WINE COUNTRY VISIT JUNE 2009

This visit included several interviews for the podcast plus press passes to “Taste Napa Valley Barrel Auction”.  I recorded brief interviews with over 20 winemakers, attendees and vendors at the auction.  We arrived in San Francisco in Sunday, May 30th and Returned Sunday June 7th.

Rubicon Estate tasting-  Excellent tasting featuring Blancaneaux, 2000 and 2005 Rubicon.
2005 took the win.  Classy and fun, purchased RC x2 bottles.  As usual the hospitality was fantastic!

Armida Winery, Healdsburg tasting-  Although it’s been there for several years, I’ve never notice this fun winery….until they changed (and evidently enlarged) their sign.  Our server was Nick, well known it seems in Healdsburg with connections to other wineries…and in fact he lead us to our find of the day, Hauck Winery in Healdsburg.  Did the usual tasting….Sherrie discovered that she has a fondness for Zinfandel.  I drank Poison as did she, but we both avoided the Antidote.   Purchased Cab and Poison. Check out their website to find out more!

Hop Kiln, Healdsburg tasting-  I was reluctant to stop here after a less than stellar visit many many years ago, so this was a nice surprise.  Especially loved the Zinfandel/Orange mustard!  Purchased a fine Malbec and enjoyed a quiet Monday stop with few others tourists to contend with.

Korbel (cause I was forced to)-Uh, by Sherrie.  Sherrie wanted to buy some brandy for her dad….and she did…..three bottles for $39…what a deal!    Did a tasting of  their  wines and got what I expected…… average quality…nothing I’d go out of my way to purchase.  Sherrie did the bubbly and overall enjoyed the bunch.  Great lunch at their fantastic deli followed by a visit to Armstrong Woods to see the big trees!

Lunch at Korbel-

J Winery (Jordan) Healdsburg tasting-  A winery in Healdsburg owned by the daughter of Tom Jordan of Jordan wines.  The main focus is Chard and Pinot.   The only real interesting wine was the Pinotage……a new grape to the area….worth the taste and purchase.  Most of the wines were quiet pricey.  Tasting fee was not refunded in purchase….this trend is new and perhaps a sign of the times.  I personally feel it’s bad for business.  The refund of a tasting price with the purchase of wine always gives the customer the sense of value.  Time to rethink this policy in wine country.

Hauck Winery, Healdsburg tasting-  A very small production winery (1200 cases) we met the owners….working the tasting room!  Did a full range of wines……Sherrie again loving the Zin especially the not-yet-released twin Zins that were simply amazing!  Joined the wine club to share future deliveries.  Nice folks in a separate tasting room (an old Quonset Hut) just outside the square in Healdsburg.  We will be back in the future to taste and interview the owners.

Dinner in Healdsburg at Charcuterie.  Excellent.

TUESDAY, June 2, 2009

Grgich Hills, Napa interview & tasting-  A most amazing visit.  Interviewed Mike Grgich.  What more can I say, at 85 he has the eyes of a man that has seen more in his life than I can ever imagine.
Did a private tasting with marketing manager Ken.  The usual Char….Fume Blanc….Merlot….Cab…..loved the Cab.  The he brought out the Carneros special Chard….amazing again!   Then the dessert wine……we both liked it!   We were gifted a bottle of Cab from Mike.  Reconnected with our pal that did a tasting with Jeff and I last year.  A very cool place.

Lunch at the St. Helina standard Taylor’s Automatic Refresher.  A fine morning!

Paraduxx, Napa tasting-  A time to hang in the sun…..Angelia from the tasting room remembered me from past visits which always adds to the hospitality, and we had the full treatment with Parajaxx plus 04, 05, 06 Paraduxx…..plus some Postmark and Canvasback.  Purchased Canvasback.  Hoped to meet with the new winemaker David Marchesi at the auction.

Caught up with friend and musician Julia Francis at the square in Sonoma.  Also met her guy, Joseph DeLorenzo, my friend Victor’s bro!   Cool!

Had pizza for dinner at Mary’s in Sonoma.  Local color.

Long day with a longer day tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY, June 3rd

Terra Valentine, Spring Mountain interview-  A great early morning visit with winemaker Sam Baxter.  We did the interview and found him entertaining and to the point.  This will make a great piece as his dad is also in the business so they have a long history.  The property was spectacular.  An old castle built long ago and filled with some of the coolest stained glass windows I’ve ever seen.  Tasted mostly reds but the real stand out for me was the Sangiovese……one of the best I’ve ever tried.  Three total bottles purchased (one to be gifted to Kevin & Lisa).

