Anyone following me on Twitter knows that my favorite wine varietal is pinot noir. As my Barrel Tasting posting stated, “It wasn’t until I discovered this varietal that I started drinking and loving wine.” It has been an inspiration as well as my “gateway drug” into other bolder wines, like a yummy Petite Verdot, a sometimes overpowering Syrah or my recently love for Malbec’s (all thanks to Mounts Family Vineyard & Kokomo Winery).
The Wikapedia article on these grape states:
Pinot noir (IPA: [pi.no.'nwaʁ]) is a red wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black” alluding to the varietals’ tightly clustered dark purple pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Being lighter in style, it has benefited from a trend toward more restrained, less alcoholic wines. Robert Parker has described pinot noir in Parker’s Wine Buying Guide:
“When it’s great, Pinot noir produces the most complex, hedonistic, and remarkably thrilling red wine in the world…”
There has been a recent epidemic of blog postings that have been critical of the lack of customer service that a few wineries have provided, including two recent ones from me (here and here). With the ever-expanding blog posts about everything from what people had for breakfast to the wine they drank before going to bed, the internet is a haven for people to write about their daily experiences. It is also a fact that people talk more about their bad experiences than their good ones. Online and during their everyday lives.
I was told by one of my male friends that my posts as of late have been a bit pessimistic and that I should write about something pleasurable and not just promotions or brands that upset me. Though I don’t believe him, especially looking at the overwhelming exceptional customer service I received (and wrote about) from my favorite wineries over the past two Barrel Tasting weekends, I figured I would take a look at some places I have been to recently that I think have the right idea. Two Sonoma County restaurants instantly came to mind.
Jack and Tony’s Whisky Bar- They opened up in Railroad Square in downtown Santa Rosa last month, but local Sonoma County chef, Jack Mitchell (of Sassafrass) knows that a good restaurant is nothing without a great staff who is dedicated to providing a memorable experience. They literally rolled out the red carpet for their customers this past Wednesday. It was their Grand Opening celebration and no matter how cheesy it sounds, the party was in fact Grand.
A limo drove guests from the Santa Rosa Hyatt and dropped them off at the front door. Here guests were greeted by a red carpet and a smiling Jack saying “thank you” for coming. For part of the day, a paparazzi style photographer snapped candid photos, the mayor showed up for a ribbon cutting ceremony and they gave away free appetizers. The drinks were delicious and the garlic parmesan fries were cooked perfectly.
Jack personally went from table to table to greet each of his guests and to chat for a bit. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up this level of great customer service, but as Jack told me “He had the best restaurant staff to choose from in Sonoma County,” so look for people who know what they are doing.
Bovolo Restaurant- One several different wine tasting occasions, myself and a group of wild women have entered into Bovolo (behind Copperfield’s on the Healdsburg Square) to dine on their infamous mac and cheese and carbonara dishes. Other than my friends being obsessed with the handmade bacon, we go there because they offer free corkage for locals and I have a bit of a crush on one of the staff members at the cash register. I like that you order off the menu at the cash register and you go to sit down, it brings a more informal vibe to the place.
We tend to get a bit rowdy, so instead of yelling (which has happened at various restaurants or hotels), the staff will come in the back and simply ask us to keep it down. I understand that sometimes we need to be reminded to use our inside voices, but asking us nicely goes much further than coming back and acting like we are ruining your life.
(Bovolo picture taken from Google Images)
Both of these restaurants have proven to me on more than a few occasions that it is the simple things that create an experience worth coming back for.
Saturday March 14th was the big Barrel Tasting event for me. This time I was to be accompanied by my local Sonoma County group of friends, as well as some out of town wine blogging/twitter friends, including @Robbin_G, @Winebratsf, @BrixChick_Liza, @MmWine, and local friends @Oenophilus and @SonomaWineGuy.
We made the stops in Dry Creek Valley at the usual suspects, including Truett Hurst, Papapietro Perry, Kokomo Winery and Michel-Schlumberger. My non-wino friends had a great time at all of my favorite wineries, laughing at the glasses from TH or loving the mystery barrel (and winemakers) at Kokomo and especially the photoshoot in the rows of barrel at MS. They all loved the wine too, thus cementing each winery into my winery hall of fame (to be mentioned at a later date).
