4th of July weekend

Hill and I are off to Clearlake to celebrate our Nations Name Day.  We are looking forward to a weekend of wakeboarding and adult  beverages with our great friends.  Luckily for us, our route to Clearlake is via the Silverado Trail through Napa.  Of course, we could not resist visiting a few wineries on the way up.

Paraduxx is one  winery I have wanted to visit for awhile.  We parked the boat into the lot and headed in for a tasting.  The tasting fee is $30, so Hill and I decided to share aTasting.  Johnny Bon brought out our tasting flight and introduced us to the winery and the wines we were tasting.  We tasted the 2013 Napa Valley Rose, 2011 M blend, 2011 C blend, 2011 Rector Creek Red Wine, 2011 Howell Mountain Red Wine, and Johnny treated us to a bonus pour of their 2011 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.  I enjoyed all of their wines.The M blend was a Merlot-Zin blend. It was full of red fruit, plum and spice.  I found the mid range heavy in tannins (for my taste)  but the finish was well balanced and even. The wine is well priced and would go well alone or with food.

The 2011 Rector Creek and Howell Mountain are really good Zin-cab blends.  The price point is a little high but, you do get what you pay for.

Last stop before heading over the hill was Cuvaison.  We first discovered Cuvaison on a recent weekend trip to Sonoma. I was really excited to visit the original tasting room on the Silverado Trail.  It did not disappoint.  The tasting flight was their 2012 Kite Tail Chardonnay, 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, 2012 Estate Syrah, 2011 Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2012 Brandlin Zin.  All of their wines were delicious and well priced.  We are considering joining their wine club.  The one that really got my attention was their 2012 Estate Syrah.  It gas a deep red plum color and a nose that will make your mouth water.  It is full of dark berry fruits with bacon, pepper and silky tannins.  It is everything you look for in a Syrah.  The 2012 Brandlin Zin is also worth mentioning.  It is old  a old vine Zin full of spice and pepper with hints of caramel and vanilla on the finish.  It is complex and mature and worth discussion.

Overall, not a bad way to start off the holiday.  Happy 4th of July.


Sonoma Getaway

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros

I found a Sonoma getaway on Groupon and booked the date.  With great anticipation,  Hill and I loaded up the Monsters and headed up to Sonoma to experience their wines and hospitality.  We stayed at the dog friendly Best Western Plus Sonoma Valley Inn.  It was an above average room located within walking distance of the town square.  There was a dog park and walking trail right off of 1st St. W., also within walking distance.  You can spend the whole day at the tasting rooms just off the square.  We found one of our favorites from Healdsburg had opened a tasting room of the square.  MacLaren Tasting Lounge has some of the best Syrahs I have tasted.

On the drive up to Sonoma from the bay area our first stop was at Domaine Carneros.  Hill loves the bu20140223_125007bbly and Domaine Carneros was a recommended stop.  I enjoyed the Brut rose. It was fruity, flora with a hint of tangerine on the finish.

We left Domaine Carneros and drove across the street to Cuvaison.  What an unexpected surprise. Our Pour Guild was Pina, Patty, and Paul.  They were awesome. Very attentive, knowledgeable, Personable.  I learned a lot about Cuvaison wines from them and from tasting.  Their 2011 Kite Tail Chardonnay has aromas of citrus, popcorn and butter, with mineral, lite fruit and floral notes on the tongue.  The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir was floral on the nose, with raspberry, strawberry and a little spice on the tongue.  Tannins and acidity balanced remarkably. One of my favorites.  The 2011 Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is 85% Cab, 9% Petite Verdot, 6% Cab Franc.  It has good legs, nice black cherr20140223_141017y color and lots of dark fruit on the tongue.  It is well balanced with hints of caramel and toffee. 2011 Estate Syrah has long legs and deep dark color.  It is smokey, peppery with hints of bacon and black cherry and supportive tannins.  2010 Estate Merlot is 86% melot, 14% cab.  Jalapeno pepper on the nose and palate, long legs, dark color.  Smooth and silky.  The Noblesse Desert Wine has a nose of apricot and Meyers lemons.  It is not overly sweet with a lite lemon finish. The price points for Cuvaison are right on. I enjoyed all of their wines and Cuvaison is now on our “To Join” wine club list.

