Monday, September 26, 2011

Twisted...Very Twisted

Day 9 of Wineapalooza... Sunday, July 31st

You think we'd be slowing down by now, but we weren't. Well, I was, but Chris wasn't so "we" weren't slowing down. (See how that worked?). Luckily though we had another fun day ahead. And guess what? There was more wine!

Our first stop was at a fantastic winery called Twisted Oak in Murphy's (yes, that's the wine region/ town). I loved even the drive up to the winery, it's a twisty, dirt road with fun little signs posted along the way that say ridiculously funny things...none of which I was awake/smart enough to write down.

Then there is the tasting room...filled with crazy rubber chickens and other sundry gift and crazy items. (I did buy a hoodie t-shirt that asks "Are you Twisted?")

The tasting room staff was however, not just fun but knowledgeable. Which was important because we started our day with a whopping 11 wines tasted there! The favorite (I know this because it has 3 stars by it in Chris's wine notebook) was the Calaveras River of Skulls Mourvedre (their website lists the recommended food pairing as "dead people"...they are kidding; they're like that.) This was some good stuff. Also among our favorites, the 2009 Ruben's Blend (Roussanne/ Marsanne/ Grenache blend) and the 2009 Carignane. The tasting room is definitely worth the visit and luckily, the wines live up to that!

 Alas, we had to be on our way...after all, by this point we'd only tasted 227 wines!

Next stop...Chathom Vineyards.

We picked this one because they produce a wine with a "She Wine" label that donates to women's health causes (including breast cancer) but also because they had some interesting wines. And...they had a very good Touriga! Remember, that's my new favorite? What? You don't remember that? Have you been drinking while reading these blog posts??? 2007 Chatom Touriga...remember it. And drink it! We also found these most delectable "wine crackers" there...we're researching where to get more. They were super, super tasty.

We managed to squeeze in one more winery in Murphy's...Irish Family Vineyard. But Russell Irish and his family...well, they deserve their own posting. And they will have it! Later this week. Or tomorrow. You just never know with me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Like HIgh School...with More Wine

Day 8 continued....

To no one's surprise, we did not make up for any of our lost time at Cline  (seriously, look how long it's taken me to blog about can then imagine how long it takes me to actually do these things). We were running even further behind and then managed to get lost on our way to pick up another of my high school friends, Terri Hamilton, in Sacramento. Do you think it was the wine? Nah. That's just crazy talk.

We made it to Terri's, raced in, disturbed her dog Cuervo (you don't even need to ask, do you?), used her "facilities" and headed to the next winery....Bray Winery in Amador Creek. Remember, our point was to hit some of the lesser know wine regions. And that's Amador Creek.

We encountered another she-pack (minus the tiaras), but we understood why. They have a wine called "Brayzen Hussie." Cute, no? Also good.

Robin Bray himself was our guide through 13 of their wines! 13! Which brought our total wines tasted to....199. You know what's next, right? But first, let me tell you our Brayzen favorites. ... the 2008 Barbera was tasty ("spicier noes, creamy berries--dark strawberry to raspberry, bright with some heat" per Chris's unedited notes). the 2007 Vinho Tinto was a fun "violet-y" wine with some blueberriness (blame me for this description...not Chris), and of course the 2010 Brayzen Hussie Blonde was full of lime and grapefruit, with a hint of grass (which, I'm sure you know by now, makes perfect sense since it's a Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier blend).  Also, the 2006 Barbera Port was delicious...particularly served with the dark chocolate brownies (with a little port mixed in). Tastiness abounds.

Then we were off.  We had no appointments after Bray on this day and were just going to explore. We wound up choosing Shenandoah Vineyards as the scene for our 200th wine tasted. And here we are, 200 wines in...
I know.  We're looking like we tasted all 200 wines that morning. It's possible we're tired at this point.

And here we are with Terri:
See how much fresher she looks than we do? Right, she's 187 wines behind us.
Oh, and what was our 200th wine? It was Shenandoah Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.  I liked the 2010 Chenin Blanc/ Viognier blend better, but that's not the order they poured.

After Shenondoah we hit Jeff Runquist's tasting room. Chris has been a fan of his wines and has met him at wine events, so we stopped by unannounced. Um, yeah, busy tasting room! Lots o' people love Jeff Runquist wines and there's a reason for that. It's not just because of the buxom blondes hanging out there.