The one thing all four of my favorites have in common (other than the Dry Creek location) is that each winery has their own style of Pinot Noir. All delicious in their own way, but all very different with wines that range from lighter fruity flavors like the 2005 Pinot Noir from MS to the robust raspberry flavor of the Pinots at PP (specifically the Elsbree Vineyards).
Pinot has been my one true wine love for some time. It wasn’t until I discovered this varietal that I started drinking and loving wine. After years of living in Oceanside, Ca and having a roommate that would always drink heavy Zins from Ravenswood, I discovered the joy of a lighter wine in the La Creama 2003 Pinot. Of course the movie Sideways came out a few years later and I couldn’t order a glass of wine without someone asking me about that movie. Five years later, this wine has grown in popularity and the amount of vineyards growing this grape just keeps on getting larger. This only fuels my love for this grape.
The two Sonoma County appellations that grow some of the best (IMO) grapes are the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. The fog provides the perfect blanket for these demanding grapes.
Saturday night was the second “big event.” My first ever Twitter Taste Live where I would be able to stream live with Matt from A Good Time with Wine on the #TTL website trying none-other than my favorite wines…. Yes, it was a Passion for Pinot night on #TTL.
About 15 wine bloggers met up at Palette Art Café in Healdsburg (Great food and FREE WIFI), socialized, ate some dinner and drank many different Pinots. Unfortunately after a long day of Barrel Tasting and a stolen iPhone, I had to leave early (I am so sorry I wasn’t able to stay).
Sunday morning I was up and ready to tackle my very last day of Barrel Tasting. This time I was caffeined up and excited to hit some new wineries in the Russian River Valley. I met up with Danelle (aka @daynell), fellow wine bloggers (see above) and Samantha Vega from 101.7 The Fox (aka @1017TheFox) at Joseph Swan. Here we tried some pretty good samples of Zins. After leaving, Danelle, Samantha and I got lost for the rest of the group… And with no cell reception and an apparent lack of knowledge of the area, we ended up not being able to find Olivet Road to meet up with the posse.
This adventure led us to Westside Road where we passed by two friends of mine who were frantically waving at the passing cars, trying to persuade people to visit the Thomas George Estates (formally the Davis Bynum tasting room). Of course, I had to stop.
Here we sampled two delicious Pinots. One where I am coming out and saying was the best (in the barrel) Pinot Noir I had all weekend. – This was an 2008 Lancel Creek Russian Rover Valley Pinot. A perfect blend of strawberries with a hint of cherry. It wasn’t too dark or too light… I guess I would have to call it “just right.” It even paired perfectly with my vegetarian tamale that they were serving.
This new winery is definitely worth checking out. Their tasting room currently pours several different Pinots, reminding any visitor that the Russian River appellation is a great place to visit and drink some great Pinot Noir.
Barrel Tasting this past Sunday was supposed to be day # 2 of new adventures and discoveries… Basically, an extension of the agenda from Saturday.
The Copain tasting room is located on top of a hill on Eastside Road, directly across from the recreation park. It is the only winery that I know of that is on that stretch of the road, so people will most likely only visit through word of mouth or because they were simply driving past it. I only heard about it because they recently joined Twitter.
This posting is my attempt to start the word of mouth on this place (actually I mean continue the WOM) and let people know that if they want to taste some great Anderson Valley pinots, a Russian River GSM blend and a place to have a picnic and enjoy THE BEST VIEW from a winery - Then they should make sure to stop on by the Copain tasting room.
When Thea finally got bored with me taking pictures of the view, we headed over to Mill Creek Winery. I am not going to waste my time to write much about this place because it was neither good nor bad. It was nothing worth going back for IMO.
The next stop: Michel-Schlumberger (aka @M_Schlumberger) to visit Judd Wallenbrock, the President, General Manager and head blogger at their award winning blog – The Benchland Blog. Judd and crew have seemed to perfect the art of barrel tasting weekend. Visitors are instantly greeted by Judd and given an explanation of where you should go and a brief history of the winery. Then guests travel through the cellar to taste out of the barrels, then into the next room to try already bottled wines, then lastly into their main tasting room. This is where my friend Joe(y) poured us some wines that go back to 1989. Of course Thea and I had to purchase the last case of 2001 Dry Creek Valley Pinot Noir (yes, I said it… There is one winery that does make Dry Creek Pinot). After trying some aged Pinots and Cabs, we made out way into the wine club members tasting room and ended up drinking more Pinot on a picnic bench while discussing wine, social media and Judd’s new discovery of TwitPic.
