Enjoying 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
A barrel or two?
by the glass, by the bottle or by the barrel.
and our next trip. In the past we have often purchased an 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.
open air tasting room
We’ve set out on a quest to identify superior champagnes so that our future mimosas would 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,
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
Wines you like vs. wines you don't like
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.
In 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 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
savor the grape
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 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 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
Tree lined highways
All roads lead to wines
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 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% lower 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. Cheers!
Check out our last winery tasting blog. Sipping and Savoring in Sonoma
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