We said goodbye to our new friends at Cuvaison and headed to one of favorites, Patz and Hall.  They have just opened a beautiful tasting room in Sonoma.  We were greeted by Ross who made us feel at home and set us up with a bowl of those delicious truffle oil almonds.  We started with the 2011 Hyde Vineyard Carneros.  It has aromas of orange and white flowers and a palate of crisp acidity and minerality. Lite oak and spice on the finish. $58.  2011 Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay has aromas of citrus and green apples.  On the palate it is well balanced with acidity and minerality with a hint of butter and oak on the finish.  $60.


Schug Winery

Schug Winery

Day Two

After taking the doggies for a walk, we headed to Schug Winery.  Schug Winery is a 50,000 case producer.  The winemaker, Walter Schug, is a 3rd generation wine maker.  His life story, growing up in Germany and emigrating to the US, is very interesting.  We started with the 2012 Chardonnay Carneros.  It was well balanced with a lite butter finish.  The 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros is their Flagship.  I found it to be fruit forward and lite tannins. Price points for both wines is acceptable. The 2011 Pinot Noir, Carneros ”Schug Estate” was quite nice.  I found it to be smokey, dark fruit notes, well balanced acidity and tannins.  The 2010 Cabernet Franc is 70% Cab Franc, 25% Cab Sav. On the palate it was a little dry with dark berry fruit.  2012 Late Harvest Riesling has aromas of honey suckle and bees wax.  It is sweet but not over the top with notes of apricot and honey. Its also lite on the tongue and not syrupy.  Price point a little high for the smaller size bottle.  The 2010 Rouge De Noirs, Carneros, Sparkling Pinot Noir was a nice surprise.  It reminded me of a bubbly version of the 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros with a little more character.  I enjoyed all their wines and I think it id definitely worth a visit.  Schug also has a self guided tour of the Estate which provides some really nice views.  Gloria Ferrer was our next stop.  Gloria Ferrer has a nice 2010 Brut rose that reminds me of citrus and raspberries.  The 2008 Jose Ferrer Pinot Noir was my favorite.  Its long legs and ruby color hinted of the complexity of the tannins and the flavors of raspberry and cherry.  At $42 a bottle I could not resist.


We headed back to town to continue tasting on the town square.  We wondered into Walt and it was a great find.  Walt features Chardonnaya and Pinot Noir.  Heaven….  Jerry was great.  I felt like we were old friends hanging out at a barbeque.  The 2012 “Blue Jay” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a four vineyard blend.  It has a nice lite color, good legs and blue fruit, black cherry is smooth and easy on the palate.  We did a side by side comparison of the “Blue Jay”, “Hein Family” and “Savoy”.  The “Hein Family” vineyard is located closer to the coast.  It gets less sun and cooler temperatures.  The “Savoy” is mid-valley and has the best qualities of “Hein Family” and “Blue Jay”, which is the furthest from the coast.  “Savoy” was definitely my favorite but out of my price range at $60. I enjoyed all the wines at Walt and are my recommended stop in Sonoma. Jerry suggested we stop by MacLaren Tasting Lounge.  I remembered visiting him when he was pouring at Talty Winery in Healdsburg.  By the time we got to MacLaren, they were closing up but, they were willing to pour for us.  So, they unpacked the bottles and we got to taste some really good syrahs.  We were poured four wines; 2010 Judge Family Vineyard, Bennet Valley, 2010 Drouthy Neebor, Sonoma County, 2009 Drouthy Neebor, Sonoma County and the 2010 Samantha’s Vineyard, Russian River.  My favorite was the 2009 Drouthy Neebor.  It had a big fruity nose and was well balanced.  And, the price points are reasonable.

Sonoma was a really nice wine tasting experience.  Everyone we met was really nice, engaging and more than willing to carry a conversation and joke with us.  Can’t wait to go back.







Windy Oaks


Troya and I took a little time out from our weekend chores to attend the annual Pinot and food paring at Nicholson Vineyard this weekend. They have your standard Santa Cruz Mountain varietals, but specialize in Pinot Noir. Their wines started out very good and have been improving over the years, getting more refined and complex. I will not go into any great detail but tasting them side by side was a lot of fun and we were able to taste the nuances of each different Pinot.