Then we were onto Mounts Family Winery (aka @MountsFamWinery). It is off the same beaten road as Michel-Schlumberger, in the middle of a vineyard. Blink on West Dry Creek road and you will miss it. But this is a small family winery that you shouldn’t miss out on. Lana greets her visitors with a smile that let’s you know she is committed to customer service. Their Malbec out of the barrel was very tasty as well.
Around 4:30, a half hour after the official ending time of the event, Thea and I decided that we were most certainly not done yet. If you know anything about Thea and me, you know that to be the truth. We headed over to harass Jim at Truett Hurst once again. Here we tried some Petit Verdot and talked Jim’s ear off for an hour or so.
All together a perfect day, regardless of the fact that we were wine-napped by Judd and strayed WAY off our agenda…. Oh, wait… There is always next weekend.
One of the biggest events in Sonoma County is the two weekend extravaganza (aka drunk fest) that is Northern California Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting Weekend around Healdsburg, Ca. The first two weekends in March provide visitors the chance to sample wines straight from barrel, pre-purchase the wine (called futures) before it is bottled and meet the winemakers.
Barrel Tasting weekend is a true celebration of spring in Wine Country: the mustard flowers are in full bloom, the sun is usually out for the first time and tourists & locals are running around in short sleeved shirts with red stained teeth. It is the first event of the year that the wineries roll out the barrels and open up their cellars to the sunlight.
Thea Dwelle, her mother and I headed out into the wilds of the Sonoma County wine roads with an agenda:
- To show Thea’s mom some of her favorite wines and wine people.
- To visit new wineries we haven’t been to.
- To visit our Winery Twitter friends.
Dry Creek Wineries: Papapietro Perry, Kokomo, Peterson, Truett Hurst (aka @truetthurst) and Sbragia.
Saturday morning was spent visiting some favorites including, Papapietro Perry, Kokomo, and Truett Hurst. All the barrel samples from these favorites did not disappoint. Kokomo Winery even had a delicious special “Mystery Sample” for visitors to guess the varietal. Winemaker, Erik Olsen even gave us a clue (a Bordeaux variety). Thea did eventually get it. If you really want to know the varietal, ask me in the comments.
Jim Morris at Truett Hurst made us laugh with his “X-Ray” glasses (aka polarized lenses to look into the creek for salmon), feed us some tri-tip and let us try some of their own zinfandels.
We also visited Sbragia where they seemed to not have enough people working to handle the massive amounts of people visiting the winery. We tried some unmemorable Zin and left.
Alexander Valley Wineries: Route 128, Jimtown (for lunch) Hawkes Wine’s (aka @hawkeswine) and Stuhlmuller.
Route 128 is a newly opened tasting room in downtown Geyserville. They are still very small so they were not participating in Barrel Tasting, but they poured some pinot for us anyways.
The folks from Sonoma County Tourism Bureau (aka @InsideSonoma) suggested a pairing of Jimtown General Store’s infamous chocolate pudding with one of Hawkes Wine’s Cabernets. The pairing did not disappoint. The 2007 Pyramid Cabernet Sauvignon went perfectly with the rich chocolate pudding. Good thing the two are right next to each other.
Healdsburg Wineries: Newly opened Hudson Street Wineries (Bluenose, Owl Ridge, Teira, Windsor Vineyards, etc), Holdredge, Camilla (where @Cellardiva was pouring), Sapphire Hill.
These wineries are all smaller with limited cases and I would have to say, I was not as impressed with them. It was the end of the day when we stopped by here, so my experience could have been a bit jaded because of the massive amounts of people. I would like to stop by Camilla and Sapphire Hill again.
Altogether, I couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday to spend wine tasting to experience some old favorites and new adventures.
Just a day after reading about a friend’s lack of acknowledgment at Napa sparkling wine maker Domain Chandon, I was asked by a friend of mine to visit the Korbel tasting room to pick up some Zinfandel (yes, Korbel does make some wine).