C. Donatiello, Healdsburg interview-  Likely one of the least satisfying interviews I’ve ever done.  Chris and I had a lively email exchange going on for a few weeks last year specifically discussing the reassignment of the Russian River AVA to include othere properties.  It seems politics as usual.  We’ll see what happenes…..but back to my point.  I found Chris to be distant, removed and without passion during our interview.  Short and to the point the story will edit well but missing the deep feelings I get from most owners/winemakers.   I must also add that after the interview, which was held outside, Chris walked us in the direction of my car thus giving the body language the he wanted us to leave without a tasting let alone a purchase.  I compare this to a time many years ago while at a well known tasting room where four of us were ignored by the host.  When my friend asked why I wasn’t doing a tasting I said I didn’t know why…the host said you didn’t ask…I responded, you didn’t offer….he responded, touche.  A disappointment to be sure.

Lunch at Bovolo, Downtown Healdsburg with Tim Zahner from the “Sonoma Country”-  Excellent, tasty and full of great laughs!  John Stewart, owner, spent time showing us his pig tattoo and telling many foodie stories.

Nalle Winery, Healdsburg interview-  Without a doubt this was Doug Nalle at his best.  With the upcoming 25th anniversary celebration breathing down his neck Doug was working even harder than normal….which lead to a certain giddiness that made this one our favorite interviews.   I’ve been trying to record Doug for almost two years and this time we got lucky.  He was frank and to the point….his opinions are clear and supported with many years of experience.  Sadly only a short bit of video survived as our battery quit just after we started.   Afterward, Doug talked about the state of the industry and where he felt things  were going.  And he talked about baseball.  And he talked about bottles.  And…..

Stephen & Walker, Downtown Healdsburg tasting-  This one was a nice surprise.  The tasting room for these folks is a simple yet elegant storefront on the square in Healdsburg.  The entire space was lined with bottles showing off the classic and classy label of this small production wine.  The winemaker was working the counter (she has a regular job and had to leave shortly to pick up her kids from school) and was a pleasure to talk to.  The wines were fairly priced and excellent.  We will visit them again in the future.

Dinner at Healds Burger in Downtown Healdsburg-

THURSDAY, JUNE 4TH

Pre “Taste Napa Valley” parties day:

Round Pond party, Napa-  Round Pond sits between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail in much the same way as Silver Oak does, deep into the vineyards.  The modern wood and concrete building featured several striking views of  the vineyards as well as a sizeable patio with a giant fireplace to warm the cool morning.  The wine and food were excellent as was the hospitality.  Purchased a Cab and some Lemon Olive Oil.

Special stop at Alpha Omega, Napa- This was the best stop of the day.  Tasted all of the wine plus a barrel sample as we waited for the National Sales Manager Chelsea Bellows to stop by to say hi.  After Chelsea came in winemaker Jean Hoefliger arrived from the vineyards and the party began.  We laughed, drank, laughed and enjoyed the time together as if we were very old friends.  Jean again invited me to spend a week working harvest this October and this is one opportunity I plan not to miss.

Mustards party, Napa sponsored by TOR Kenward winery- This party was held in the garden at Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustards restaurant in Napa.  We met TOR Kenward and enjoyed his many varietals of wines as well as lamb, scallops, chicken and more while chatting with other guests in for the auction.  Great time and great food.

Terra Valentine party up on Sping Mountain, featuring Barnett Vineyards, Cain Vineyard & Winery, Frias Family Vineyard, Pecock, Keenan Winery, Marston Family Vineyard, Newton Vineyard, Pride mountain Vineyards, Schweiger Vineyards, Sherwin Family Vineyards, Spring Mountain Vineyard, Terra Valentine Winery and Vineyard 7&8.  Reconnected with Steve Sherwin and made many new friends including Suzanne Pride Bryan and more.  Tacos and reds for all!

SATURDAY, June 6th

Judds Hill, Napa tasting-  A very nice visit hosted by the very same Pat Burke that I had met at the Barrel Auction.  We were the only ones around as he was waiting for a party of 12, but he was still willing to give us the time for a private tasting.  Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.   The Zin was excellent and we ordered three to be shipped on Monday.  Great visit!

Luna, Napa-  One of the nicest tasting rooms I’ve visited in Napa….decorated in true Italian villa style (with a touch of Roman Style thrown in at the private tasting room).  The service was excellent but the Reserve wines were overpriced including a $75 Merlot and a $100 Cabernet.  Sherrie enjoyed a late harvest Pinot Grigio which I purchased for her.  No other purchases.  We were still charged for the tasting even though we purchased.  No media discount was allowed.

Lunch at the Rutherford Grill.  Amazing as always!!

Elizabeth-Spencer, Rutherford tasting-  Just how many times can I visit this place and not get sick of it?  Likely never.  We did the usual tasting (free to club members) enjoying two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noir, a Merlot and a Cabernet.  Nice visit and time to rest and enjoy the sun (which was in hiding most of this week!) out on the patio.  Good visit.

Time to walk through St. Helena and finish what has proved to be another amazing trip!

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