Sonoma - Best traveled in a pickup truck [Pt 2]

If you recall from my last post, I was wrapping up my visit with Dylan at Pine Ridge. After sampling some amazing wine, I headed off on the next leg of the journey. 

By now it was nearing 4:30-5pm and I was finished with official business for the day. I hopped in the pickup and continued north crossing over to 29 via Yountville Cross Rd, then hanging a right on St. Helena Hwy. I traveled through St. Helena, arm hanging out the window and making sure I got a good look at every winery and vineyard I pass by until I reached Calistoga.

This was where traffic was backing up. I made a pit stop for some fuel, hung a left on Petrified Forest Rd and later split off on Porter Creek. I am SO GLAD I did! The geography and topography along Porter Creek was amazing. What a view chillin’ and cruising in the pickup! 


I decided it was time to find a place to eat and since I was nearing Healdsburg I took Old Redwood Hwy through Windsor and into Healdsburg proper. I am not just a wino; I love craft beer as well. So I set my sights (and stomach) on Bear Republic Brewery for some Racer 5 right from the tap, however, they wouldn’t let me behind the bar… It paired well with the Jalepeno Tower Burger (a burger with jalepeno poppers and onion rings!). It was sooo good. 

Beers Tasted:

Racer 5 American IPA, 7 ABV

Hop Rod Rye IPA, 8 ABV


I had two great beers, an amazing burger and a chance to sit, relax and reflect on the amazing day I just had. Not a bad way to wind down; I think I sat at bear Republic for nearly 2 hours, walked around town for a few minutes then made my way to the pickup to head back to Gracianna on Westside Road (the Amadors invited me to use this awesome apartment above their tasting room while Trini’s dad was out of town).


Upon returning I checked some email and because it was too late to call home to PA, I decided to call it a day. Man, what an awesome day. 

2007 Alexander Valley Vineyards Redemption Zin

We enjoyed our last bottle of Alexander Valley Vineyards Redemption Zin last night. We love a big Zin and this one is no slouch.

While I found spice, anise and currant in the nose and a deep blackberry, raisin through a moderate finish my wife sensed some tobacco, pepper and smoke as well. I would bet this wine captures all of the above in a bold, robust zin. I may overuse these terms bold and robust but in this case, they apply 100%.

It has a deep color as well which doesn’t mean all that much other than it is full bodied (more likely medium) but in comparison to some other Zins, this is full. We prefer full bodied, badass wines over light bodied,  less powerful varietals but there is more to life than a full bodied red. Okay, maybe not. In any case, we are disappointed we cleaned out our stock on this one. We will just have to drink some other beauties we have from Sonoma!


Holiday Wine Round up

As the new year begins I have been reflecting on the last few weeks and the holiday rush. With the rush comes parties with friends and family and lots of holiday wine drinking! Each time we shared a bottle, I had some great stories to tell either about the wine, where it came from or the people who had previously enjoyed it with me.

This holiday season we shared a few wines that we brought from our trip to Healdsburg, some from one of the few clubs I can get wine from and some of my own homemade Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve picked a few to share with you; some you will recognize, some you may not. Either way, it’s wine so we know it is gonna be good!

The first on the list is 2009 Wilson Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition). Picked this up after tasting it at Taste of Sonoma, also picked up the Sawyer Zinfandel. This is sourced throughout the valley, but it is a wonderful Zin. Spice, berry, slight acidity, even slightly smokey and a great finish. This is a Dry Creek Zin for sure and makes you want to keep having glass after glass.

Then there is the Mazzacco Winery Sonoma County Zinfandel. Mazzoco is located in Dry Creek Valley right around the bend from Wilson. This zinfandel is a Sonoma County Zinfandel which is sourced from throughout the county. This was reminiscent on the Wilson but not nearly as complex or flavorful. A little less burst, if you will from the zinfandel, some spice and a slight tart note to it. Still a great zin.

We also shared a bottle of 2005 Chesterfield Cellars Bretts Barrel Blend with our family. This is a wine I bought from a wine club that consists of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has robust, concentrated berry, dark cherry, some earthiness, acidity but the finish sort of drops off the table. It’s a great value for us, so we keep drinking it. If you allow it to open up for some time, it improves dramatically. Also want to be sure it is not too cool.