I tweeted about my experience, briefly saying that
When I asked the older tasting room attendant if she ever gets any wine bloggers in the tasting room, I was greeted with not only a blank stare, but she almost looked insulted like I was speaking to her in a different language that she was supposed to figure out. She asked me what a blogger was and when I told her it was a person who wrote about wine online, she still continued her blank stare and simply said no.
Okay fine, this tasting room person was clearly a different generation and my experience was mediocre enough to not give it a second thought afterward. Expect I live in a world that is centered around the internet and my mind was on the Domain Chandon experience that I just missed out on. Interesting enough — several hours after tweeting about my experience, and even drinking a bottle of their zin at home (saying it was pretty good) I read an article in the Press Democrat about how Korbel is suing Comcast to make Comcast identify “internet customers” who criticized the wine company on Craigslist.
Without turning this post into a debate over freedom of speech or even talking about what was said about Korbel on the postings (read about that in the article), I will say that I think Korbel is going about this all wrong.
This incident happened a year ago and I remember reading it in the Press Democrat, not really thinking too much about it. Untrue (or possibly true) and unflattering things are said about brands online and offline everyday. While I do agree that those who said the slanderous allegations should not be allowed to remain anonymous… It is how a brand handles the negative PR that matters. I think if Korbel simply dismissed the allegations as false than I wouldn’t be here talking about them or my experience in the tasting room (they were playing the Bodyguard soundtrack from the early 90′s). Instead their reaction to the allegations was to sue Comcast to get the names of the people who created the postings, just so they can sue them for slander. This is not a good PR move, it makes them look guilty and it brings on more negative attention.
This got me thinking about Korbel and if they even have an online strategy…. It isn’t like I hear that much about Korbel within the wine-blogging community and in my daily marketing promotions emails. Their website, though saying brand new, is already out of date and to have their flash version open in another screen is not only unnecessary, it is annoying.
It is interesting that their site has a forum that currently isn’t working. Their Perfect Proposal Promotion link is currently not working as well.
Altogether, my perceived image of them is that they are out of date, and Korbel people, if you are reading this (which I hope you are because it means you at least have done something right online aka Google Alerts) these are not allegations, just one person’s experience at your beautiful, yet boring tasting room. I am a fan, especially of your blanc de noir sparkling wine. And, hey, if you need some online publicity help, call me… It is what I do.
I am just sitting in Palette Art cafe, enjoying their free wifi and drinking a soy mocha. Not much to say, but I feel like writing (and trying not to over think the proposal that I need to write).
The song “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman just started playing which instantly brings a rush of nostalgic happiness. This one song can sum up my entire high school life. The memory of after school in 9th grade with my group of girlfriends is still a strong image that will always stay with me. Back in the day before the internet, itunes and right when CD’s were becoming the norm; we would sit in front of the stereo and call into our favorite “Top 40″ radio station to request “Fast Car” everyday, sometimes even several times each night. We would all giggle profusely when our voice would come on the radio requesting the song, usually forgetting to attempt to tape the song because we were also singing and dancing at the top of our lungs to the poetic words.
You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove
Even though the song is about a couple wanting to move INTO the suburbs, the lyrics of the song seemed to also fit with what we saw as our teenage girl, middle class, suburban angst. We just wanted to get away from the redundancies of life. Our parents, siblings, heartbreak, homework. We wanted to “finally see what it means to be living.” We wanted to “be someone, be someone, be someone.”
Unfortunately – We were only fourteen. Only two years to go until we could proudly state our independence and freedom, until we could legally get in a fast car and drive away…
Fourteen years later, anytime I hear this song in my car, I turn up the radio full blast and sing at the top of my lungs. I don’t feel the same angst as I once did, but it is still nice to get away sometimes. Driving and singing at the top of my lungs still does it for me.
After a very warm and dry January, we finally are getting some rain in Sonoma County. Usually during this brief rainy season, us Northern Californians tend to hibernate a bit. So while there have been a few events going on, I haven’t really been to to much of them. Maybe because of the economy, maybe the rain, maybe nothing has really caught my eye.
Whatever my reasoning, there are a few things I am looking forward to as we move onto early Spring (it always feels as if Spring starts early here).
This past Wednesday I visited Napa for a presentation given by Paul Mabray of Vintank, a new Wine Marketing Think Tank. Here he discussed their introductory project, a social media report about the state of the online wine industry. I am looking forward to seeing the study when it comes out at the end of the month (okay, this may not be a physical event YET, but it is social media — so it is an event in my eyes).