 It was also for the wines. Some very, very good wines. (See all those ribbons? Ribbons= good wines. Or horse shows.)

In this case though, it was definitely the wine. We tasted 8. And the hands down favorite was the 2009 Touriga Naccanal  (Alta Mesa-Lodi). Chris's notes say, among other things, "highly drinkable." Not just drinkable, people. Highly drinkable. At this point, I need to call it---my favorite newly discovered grape from this trip is Touriga. Any time we found a winemaker who made a Touriga wine, we tasted it and they were fabulous! The 2009 Carignane was also delicious, rose on the nose with a tart cherry mouth and a really long finish.  We finished out our day with tapas and Sangria.
Important totals on this trip...4 friends visited, 26 wineries visited, 216 wines tasted,  580 miles traveled (on the way down from Portland...why count the flying?). 4 days left. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

In-Cline-d To Stay Awhile

Day 8 of Wineapalooza: Saturday July 30, 2011

[Note in "real" time...I've failed miserably at blogging every day about this trip. I've failed miserably at blogging every other day about this trip. In fact, I'm close to being two months behind in telling about this fabulous trip. And actually, there's been a lot going on in "real life" currently, (mostly having to do with the memoir!) but I can't tell anything publicly just yet, so it's probably a good thing that I've got a few days of the trip left to blog about. Don't get me wrong, it was a fabulous trip--I hope you can tell that--I'm just bursting at my proverbial seams to tell you some other stuff!!]

Meanwhile, back at the wine tasting wineapalooza... we woke up on day 8 with a busy schedule ahead of us. Not surprisingly, I got us off to a late start. By the time we arrived at our first stop, Cline Cellars, the crowds had descended. Bus loads of 'em. To be honest, we almost didn't go in. Not that we're wine snobs....we're more wine tasting snobs. I don't like to taste wine while climbing over  giggling she-packs in tiaras shouting things like "I only drink red!" or "I want champagne!" (particularly since, if one is not at a winery in France, in, say, the Champagne region, the proprietor is not going to be pouring you champagne. Sparkling wine, yes. So don't be thinking you're all fancy shouting things like that, blondie at the bar. Also....wear underwear.) So yes, we were hesitant. There were literally (used properly!) buses of people there...most of whom did not look old enough to drink. But we had an appointment, so we went in.

And Dog bless them, they were ready for us. Our guide quickly whisked us away from the bussies and off on a private tour of the gorgeous grounds of Cline Vineyards. Turns out there is a California Missions museum there and if you  grew up in California and were Catholic or went to a public school before Prop 13 destroyed school budgets for things like this, you likely toured several of the missions and definitely you made a model of one of the missions (Chris recalls that he made a model of San Miguel; I can recall what mine looked like, but not which mission it was...I'm older; I blame that. Chris was only making his paper mache' mission a few years ago!), so you understand how nostalgic this would make us. The mission museum may have accounted for one of the buses of underage folks.

This is the Santa Barbara mission; not my model or Chris's, but I did go to U.C. Santa Barbara, so that's the one that got the photo taken.

The grounds (where weddings take place on a regular basis for obvious reasons) may have accounted for another bus or two (the water lilies up top are also from the Cline grounds).

Nonetheless, we were very pleased to see they had set us up for a private tasting at a table out on the porch, removed from the bussies at the bar.
The wines were very enjoyable. We bought their 2010 Marsanne Roussanne blend and the 2010 Cashmere (a Mouvedre,Grenache & Syrah blend). The Cashmere I'm particularly happy with because it's a great wine, but also, they donate a percentage of the profits to a local breast cancer charity. Gotta love that!

So, the moral of the story is...don't judge by the buses out front. Cline is worth the stop. Just look how happy Chris was to be there and see how well he makes friends?

Next up... we head to Sacramento and the Amador County wineries (Sierra Foothills).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going to The Dogs

Day 7 (Part 2) of Wineapalooza.

You may have noticed I have a thing about dogs. And also about wine. So imagine how giddy I was to be going to Mutt Lynch winery! Because they have a thing about dogs and wine too. They're dog friendly (oh how I wished Seamus could have been on this trip!), they have dogs in the tasting room, dogs on the labels, and dogs on the brain. They also contribute to many dog organizations (pet rescue, adoption, etc.) and donate their wines for non-profit fundraisers for animal organizations. Basically, they're a wonderful bunch. And I'm pleased to tell you the wine is pretty darn good too!

