"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food." W.C. Fields

Published: July 8th 2013
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Enjoying the deli at KorbelEnjoying the deli at KorbelEnjoying the deli at Korbel

Mt. Tam Triple cream cheese!
Warm days and cool nights can be found in northern California wine country. Acres and acres of rolling hills dotted with trees stretched out along the bi-ways that lead you to your vineyard of choice. No matter what season you will find beauty along this landscape with each season taking on a different personality and colors. Winter is the rainy season and the hills become a rich green. Summer is dry and the hills are brown and are reminiscent of the chocolate hills of Bohol. As the vines grow, the grapes mature and the green vines look more vibrant against the tan brown hills.

Sonoma Valley, California is known around the world for its wines and we are living in the heart of this area. We are not prone to passing on opportunities that are presented to us so we’ve set out to become a bit more educated about the wines themselves. Next door to Sonoma Valley is the more famous Napa Valley, so we’ve been drifting and meandering among the vines. Don’t be fooled. The grapes grown in this region are quite good and one should never be drawn into an argument about this valley versus that valley. There are only winners here….

Warning: Please open a bottle of your favorite wine and let it breathe. We are certain you will enjoy this blog more if you are drinking along with us! Naturally….

At one vineyard, the sommelier conducting the tasting said, “there are only two kinds of wines, the ones you like and the ones you don’t.”

That certainly simplifies it doesn’t it?

Many of us may have a fondness for one particular type of wine or grape – there are so many to choose from: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Carbernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio and more.

** After you read our blog we’d love you to send us a message and tell us about your favorite grape or a particular bottle that you enjoy. We’d love to try some wines that you recommend. We promise to go in search of your favorite.

Our busy lives require that from time to time on a Sunday morning we cook eggs benedict, sip mimosas for hours, enjoy soft music, contemplate the universe and our next trip. In the past we have often purchased an
A barrel or two?A barrel or two?A barrel or two?

by the glass, by the bottle or by the barrel.
inexpensive bottle of Korbel. Our thinking over the years was that we were adding it to orange juice or cranberry juice and the quality of the sparkling wine really didn’t matter. After living in California our thinking on this theory has changed, and how!

Korbel Champagne Cellar, Guerneville, Sonoma Valley

Any good chef will tell you that you should not cook with a wine that you would not drink. As our palate has become more sophisticated we have realized that goes for the champagne that you make your mimosas with…..

Since we’ve had many a bottle of Korbel over the years we wanted to see where it got its start. The vineyard is lovely, hidden among trees looming over the highway. It is one of the largest mass-producing vineyards for sparkling wines in the U.S. The tasting room is welcoming and offered a free tasting. After finding Champagne that we really liked and buying a bottle to take home we headed to their deli to relax and order a glass to enjoy with some cheese and a baguette.

We’ve set out on a quest to identify superior champagnes so that our future mimosas would
Duckhorn VineyardsDuckhorn VineyardsDuckhorn Vineyards

open air tasting room
be superb. However, we must admit the bottle we purchased at the vineyard is far better than the inexpensive ones we usually buy in the grocery store.

Mumm Napa, Napa Valley - Our friends Gillian & Norman recommended this vineyard and we are very glad they did. This vineyard is not your typical vineyard. Not only can you enjoy their sparkling wines on the patio overlooking the hills & vineyards, but you can enjoy their art gallery. It contains some amazing photos of travel sites around the world. We especially appreciated some of the photographs from countries we have visited.

These sparkling wines were very much to our liking and we enjoyed the shaded outdoor patio while sipping and learning about each of their offerings. This vineyard charged $22 for a sampling of four wines plus free entrance into the gallery. You can have a cheese pairing if you wish.

This one was one of our favorites. If you are in the area please stop by.

Duckhorn Vineyards, St. Helena, Napa Valley

One thing we dislike about winery hopping is having to belly up to the bar sandwiched in between two hundred of
your closest friends waiting for a tasting.

Our friend, the world-renowned bvchef (well, he should be!) recommended the Duckhorn Vineyard. The setting was lovely and very much to our liking. As you drive into the vineyard, the grapes are surrounding a wooden building that looks very much like an old country home. They have a tasting room with 30-foot ceilings and large open windows. Everyone gets a table and you can sit outside on the porch if you prefer. It is very open and airy. For $30 you sample seven wines and for another $30 you can have a food sampler of cheese, dips and crackers. It was well worth the expense. We were able to relax and enjoy the tasting. They provide little informational cards that serve as coasters so you can become more educated about each of the wines.

