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.







Sonoma, my new favorite place

I had never spent much time in Sonoma and it’s been many years since I’d been there so when Brax bought me a 2 night stay at the Best Western Sonoma for my birthday I was really excited.
On our drive into Sonoma on Sunday our first stop was Domaine Carneros for some sparkling wine. They offer several different sparkling wines as well as a Chardonnay and a few Pinot Noirs. I really enjoyed the Blanc de Noir, very fine bubbles, crisp fruit and dry. The tastings are done in flights and served out on the veranda of this beautiful estate.
Directly across from Domaine Carneros is Cuvaison which was our next stop since it was so conveniently located. Unbeknownst to us you’re supposed to make appointments…oopsie! The Pina, Patty, and Paul  were great, more than happy to let us taste even though we didn’t have an appointment. This is a very modern tasting room with a great view overlooking a large pond and vineyards. This was quite a pleasant surprise, as we found some really nice wines. The Sauvignon Blanc Solitaire was wonderful!!! Very crisp with lots of tropical fruit, not sweet. As Paul, the very nice gentleman pouring for us, put it…the Solitaire pairs well with a bikini. The Kite Tail Chardonnay was good too, the nose reminded me a bit of Lucky Charms, slightly marshmallow with a bit of butter. This is a well-balanced wine, not to buttery. The Estate Pinot Noir is rich with lovely dark fruit. The Syrah is a bit smokey, with black fruit and a hint of bacon. Lastly is the Cab, lots of dark fruit with some black tea, moderate tannins. We will definitely be bringing Doc and Troya for a visit!!
Last stop for the day was visiting Patz & Hall in their new home. Gorgeous tasting room with a great patio overlooking the vineyard and staff couldn’t be nicer. Ross, poured for us and was very knowledgeable and friendly. P&H never disappoints, both the Hyde Vineyard and Zio Tony Ranch Chardonnays were nice. I am not a huge Chardonnay fan but Hyde Vineyard is crisp and citrusy with a bit of richness while the Zio Tony Ranch has hints of butter with apple. But oooohhhh how I love the Pinots!!! The Jenkins Ranch has lots of red berries with slightest hint of pepper, soft finish. The Moses-Hall has cherry and big red fruit, almost jammie with rich texture. The Pisoni was just fruity, velvety, yumminess.
We headed for the hotel after Patz & Hall. The Best Western is obviously not a fancy hotel but it was very clean, comfortable, in a great location and allows dogs. We had dinner at The Red Grape, a frequently recommended spot. Very low-key pizza joint with a good menu, not just pizza.
The next morning we walked the dogs to a nice little dog park a few blocks off the square before we started our day of tasting. Around the square is several tasting rooms, boutiques and restaurants all within walking distance from our hotel. We initially were trying to go to Sojourn but it is by appointment only so we called and left a message. It was a Monday so we figured they may have been closed. We then headed to Schug Carneros Estate where we tasted a sparkling wine which I bought, the Chardonnay was fairly well-balanced, a little buttery. The Carneros Pinot Noir was good, fruit forward but light, where as the Schug Estate Pinot had lots of fruit but was a bit smokey with more minerality and tannins. The Cab Franc was a big, dark berried wine with firm tannins. Lastly was the Late Harvest Riesling, not syrupy, hints of honeysuckle, apricot and lemon.
Gloria Ferrer was the next stop since it was down the street from Schug. We ordered from a list of flights, 2 are bubbly flights and one was a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flight. I, of course, did the bubbly. My flight consisted of 2005 Royal Cuvee, crisp with pear and apple; Blanc de Noir, slight blush, hints of berries, slightly sweet; Va di Vi, very sweet because of the Muscat with hints of lemon. This is a beautiful location with nice patio to relax and overlook the valley.
On our way back into town we stopped at a roadside store called Angelo’s where we bought homemade beef jerky, salami and bacon…the spicy beef jerky was the winner.
We decided to stop at the Walt Winery tasting room in town. So glad we stopped here!! Jerry who was helping us was awesome and the wines were great!! The Blue Jay and Savoy Pinot Noir were my favorite but really all of the wines were very good. We then walked over to Vino Alley on the opposite side of the square to see if we could find Maclaren. Jerry had recommended it but we had also had the wines a few years ago in Healdsburg. It was getting late but we found Steven and his wife in their tasting room getting ready to close up shop when we walked in, much to their dismay I am sure!! But they were very gracious, brought back out the wines and poured us their lovely Syrahs. Our last stop was Sigh, a bubbly bar. They offered lots of choices of sparkling wines as well as Champagne.
For dinner we went with the most recommended restaurant, The Girl and the Fig. Super cute restaurant and bar with nice outdoor tented dining area that was heated. The food was really good and nicely priced.
As we headed out for home the next morning we went to breakfast at Community Café, delish!!! Need I say more?
I really, really enjoyed Sonoma. It is so low-key and easy-going as are the people who live and work there. Everyone was so friendly and not snooty. Next time I definitely want to do more around the square, there is so much to see, shop, eat, drink. As much as I like Napa I love Sonoma!!!