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At Christmas dinner we decided to change it up slightly with a bubbly from Korbel. This was called Rouge as it is made with Pinot Noir. It is a great sparkling wine to have with food as it is not too sweet, much more on the dry end of the spectrum.  The layers from the Pinot are very nice and a welcome change form the sweet champagne style wines we are used to. We paired this with Braciole with marinara and white wine sauce and some fontina mac and cheese. It worked very well.

Finally, we shared a bottle of Gracianna Zinfandel and Pinot Noir on separate occasions. I have reviewed the 2008 vintages but these were the 2009. Many similar characteristics to the 2008 but as vintages go, they are very unique in their own way. The Zin maintains its bold fruit, pepper and a great balance of oak and acidity. The Pinot is as complex as ever, great layers (not to overuse the term) and a flavor experience that true Pinot lovers will enjoy. I always look to Gracianna for a great wine to share with family and friends over the holidays!

A few we did not open yet, but will soon: Stryker Sonoma Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Merriam Vineyards Block 8 Cabernet and John Tyler Wines Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. I will be sure to share these experiences with you soon!

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2011

It has been two weeks since we returned from our vacation in Sonoma County. We have gone through our pictures, pamphlets, and all of that Visa Signature crap we accumulated during our trip. Visa is a great sponsor of Taste of Sonoma and Sonoma Wine Country Weekend but here’s a hint - we only need the wine glass lanyard! Of course we came away with wonderful memories of wine, Sonoma and many, many new friends.

I will be writing more specific posts about various aspects of our Sonoma Wine Country Weekend experience; however, I am going to touch on a few things that stood out for us.

  • The hospitality displayed by everyone we came in contact with was the ultimate highlight. We were so thrilled to feel welcome and appreciated everywhere we went. This was veryrefreshing.

  • There is always room at the Inn. Brian Shapiro (@VinoVotary) of Stryker Sonoma gets the Champion for the wine country lifestyle award! I’ll share the relevance of my “always room at the Inn” statement in my upcoming Cabernet Day post but in short, Brian encompasses everything I love about the wine country lifestyle in Sonoma. By the way, we can thank @Twitter for our chance encounter!

  • Two things have drawn me to Sonoma. Wine, of course and social media. The combination of the two have taken on a life of its own and it is only because of social media that I have been so fortunate to meet so many of you. It provides a conduit for a guy in Lititz, PA to engage with and learn from people in the heart of California wine country.

  • Taste of Sonoma is bonkers. Too bad they asked us those people to leave. I mean, really? As if 5 hours of wine tasting were not enough.

  • We love the Russian River Valley. No offense to the rest of Sonoma County. The River, the wineries, the little cabin we rented, the vineyards, the proximity to MacMurray Ranch and the Pinot Noir is off the hook.

  • Korbel is a must for any visitor to RRV. I did not want to go, my wife did - I wanted wine, not bubbly. I am here to say it was a fascinating experience and a welcome change of pace from wine. My wife will not let me live this one down.

  • Finally having the chance to meet so many Twitter peeps was an absolute joy. I think I met people who introduced themselves with their real name and was like, ok what’s your Twitter handle? Aaahhhhh, now I know who you are! Some I knew by name though and it was great to meet @SLHousman, @mrhousman, @alawine, @vinovotary, @moxie_lady and many more.

[caption id=”attachment_1676” align=”aligncenter” width=”300” caption=”Stryker Sonoma in Alexander Valley”]Alexander Valley[/caption]

To conclude, I want to share that one of the primary reasons for us visiting Sonoma County was to meet some new and wonderful friends, the Amadors of Gracianna Winery. Regulars to The Sonoma Vine know how my relationship with Trini III, Lisa, Trini IV and Ashley Amador has grown over the course of the last 9 months. Admittedly, I have become somewhat of a homer when it comes to Gracianna. Since I write a reference blog I feel I can have one or two favorites without tipping the integrity of my site! My wife and I are amazed with the kindness that they have shown us and we look forward to the many years of friendship ahead.

I will be documenting several aspects of our trip in the coming weeks so be sure to check back regularly.

*You can follow any of the Wine Tweeps by hovering your cursor over their name.