On our way out we saw a sign for Windy Oaks Estate. We have tasted the other wines in the Coralitos area and have not been overly impressed, but had not been here before. Its a little bit of a drive, but if you are not rushed its beautiful. The winery itself is on an incredible property (picture above) with hiking trails to a point that you can look out to the ocean. They also specialize in Pinot Noir. Troya and I both enjoyed the tasting although she liked some different ones than I did. They are all classic SCM Pinots with subtle differences in flavor and smoothness (is that a word?). We would have been much more interested if their prices were more in range with the others in this area, $39-$60 being a little steep, but still work checking out.


2012 GMS tour of Paso Robles

Hill and Troya got us a deal on the hotels and Doc picked the wineries. All I had to do was show up. Doc decided to go tasting at wineries that made GSM’s (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) GSM blends are very popular in Paso.

First stop was Kukkula. My favorites were the Pas de deux, Aatto and Sisu. The 2010 Vaalea was lite and refreashing and at $22, a bargin. Kukkula wines range in price from $22 to $40. Their GSM blend is the Sisu. The 2007 Sisu at $30 is a good buy. On to Alta Colina. The 2010 Baja Colina Rhone Red is their GSM blend. They only made 225 case and it is reasonable priced at $28. I liked their 2010 Ann’s Block Petite Sirah but I thought it was over priced at $48. Next on the list was Villa Creek. My first impression was “expensive”. they have three GSM’s. 2010 Willow Creek Cuvee, 2010 Avenger and the 2007 High Road at $100. The High Road was my favorite but at $100???? Come on man. Next stop was Hearthstone. Their GSM is the 2008 Lodestone. It is 15% alc and I bought a bottle for $30. Hearthstone also has a 2010 Pearl that is 60% Roussanne and 40% Viognier. If you like white wines, you will enjoy the florals and butter cream texture. $26.

On a whim, we stopped at Windward. They only make Pinot Noir. We ended up leaving with two bottles of their 2008 Estate Monopole. We then headed to our last stop for the day, L”Aventure. L’Aventure’s GSM blends were the 2010 La Suite and the 2010 Cote a Cote. These are small production wines and they are priced at $75 and $85 respectively. I enjoyed all of their wines but I thought they were a little pricey. If you like Roses ,like I do, then you will like the two they make. They have a Sangiovese and a Grenache. I bought two of each.

We ended day one of our tour with dinner at Villa Creek Restaurant in downtown Paso Robles. I had the Lamb shank. Tender meat falling off of the bone and then it just melts in you mouth. Delicious.

We started day two at Kenneth Volk. One of our favorites. We picked up a bottle of the $36 2009 Tennat and the 2009 Mourvedre. One of my favorites was the 2009 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. But at $60, I thought it was over priced.  Niner Wine Estates was next on the list.  They did not have a GSM for tasting.  They have a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon for $32 that is very good.  Zenaida Cellars was next.  They have 13 wines on their tasting list.  Zenaida is one of the few wineries that have moved away from corked bottles.  The 2010 Wanderlust is their GSM.  I found it to be lite on the tongue with smooth texture.  We left the winery with bottles of their 2010 Wanderlust, 2009 Fire Sign (Cab Syrah Zinfandel blend), and the 2010 Zinfandel. After our enjoyable time at Zenaida, we set off for Pipestone.

Pipestone Vineyard is 100% solar and they use horses instead of tractors in their vineyard.  Their GSM is the 2008 Rhone Style Red wine.  It was fruity with hints of berries and aromas of red cherries.  At $32 I thought it was a little over priced but I did buy a bottle.  Next was Terry Hoage Vineyards.  What a find.  They had four wines on their tasting list.  2010 The Pick ( a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, counoise blend), 2010 The 46 (50% grenache, 50% Syrah), 2010 5 Blocks (Syrah, Mourvedre, grenache, cinsault blend), and the 2010 The Hedge (Syrah).  Terry Hoage is a small producer.  They only make 200-250 case of each varietal.  We loved their wines and we left with a bottle of each at $43 a bottle.

We headed back to town to try some of the tasting room around the town square.  If you like Spanish Varietals, you will love Bodegas Paso Robles.  We stopped in at Parrish Family Vineyard and tried their 2008 GSM Rhone blend.  It was nice but a little pricey at $34.