Andretti Winery, Napa Valley

Wineries are corporate cash cows these days. They seem to have a license to print money. They not only want to sell you a bottle or a case of their wine, a trinket or two in the gift shop. They may try to lure you into joining their wine club.
Back when we were homeowners we were members of the V. Sattui wine club for a decade. V. Sattui is a large commercial vineyard but we liked their wines and were never disappointed.

While visiting Andretti Wineries (yes, the owner is Mario Andretti, and MJ is a big, BIG fan of his), we almost became wine club members because all wine club members are invited to a dinner that Mario attends each August. Dave may need to keep an eye on me as I am still thinking of joining.

As you can imagine the building and grounds have a real Italian Villa feel to them. Mario’s notoriety must pull in a large crowd because when we drove up there was a bus in the parking lot. We were concerned that the place would be swamped but the group was out back at a table. Our sommelier Jack mentioned that bus number three had not arrived yet. We were certainly happy we finished drinking before it arrived. Andretti vineyard charges $15 or $25 for a tasting depending on which one you select. The wines were lovely and two bottles found their way into our car.

An educationAn educationAn education

Wines you like vs. wines you don't like
the past ten-plus years local wineries have started charging for tastings. This is due to many visitors who used to come for free samples with no intention of purchasing wines. The vineyards could not afford the cost of catering samples to large bachelor and bachelorette parties, family reunions and all other occasions. We’d prefer not to pay for a tasting but certainly understand how over zealous drinkers and partiers have ruined it for others. With that said we are sad that some of the vineyards have decided to make a killing on their tasting charging $25 to $40 in some cases. We feel a $10 0r $15 fee is appropriate and we love the ones that waive the fee if you purchase a bottle of wine.

Knowing whether you like a wine or don’t like a wine is simple. Understanding the vernacular used in the wine industry is a bit more complicated. As we listen to our host explain each of the wines we have tasted we look at each other with glazed over eyes.

MJ says - honey can you taste the oak? The currant? Dave shrugs. A hint of lavender? Anise? Another shrug.

I’m not
Darioush VineyardDarioush VineyardDarioush Vineyard

Greek architecture
sure out palate is sophisticated enough to discern a black cherry from a blackberry or a strawberry from a raspberry plum…. We are not going to enter any contest where these skills are necessary. We stare in amazement and nod so they will go away when they start talking about the earthy flavors of mushrooms, fungus, dirt, leather and the forest floor. Really? You are joking, right?

We can tell you if there is a bite at the beginning or the end, generally a sign of tanins. We can tell you if we’d like to drink it with beef, fish, chicken or chocolate.

But honestly we are red wine drinkers for the most part and enjoy it with fish and chicken as well as beef…no matter what the experts recommend.

Darioush, Napa Valley What a beautiful estate with Greek architecture. Long driveways, with beautiful architecture with pillars and fountains abound. They offer specialty parings when reserved in advance, which we had not done. This one was the most expensive tastings that we encountered at $40 for a tasting of 5 wines and their pours were half the size of all the other vineyards we encountered in
Healthy vinesHealthy vinesHealthy vines

savor the grape
our travels. They will waive the tasting fee if you purchase 3 bottles of wine. We liked one of their Cabernets but it was $152 a bottle for the one we really liked and over time we have learned that there are many $15 to $25 wines that we enjoy so we passed. We are glad we stopped by because the ambiance was lovely.

Trefethen Vineyards, Napa Valley- This vineyard was quaint and had a long, long tree lined driveway leading you to the tasting room. It had oak barrels sitting around and was a bit dark and inviting. We really liked several of the wines we tasted but know we can have a glass of this next time we are with our friend Brendan as it is one of his favorites. . The tasting was only $25 for 5 wines and this vineyard may have offered the largest pour of any we have been to. We enjoyed chatting with our host. We found a Cabernet that we really liked for $100 and a Merlot for $38 but again passed. We did buy a bottle of their cabernet savignon chocolate sauce. We’d spent our daily allotment at
Valley of the MoonValley of the MoonValley of the Moon

Glen Ellen, CA
Mumm’s. We would recommend dropping by this vineyard.

Valley of the Moon, Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley- This one was recommended by Chuck (a.k.a. Santa Claus) the best man at our wedding. We learned that this vineyard has recently been purchased by new owners and there are many changes coming. They will be remodeling, offering food pairings in the near future and changing the look of the bottle and brand. They will have an upscale line of wines to compliment what they currently have.