Our tasting room guide was Ann Joly  who is also a breast cancer survivor... and dog lover... and wine lover! Clearly we're BFFs. And yet, we took her photo with Chris...
And then she was nice enough to take our photo (Chris and I, like most vacationing couples, rarely are in the same photo):
(And come on...we look pretty god for having, at this point, tasted 168 wines in 7 days don't we? Don't we?  Yeah, hold that thought...).

So what did we like at Mutt Lynch? Trying to be a little more particular than "Everything!", I'd have to say it was the 2009 Fou Fou Le Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc), the 2007 Portrait of a Mutt (Zinfandel and Carignane blend), and I'm gonna also say the 2009 Unleashed Chardonnay. Oooh, and the 2007 Chateau D'og Cabernet. Bottles found there way into our trusty wine-mobile.

Yep, Day 7 was a great day. And it kept on getting better when we stopped in at Hawkes Winery and it's gorgeous tasting room. 

We met briefly (it was getting late) with the winemaker Jake Hawkes (isn't that a cool name, btw?) and he handed Chris a "six pack" of wines to take to try later. These were his hand-selected, specialty wines made from the Forgotten Grapes that Chris specializes in. We haven't tried all of them yet (did I mention we came home with 106 bottles? Right...we haven't drank them all yet!), but I'm pretty certain they're fabulous.

Dinner at Zazu with a good friend of mine from law school wrapped up our perfect day!
(7 days down, 5 more to go. 173 wines tasted...153 more to go...)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Still Wine-ing!

Yes, I realize it's taking me longer to blog about the epic mother of all wineapalooza trips than it actually took Chris and I to do the trip. All I can say is....there's been a lot going on. Including many interesting book related things that must all remain top secret and mysterious for the moment.  I might start to skip around a bit and just hit some of the many highlights of the trip. And one major highlight was day 7 starting with our visit  Frick Winery.
This was hands down one of our favorite wineries of the trip. There were several reasons for that: 1) Bill Frick is a passionate, brilliant winemaker; 2) his beloved dogs (although now passed on) are featured prominently in the artwork in the winery; 3) Frick wines are freakin' fabulous. We love alllllll of them. If you ever see a Frick Vineyard wine on a wine list or in a shop, do yourself a favor and pick it up. He has several Forgotten Grapes varietals including Granache Blanc, and his Cinsault/Carignane blend (C2) is fabulous, as is the 2006 Carignane. Chris particularly loved the 2007 Dry Creek Valley Cinsault. Tasty, tasty stuff. And if you ever find yourself in Healdsburg for a weekend, stop by Frick. You won't be sorry! And yes, that's Bill behind the tasting bar.

We were on a roll on Day 7 because our next stop was Papapietro Perry Winery in Healdsburg.  They're known for their Pinot Noir and actually helped me seduce Chris many years ago (not that he was playing hard to get). I knew Pinot Noir was one of his favorite wines and I picked up a bottle of Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir to serve the first time Chris came to my house. I don't think he's ever left. ;-)  This time my favorite was the Russian River Valley Peter's Vineyard Pinot Noir (we tasted the 2008, but I suspect they've got a few good vintages of this!).

Hmmm...even this "I'll just hit the highlights" approach isn't working too well. This trip was full of highlights! I didn't even get to tell you about the malfunctioning smoke alarm in the hallway of the hotel we were in, or the fact that I slept in and let Chris head off to one winery by himself on the morning of Day 7 (I blame the malfunctioning smoke alarm, by the way).  But, I definitely can't leave out our visit to Mutt Lynch. So once again....this day gets divided into 2 posts. No promises on when the next one will be (did I mention there's a lot going on currently?? Oh. So. Much.) Should be this week though.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Ass Blondes..with Butterflies

Day 6, Part 2: July 28, 2011

Anytime I use "Butterflies" in a posting, I get all sorts of hits. And I find that odd. Who needs to research butterflies so voraciously? (Oh, and that's my shameless confession that this post has nothing to do with butterflies--but there is a big ass blonde. It's back to the wine! Now there's a word that should be Googled constantly...)