Mr. Healdsburg is one of the best annual events in our little town. The event is at the Raven Theater on Saturday February 28th (yes, one week from today).
Start Time: 8pm, doors 7pm
Adults: $25 advance, $30 door – 21 and older only!
Guys from all ages, occupations and popularity participate in a beauty pageant to win the title of Mr. Healdsburg. It is a great event that the whole town gets a little kooky for. Be warned – the bars tend to have huge crowds of people after the show! This year will also be the first that my friend, Samantha Vega, DJ at 101.7 The Fox, will be hosting.
Barn Diva, an amazing restaurant and cocktail lounge just started up Healdsburg’s only dance scene. Every Friday night (if everyone is behaved) they will be pushing back the tables and playing some great music. Perfect place to dance, eat some late night food and enjoy great drink specials with your friends. When it gets a bit warmer and dryer, they have a gorgeous back patio that will provide more room to play.
Here is a shot of the bar taken from last week’s event. As you can see, my Twisted rubber chicken is always around.
Now onto the event that in my eyes seems to trumpet over all — Yes it is the Annual Barrel Tasting weekend here in Healdsburg. For two, count them, TWO whole weekends in March, visitor’s and locals alike will be able to visit all the wineries in Dry Creek, Alexander Valley and the Russian River valley and try samples of wine, straight out of the barrels.
This give wineries the advantage of selling their wines before they are even released. Though the wine fairly ever tastes the same six months later — It is a great way to get to know the people who make the wine and have some fun.
Okay, before this post gets too long and you get bored with me (like that is even a possibility) I will say that this event is March 7-8 & 14-15 from 11 am – 4 pm each day. The price is $20 PER weekend.
Online tickets will be sold January 23 through March 1 for $20 per person. At the door, the price will be $30 per person.
Since this is one of my favorite events — Be on the lookout for a few more postings before, possibly during and definitely after the event.
The January Wine Blogging Wednesday challenge has left me taking a deep look at my morning habits. El Jefe of Twister Oak Winery (yes, the winery with the infamous Rubber Chicken) asked us to pair a glass of wine with breakfast. A great and difficult concept that has finally got me excited for a WBW challenge.
On a normal weekday I wake up, check my email, play a round of Scrabble on Facebook and then I GET OUT OF BED. This method isn’t necessarily unproductive. Actually, it is a nice change of pace from the years of having to jump out of bed, quickly get ready and run off to work at 8AM. Though it leaves me with an unsettling feeling like I am missing something. Maybe because I do all of this while half asleep.
I usually eat my breakfast of either a packet of oatmeal or an English muffin and peanut butter and a cup of Yerba Mate tea when I get into work.
This week marked my first week back in college. I decided to take a PR class at the Santa Rosa Junior College on Tuesday and Tuesday mornings which means that now my morning habits will have to include some type of breakfast so I don’t go broke and fat from grabbing a chocolate croissant every morning.
My new goal is to get out of bed, make breakfast, shower and then get on my laptop to answer emails and eat my breakfast — away from the comforts of my comfy bed.
As I ponder if my attempt to change my breakfast habits will actually play out in the long run, my mind wanders back over to wine and what breakfast items wine pairs with. El Jefe did say that any sparkling wine would not work with this challenge because it is too easy.
The recipe I decided to go with is adaptation of one from ChooseVeg.com. A Vegan “Bacon”, Potato, and Green Onion Frittata. I have been been one to follow direction, nor did I want to eat “baco’s” I changed the recipe slightly.
Since I have been harassed constantly about bacon over the last few months (on Twitter, Facebook and even in real life) I decided this would be my chance to test out tofu bacon. Yes, tofu that is made to look and apparently taste like bacon.
The meal is now planned, but now I have to figure out which wine goes best with my vegan and tofu bacon frittata. Thankfully, I am more of a savory breakfast eater than a sweet one (though DO NOT get me started on waffles) so the wine choice was relativity easy— A bottle of 2005 Bella Vineyard Zinfandel that I picked up from my latest wine tasting adventure.
I just realized I wrote too much for me to want to put in one blog post so be on the lookout for another posting about my adventures with wine and tofu bacon.