We arrived at this vineyard just after they opened on a Sunday morning. We were excited to arrive before the crowds and had a fantastic conversation with our host Ryan. We liked several of the wines and purchased a couple of bottles. We are drawn to vineyards like this as they have an outdoor seating area and picnic tables where you can relax with your wine.

B. R. Cohn, Kenwood, Sonoma Valley- This vineyard is owned by the manager of the Doobie Brothers. On the day we arrived they were having a classic car show in addition to having a band playing in the courtyard. The tasting room is large
Tree lined highwaysTree lined highwaysTree lined highways

All roads lead to wines
and the wines were much to our liking. Again a couple of bottles followed us home. They have a gift shop where you can purchase a selection of olive oils, specialty mustards & cheeses. They have several food trucks where you can purchase food and wines. Then you can proceed to the shaded tables under the old oak trees to enjoy your food while you listen to the band. They charge $10 and $20 for the tasting but refund your money if you purchase a bottle. WE like this winery because they have concerts.

Kunde Estate Winery, Kenwood, Sonoma Valley Our host India tells us that 80%!o(MISSING)f the movie bottle shock was filmed at this vineyard. We have no reason to doubt her but cannot confirm her statement. It is however a very lovely vineyard on rolling hills. As you enter they have a fountain with a patio area and a food stand where you can purchase grilled and raw oysters. Now that is the way to start your day. The tasting room offers souvenirs a plenty. They charge $10 and $20 for the tasting.

Stay tuned for our next adventure into
wine country. There is bound to be another blog.

Alert-- Health benefits of wine drinking…….!

For those of you looking for an excuse to drink some wine we’ve done our research and would like to share our knowledge. UCA- Davis has shown that wine is reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease. Ok, don’t run off half cocked… all things in moderation. This phenomenon is referred to as “The French Paradox”. For years doctors could not figure out why our cream loving French friends weren’t dying of heart disease. Thorough research found that the wine was altering the blood lipid levels. How fantastic!

For those of you interested in a little more science, it lowers the total cholesterol count by raising the high-density lipoprotein levels while lowering the low-density levels. They have proven that wine decreases the “stickiness” of the platelets, it keep the blood vessels clean. With decreases stickiness of the platelets the blood is less likely to clump inside the blood vessels. They have also discovered that wine helps lower glucose and insulin levels, as well as blood pressure.

Studies have shown that people who drink one to three glasses of wine daily are healthier than those who drink none, or who imbibe too much.

A Copenhagen heart study followed 130,000 participants for a ten-year period. Those who averaged 6 glasses of wine a week had death rates that were 30-40%!l(MISSING)ower than normal

In 1999, a University of Florida study proved that red wine does not suppress the immune system the way other alcoholic beverages do.

Recent studies are showing that red wine has an impact on decreasing cancer, warding off Alzheimer’s and extending life in general.

Resveratrol is naturally found in the wine grapes and it is given credit for these health benefits. So let’s lift a glass or two to resveratrol!

As nurses we feel we met our desire to educate you on the medicinal merits of the grape.


Check out our last winery tasting blog.
Sipping and Savoring in Sonoma

Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 32


Loving the sunshineLoving the sunshine
Loving the sunshine

Firming & ripening
Winery shoppingWinery shopping
Winery shopping

Guess we better start drinking
Now that is a big bottleNow that is a big bottle
Now that is a big bottle

Brutus says one to go please
Ready for shippingReady for shipping
Ready for shipping

Maybe we need a crate full?
Andretti VineyardsAndretti Vineyards
Andretti Vineyards

I love Mario!!
Brutus crusin'Brutus crusin'
Brutus crusin'

Along for the ride yet again.....

