fabulous dinner!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

#GloriaFerrer 5th on Winecation June Trip 2013

Our last stop for the first day of wine tasting in Sonoma took us by Gloria Ferrer for a glass of bubbly! No one in the group had been there except us, so of course, it was a must for them.

I always enjoy the views from their terrace, looking out over the Carneros region. This vineyard was established in 1986 with most of their 365 acres dedicated to Pinot Noir.

Although we've been there and tasted/bought bottles of their sparkling wines before, we had to do it again! It's a great way to end the day or begin the day, whichever you choose.

This time we tried the 2004 Vintage Reserve Royal Cuvee ($32). It is two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. It's "rich in the mouth with creamy flavors that show ripe California strawberries and lime." 

Visit Gloria Ferrer whenever you come to Sonoma. It's 40 miles northwest of San Francisco and is one of the first vineyards you come to on the Sonoma Highway!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

#RamsGateWinery #4 Winecation 2013

Ram's Gate Winery-Entrance to the Wine Country!

We knew about a week before we got to Sonoma that NASCAR weekend was happening at the Sonoma Raceway the same weekend we would be there wine tasting. Now if you know me personally, you know I couldn't care less about watching cars drive around in circles and possibly crash! That's redunculous if you ask me!
So we carefully plan all our journeys in, around, and out of Sonoma to avoid all the NASCAR people and traffic! Everyone warned us to do so, and believe me it made traveling so easy if you knew where not to go at certain times!

Ram's Gate Winery is the most beautiful winery we went to on the first day of tasting. I know it's all about the wine for some people, but for me, it's got to have some curb appeal first! Every winery has its personal touch and these people got it so right!

 This is what you see when you walk up to the building! All of the rooms are open air, a weathered farm style building on the outside and " a mix of contemporary chic and urban cool" inside.

There are two long counters in the middle of the huge room with a fireplace at one end and a kitchen at the other. There's a separate room for the club members to sit and enjoy their wines, a library, and every room in this barn affords views of the beautiful countryside!

Our tasting experience at Ram's Gate was superb and afterward we headed out back through the vineyards to sit by a tranquil pond under the cool shade of the trees with our friends.

Here's what we tasted and bought! All Chardonnays! All fabulous tasting and great for anytime, especially summer!

The red label is their benchmark Chardonnay, a 2010 Carneros Chardonnay ($36). Click on the name for tasting notes.

The second bottle is their 2010 Sangiacomo Vineyards Chardonnay ($62).

The third bottle is their 2010 Lee's Secret Chardonnay ($64), which is not on their website. I guess you have to go there to buy it! Yippee!

The last bottle is their Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay ($68) which is not on the website either!

I think this sign says it all for their tasting room. You'll smile, kiss, and sip when you're there! It's a happy place! 

And very relaxing! We took a glass of wine down by the pond and chilled! It's been a long day! But there's one more winery! Stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#Larson_Family Winery #3 of the 2013 Winecation

Fun, Family Friendly-Larson Family Winery

After leaving Scribe and stopping at a quaint deli on Napa Road/8th St., we headed to Larson Family Winery with all of our food for a picnic. We had heard that there was a great place out back of the tasting room to eat, play lawn games, view the vineyards, and taste wine!
 Behind the picnickers, you can see a beautiful lawn for games such as Ladder Golf, Bocce Ball, and Bean-Bag Toss! They have three friendly labs, Sunny, Bubba, and Pete that roam the property welcoming the guests while they picnic/taste.

 Here's our group minus me behind the camera!

The wines we tasted are as follows:
 The 2011 Pinot Grigio ($22) is a dry, clean white wine.
 The 2010 Millerick Road Chardonnay ($23) is crisp and clean and pairs well with fruits, vegetables, and light meats.
The 2012 Gewurztraminer ($20) is a rich, complex Alsatian style with a touch of sweetness.
 We tasted a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) that was fruit forward and every taste was different ranging from vanilla, blackberry, cassis, coffee and finishes with chocolate and vanilla. 
 This is the Three Lab Cab ($25) named for Sunny, Bubba, and Pete! It is a rich, full-bodied Cab, yet smooth. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. 

The last wine is a 2009 Millerick Road Meritage ($33). I couldn't find any tasting notes and I didn't have any myself. Obviously it is a red blend I think of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Visit Larson Family Winery for a picnic and enjoy their wines, play games, walk in the vineyards, and have fun!