Alrighty then, before I was so handsomely distracted by Vernon Wells and the Angels, I was reminiscing about Day 6 of wineapalooza. We had just left Steele Vineyards...

and headed to Hopland. Not one of your better known wine regions, but it sure was pretty. And we once again were able to meet with some very nice people and sample some very nice wines. (And yes, after the 15 Steel wines we were still able to stand upright. Mostly.)

At Graziano Winery we tasted another 12 wines. (Counting? That makes 34 on this day alone...124 total...). Favorites were:

2010 St. Gregory Pinot Blanc and  the 2007  Monte Volpe Barbera

It's like we drank every one of these...
See? he's still standing upright!

Then we moved on to McNab Rigdge and their large and pretty tasting room in town. They have dog labels on their, you know I'm gonna love it. Fav was Tine's White--a Gewurztraminer.

Our last stop was at Milano Family Winery where owner Deanna Starr (not to be confused with Judy Starr of Starr relation; just two women winemakers and great wine from both of them!). They went one better than dogs on their labels...they had 'em in the tasting room. (That's her dogs in the top photo, looking fierce.)  We enjoyed the Carignane, the Petit Verdot and, since it was our last stop and evening time...a tawny port.  But, um, they did have a wine that I took a special liking to, for no apparent reason, none at all....
We served this at a party recently and it was very popular!

In the interest of fairness, I should tell you there is also a "Big Ass Red." Clever marketing, but the wine is good too.
After all that...we headed down to Healdsburg for the night. Rumor has it there's some wine around that region.

(Total wines tasted at this point:  136)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Angels

A brief interruption of wineapalooza (I may have adult onset ADD). But I simply must share my new discoveries.

Last night we went to the Angels game and were lucky enough to have tickets for one of the Dugout Suites (courtesy of Bank of America).  And here's the highlights of my fan-tabulous-evening.

First, when one has super special dugout suites tickets, one takes a super-secret, special, security-covered elevator down to the dugout level. Once there, one can go to their dugout suite or roam about to see things like this:

That's Vernon Wells at batting practice (yes, I'm taking the photo through glass--we can see them, they can't see us). Let's just say I'm a fan. A big fan. (Thinking I now know what name will be on my next Angels jersey; but Chris says I better hurry....wonder what that means??)

Our seats were here:
Chris, enjoying the game

Would it surprise you to know the suites have catering and a mini-bar stocked with wine, beer and sodas?

 Or, for a different view, you can look here. See the camera guy back at home base? Look to his right (your left) see the dugout level where there are two bottles of water seemingly sitting on the ground? That's our water. We're not there of course, because I'm out on the field taking this very picture. More on that in a bit....
During the game, every player we watched at batting practice (Wells, Trumbo and Bourjos) hit a home run. Am I a lucky charm or what?? Trumbo actually hit a grand slam--his first in major league. I'm pretty sure my thank you card is in the mail.
Vernon Wells. Did I mention I'm a fan?

I did manage a photo of someone other than Mr. Wells

the grand slam in action

 There is also a dessert cart. I'm not that big on desserts, but man oh man, look at that thing!
So I picked out a red velvet cupcake...and a shot of Bailey's served in a dark chocolate cup. Not a bad way to enjoy a game.

Angels won 10 to 6 (against the Minnesota Twins). But our evening wasn't over. Turned out it was also the last night of the Angels Summer Concert series. And with our dugout suite tickets we also got wristbands to head on out on the field to watch the final concert....which turned out to be Ne-Yo.

All I knew about Ne-Yo I had learned a few nights ago when I saw him perform on the MTV music awards with a guy named Pit Bull. But I liked the song. And we'd had wine. And a great evening. So what the heck, we went down onto the field.

Let me just say right now, I became a fan. Loved every song AND he was an awesome, charming, entertaining performer. I was pleasantly surprised (generally, I don't do crowds or concerts and I'm not that into music...what with being tone deaf and having, usually, no taste whatsoever).  Me love some Ne-Yo...almost as much as Me love some Vernon Wells.

His dancers are known as the "Mrs. Smiths" which we found darn funny

Did he steal that from Taylor Swift? And is there a naked guy standing in the seats in the back???
I had a great evening.
But, still...I think we all know who my favorite Angels are....
The  morning after.