8th July 2013

Our favourites!
Wow, looks fabulous...we will definitely give you a shout when we make it to the US. Our favourites are Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer grapes but the best we ever tasted was a Malbec Rose from Mendoza in Argentina from a little boutique winery...amazing! Sadly, Donna can't drink red wine as it gives her migraines, Neil, however, will drink anything ;) We love the fact you can eat all that great food while drinking fantastic wine!
8th July 2013

You will love Napa and Sonoma
All the wineries we have been to have offered both red & white. On our next outing we are going to go to smaller family run wineries and see what differences we find. It is hard not to go sample the grapes when we are 30 minutes away.
8th July 2013

The joy of the grape
We will have a Zinfandel tonight in your honor.
8th July 2013

Lois and I went to Napa Valley in 06. We got on board the Wine Train. Nice way to observe wineries as you are tasting wine. I got drunk on Sangria in college. Haven\'t enjoyed wine since!!
8th July 2013

Napa wine train
I've always thought about taking the train but love the variety of atmosphere within the vineyards. The wine train has a good reputation for being a great restaurant. I guess we should do that some day. Thanks for the suggestion.
8th July 2013

Wines You Like; Wines You Don't
I should get Andras to comment on this as he's the wine guy (even worked in the industry for a while). We really liked V. Sattui wines when we were in Napa. I also liked Franciscan Gamay Rose (though I thoroughly disliked the customer service at their winery) - great picnic wine. Lately I've been big on the Argentinian "New Age" white - a blend of sauv blanc and malvasia, served on the rocks with lime (yes, a wine with ice and citrus!). Give me a $10 bottle of something crisp and refreshing over a $200 bottle of bold, aged red any day. Great quote too. I thoroughly enjoy any recipe that requires I have "wine to taste" while cooking ;)
8th July 2013

Sipping while eating
Stephanie the reason I make shrimp scampi so often is so I can sip while cooking. The recipe gets very little of that bottle. It would be great if Andras could do a wine blog with all his experience. We are attempting to educate our palate. I agree that the price rarely reflects the taste. Sadly, many of the Napa wineries are all about big business, getting the customer in and out but we are happy that we've found some that don't have that corporate mentality.
8th July 2013

Making me Homesick!
Great blog, as usual! Have you checked out Dry Creek Valley? It's our new fave - it's SO beautiful! Love some Zinfadel! http://www.wdcv.com/ and a map http://www.wdcv.com/files/WGDCV_map_pdf.pdf Salud!
8th July 2013

Dry Creek Valley
Nanci, we have not been to Dry Creek Valley yet but will add it to our list for our next tasting day. (that will be sooner than later) We will report back!
8th July 2013

Oak? Currant? Lavender?
*eyes rolling* Those stuff are alien enough to me so I'd likely claim a quiet corner and shy away from any "discussion" *eyes rolling again* But i do like red -- with beef, chicken or fish. Ain't choosy. And yes, we do enjoy our Syrah here too.
8th July 2013

Nothing wrong with a quiet corner
We like a good Syrah....we'll have one this weekend in your honor. Wish you could be here to dine with us.
8th July 2013

Rolling hills
Oh, you've made me homesick for California! Those rolling hills dotted with oak trees that we also have in our wine country in Santa Barbara are some of my favorite landscapes! I admire your dedication and perseverance in ferreting out the best wines--hard work, but I guess someone has to do it. Incidentally, I'd be interested in knowing if the mimosas taste better with the more expensive champagne--a taste test perhaps? Cheers!
8th July 2013

July 21st
We have appointments for massages and afterward we are going to sip our two new bottles of champagne, with and without juice. We'll provide you a full report on the quality of those mimosas! Life is tough but someone has to charge through it. We are fortunate to be 30 minutes from the vineyards....and the grapes are calling.
8th July 2013

A mouth-watering blog!
If you can find it, Argentine Malbec is still a firm favourite. We have fallen for Spanish reds in a big way though, and not just Rioja! Navarra wines are excellent but rarely exported.
8th July 2013

Argentine Malbec
We know a shop nearby that has a lot of Argentine wines. We'll grab a Malbec and toast to you.
8th July 2013

So much to think about
Firstly, thanks for prompting me to open a bottle. It's my day off, so I popped a Santa Cruz Mountain Chard. Big fat Zins and Syrahs are really my favorites. I am glad you had such a nice time. I wondered if Brutus was the designated driver, but after so many shot of him curled up with a bottle, I doubt that he would be been a good choice. lol On a different note, the shots of the flowers were outstanding. What color and essence of the Valley. Great blog, great pictures!
8th July 2013

Hello Chef,
Glad you heeding the warning and opened a bottle before proceeding. Those Zins and Syrahs are great. Brutus would not have been a good driver.
8th July 2013
Colorful Napa Gardens

Outstanding Picture
This is truly outstanding.
8th July 2013
Colorful Napa Gardens

There are so many flowers in bloom right now and they are lovely.
8th July 2013

Wine Time California Style
Thanks for the great blog - this region is on our short list - your review will help mucho!
8th July 2013