We spent the second night in Paso Robles at Cheval.  Troya and Hill hooked us up or this would have been out of our price range.  The rooms usually rent for $250 to $325 a night.  If you are one of those that can hang in that circle, I highly suggest you stay at Cheval.  We grabbed dinner from the cheese shop next door and we sat outside by a roaring fire, next to our room, and enjoyed good company and good wines.  A perfect end to a fun and enjoyable weekend.

Napa Valley Day out…..

We are in the road heading home after a great day and evening out in Napa…..
Started out with a cheese and wine pairing at Patz and Hall. Imagine a beautifully decorated salon with 5 glasses filled with delicious wine and a plate of tasty cheeses in front of you. Doc and I have done this a few times with our good friends who are members. Always a great start to a wine filled day. They have excellent pinots that are unique and can be drunk alone but even better paired. My favorite of this trip was the 2010 Chenoweth Pinot. Beautiful rich red color with tons of flavor.
Next up Artesa winery. I was not impressed especially for the prices. They had a sparkling that was good but worth half the price of what they were charging.
Caymus winery where we had an appointment was good but started out bad. First we were a few minutes late to our appointment, which we called to inform them we would be 5 or so minutes late. When we got there we were told to walk over to this one area where they would take us into the sit down tasting. While we were waiting we were greeted with a snobbish attitude of one of the women who worked there. She was pretty rude telling us that it had already started and we should just go to the regular pouring area. Then someone else came over and let us in to a freezing dark barrel room with a table that was set up. Three people were there getting started on their first glass of wine. Their saving grace was the host Jim. He was great with lots of personality and funny. He was knowledgeable and had a some good stories. My favorite was their pinot 2011 Belle Glos and 09 zin. We also bought their blend which was not open to taste but at 22 bucks a bottle and the way Jim described it we couldn’t pass it up. When we got back to the hotel later that day we tried it…..my regret is not buying more!
If it wasn’t for Jim I would have left without a purchase of anything no matter how great it was based on the way we were treated when we arrived. Jim saved the experience and now has brought in new fans of their wine.
Turnbull was next on the agenda…..a specific request of myself because the last time I had gone to Napa I loved it. Their private tasting room was not open due to the heater not working so we headed over to the regular tasting room. We were greeted by warm friendly girls who were great! Samantha, Abby and Monica. From what I remember at my last visit were some amazing reds. However, my favorite out of the tasting was their 2011 Oakville Viognier. Light, crisp with the apricot flavor that I enjoy so much when tasting a Viognier.
We had a few extra minutes left before having our car return us to our hotel so we made our way to Opus. I know I know Opus……freaking expensive right? Well it was. It’s such a beautiful place to visit and such an experience that is definitely worth trying once. To be honest it was a little late in our wine filled day to really discuss what we tasted. They were both red wines that were ok but not knock your socks off…..and if you are paying 45 dollars per tasting I expect some knock my socks off kinda action. No doubt they make some pretty amazing wines but it’s definitely not in our wine budget to become fans of their wine. Like I said a must stop for the experience.
Later we went to Morimoto for dinner. A great unique experience with some very tasty dishes. I don’t suggest the drinks…..mine tasted like a floral soap with jalapeño. Stick with saki or wine there.
After we were going to walk back but it became clear very fast it was way to cold to do that so we ducked into a bar to call for a ride. Fish Story was the name. The bartender was rude but she made some pretty good drinks.
We stayed at the Westin a good safe bet. It’s nice, clean with comfy beds. They have a very nice bar/lounge area.
The next morning we all met up for breakfast at Model Bakery a recommendation from the guy who drove us back to the hotel. All I can say is “wow”. If you are a bread person like I am this is heaven! Fresh made bread, pastries, cake. Their English muffins are amazing.
A few key points. Patz and Hall a must…great wine amazing presentation, Artesa a must skip, Caymus great wine poor customer service unless you get to deal with Jim, Opus if you want to spurge check it out. Morimoto if you enjoy sushi and delicate interesting food. Fish Story if you don’t mind rude zero personality bartenders but excellent drinks. Finally for amazing bread pastries and breakfast sandwiches Model Bakery is an absolute must!