You will enjoy the area
If you have other questions let us know. We'll be happy to provide any info. Check out the other blog we did last year. Link at the bottom of the blog. There are other good suggestions.
8th July 2013

I remember passing through the California countryside last year on our way to San Francisco, though we didn't get to visit the vineyards because of lack of time. Your blog may be the closest I got to it. Thanks for sharing!
8th July 2013

Hi Jay,
Come back and we can go together. Wish we'd been with you Tynnie, Hannah and Lili recently. Travel on.
9th July 2013

Denise raised in the Hunter River wine region of New South Wales. Denise's favourite Limestone Coast and mine Coonawarra...both South Australian wine areas. Looks splendid your way...but dare I say it. Once you have truly savoured the best of your Californian wines...do yourselves a delicious favour...come to OZ to taste the best...not the export stuff...the stuff we keep to drink at home...too good to send overseas!
9th July 2013

Too good to export
Dave when we get back to Australia we will head off to some of those wineries with you and Denise. Napa does the same thing about keeping all of the good ones. I'm not sure they sell the really good ones to Americans...only other vintners.
9th July 2013

so this was where Brutus was at? I hope he didn't get drunk. I wouldn't mind getting some wine education ;) although i can't handle alcoholic beverages very well, i do enjoy (very) sweet red wines. you are both looking great by the way ;) looking forward to a get-together over wine someday. x
9th July 2013

Hello dear friend
Yes, Brutus was hiding out in Napa and Sonoma. I'm sure we can go on a quest to find you a couple of wines that you would enjoy. The tastings are small and we will keep you full of food! Miss you. Can't wait to have you come to the states.
10th July 2013

Reminds me of our time in Vietnam and being encouraged to try lots of different spirits. You both look great in the pictures. CA must agree with you. Carolyn
10th July 2013

We do love California
...and we are forced to sample all the wines that are so close by.
10th July 2013

Staying healthy
It wasn't hard to respond to your invitation to open a bottle, let it breathe, then enjoy the wine and read about your wine tasting trip. Sounds fantastic! It was a real regret of mine that I didn't have time when I was in San Francisco to experience some of the local wine regions. I've certainly not made that mistake here, and I agree with Dave that there are some beautiful wine regions here. My favourite so far is the Barossa. However I also highly recommend the NZ wines as well (no bias whatsoever I promise). Either way, we can continue to sample and debate the merits of different wine safe in the knowledge that we are staying healthy at the same time. I like that kind of research!
10th July 2013

Thorough research is required
We've grown a fondness for the California wines, although when we lived in Washington we were fond of those so maybe we are fickle. We are willing to do extensive research on both NZ and Australian wine to be certain!
10th July 2013

Holamundo favourites :-)
What a great blog - we really felt like opening a nice bottle which is not a great idea when sitting in the office around midday on a hot summers day ;-). But we will do this tonight at home. We discovered our favourite wine at a small winery around Franschoek in South Africa. It is a Pinotage, a very strong red wine. You can even smell the south african sun in the glass. Unfortunately we could not take one home last time we went there. So time to return soon. Another great wine is Carmenere from Chile. The grape was originally imported from France to Chile. There, especially in the region of Talca (south of Santiago) they make this excellent wine. We are so happy that you can get some good chilean carmenere here in Switzerland. But sometimes, our friends send us some. And one final one - the icewine from Canada. We cannot remember any more where we tried it and how it was called. But especially Mark, who loves sweet dessert wines, is still dreaming of this one. Enjoy some more. We will be thinking of you tonight while opening a bottle ;-) Nina + Mark
11th July 2013

Must do wine tour next visit to CA.
Hi Dave and MJ Our first night in FRance we had a bottle of Sauv blanc..but a real crappy wine bottle opener...couldnt budge the cork ..ended up digging it out with my swiss army knife and then filtering the bits of cork out of the wine ..which was not very nice anyway... but later on in France w have had some nice local Rose and I love the aperiftif wine Muscat...will take several bottles home. Au revoir. xx
11th July 2013

French wines
Sounds like you are sampling some wonderful wines and it is always good to take a few home with you!
25th July 2013

Wish I could be sipping now...
Thanks for sharing this. We just finished sampling Oregon wines and are planning a Sonoma/ Napa trip for my 50th birthday. We'll be sure to visit some of your favorites.
25th July 2013

Glad you enjoyed the blog
Let us know when you are in the area. If we are still here we'd love to join you for a glass of wine.

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