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Take a trip to the road less traveled
So many people either living in California or visiting California feel the need to go to Napa Valley or Sonoma Square and its surrounding area when they are wine tasting. Although these regions have fantastic wines and fun infrastructure to support wine tasting tourism, they have moved away from a more traditional wine tasting experience where you actually feel like you are on a farm tasting in a rustic atmosphere. Many have traded the intimate experience of tasting with someone very close to the winemaker for the glitz and glam of multi-million dollar tasting rooms built for many groups of wine goers to taste at once. To be clear, tasting in Napa and Sonoma is incredibly fun and you can experience some of the best wines in the world - but the prices are climbing and for someone who does a lot of tastings, it is a nice change to get out in the country and back to the roots of wine, which, at it's heart, is farming.
Navarro Vineyards & Winery
Navarro is something of a staple in the Anderson Valley region. We met a local in Mendocino who described them as "the gold standard of the region." We also heard they had some good chardonnay, so we started our short morning journey near the town of Mendocino driving down Highway 128 (an incredibly beautiful river-side drive). Aside from the property being well maintained with gorgeous flowers around the tasting room, I was struck by how knowledgeable our guide was. As she took us for a walk on dirt paths through the actual vineyard, she shared her wealth of knowledge about the winery and its winemaking process. She talked about how they use a French drainage system in the fields and how they use a special breed of sheep called Baby Doll sheep (aka Southdown sheep or Baby Doll Southdown sheep) to maintain the grass and weeds in the vineyards. These sheep are much shorter than regular sheep so they can't reach the grapes while they are on the vine. As an added benefit, the feces from the sheep provide the perfect fertilizer for the vines. Sheep out in the vineyards are easy prey for coyotes and mountain lions, so the property has a small pack of Great Pyrennes dogs to protect them. But don't expect to play with a pack of large white dogs - these pups live outside in the wilderness year round and although the staff feeds them, they are not as domesticated as an average dog. The tour continued with an in depth look at Navarro's winemaking process, which although parts of it are common, most tours don't teach you as much about what is happening at each step. Again, despite tough questions, our tour guide fielded each query we had. Even before we tasted the wine, this was one of the best, most informative tours I have been on.
The wines at Navarro were quite good. The chardonnay that underwent malolactic fermentation was nice, but it probably did not have enough oaky butteriness to make it into a Chardonnay Box. They also had a wine aged in stainless steel, which was a nice representation of the chardonnay grape. However, this winery is mostly known for its pinot noir. They had a really interesting tasting where you could try both a filtered and unfiltered pinot from the same year and same vineyard, which gave a fantastic side by side comparison of two different winemaking styles. If you get the chance and have time for the tour, make a reservation at Navarro. You won't be disappointed.
Husch Vineyards & Winery
Husch was our second and final stop on this unfortunately too short trip to Anderson Valley. As we drove up, the head winemaker and his staff were having a picnic-style lunch in the shade before heading back to work. There is something about seeing a wine team like this that really reminds you, as I mentioned above, that you are on a farm and that this delicious product we consume starts in a field, not from some Hollywood-esque wine celebrity, but from a person who walks the field in jeans and is just a normal individual. The winery itself was very cute with a tiny little cabin used as a tasting room. Husch decorates the property with many beautiful flowers just like Navarro and the whole experience had a fairy tale charm to it. For the free tasting, you only get to taste 6 out of their 16 options, (which is hard for someone like me who wants to experience it all) but it challenges you to be selective and really taste the wines you want to experience most. Here, like at Navarro, the chardonnay was delicious, but not quite right for a Chardonnay Box. Interestingly, their "Vine One" chardonnay, which originated from one grape vine that they cloned and replanted to now 5,000 vines, has many of the usual chardonnay flavors but it also has a bit of orange peel, which you don't find in many chardonnays. We enjoyed the other wines quite a bit and the staff was super friendly.
An option on where to stay
We chose to splurge a little for our night in Mendocino, and stayed at the Heritage House Resort. The lodgings here are a little more modern and upscale than some of the more quaint bed & breakfast style accommodations closer to the town of Mendocino. The Heritage House had a nice restaurant and all these little private sitting areas, some with their own gas fires or fire pits, which made for some fun exploring after dinner. In the morning, we got lucky with blue skies and were able to enjoy the waves crashing on the cliffs from the bluff on which the resort sits. It is truly an example of a gorgeous California hotel.
The search for great chardonnay continues!
Recently, I went on a trip to Santa Ynez which, although it feels like Southern California to me, is part of California's Central Coast wine region. Maybe it was all the rain we got this year, but the route I took from Santa Ynez up through the Santa Maria Valley was one of the more beautiful drives in California. There were huge sections of undeveloped nature with gorgeous oak trees intermixed with ranches, wineries and small farms. The rolling hills and small peaks create a magical topography that rivals some of the most beautiful wine regions of the world. Travelers tip: once you leave Santa Ynez Valley and are headed towards Santa Maria Valley, expect to lose cell service for quite some time. You may want to download the map to your phone or go "old school" with a paper map.
My first stop was at Gainey Vineyards. This is definitely a popular tourist destination as there were about 3 large buses stopped in the parking lot, but I could see why. The tasting room bar was not very spacious, but there is a big area in back for larger groups to taste among the many decorative barrels. Their tasting room also has a gift shop with unique wine region knick-knacks and glassware. They were only tasting their 2015 Limited Selection Chardonnay while I was there. It was a great chardonnay but didn't really fall into the buttery category for me. That being said, if you are an oak fan, this wine had a good amount and was quite rich in flavor. After tasting the wine I navigated my way around the buses and went on to my next stop, Firestone.
Firestone is one of the more well known wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. They have a cool vineyard with oak trees dotted amongst the vines. Its tasting room is quite large and their selection of chardonnays is nice too! On the buttery, creamy front, I actually enjoyed Firestone's basic chardonnay more than the others. Interestingly the creamy butter flavor doesn't really present itself until about midway through the sip. The reserve chardonnay was nice and smooth but had more acidic characteristics that were the dominate features of the wine. The staff was extremely nice at Firestone and I would recommend it as a stop if you are in the region.
Foxen was the next stop on the Central Coast wine trail. The most beautiful section of the drive was between the Santa Ynez Valley and the Santa Maria Valley. When I do trips, I try to research the chardonnays ahead of time to make sure they will fit the flavor profile of my customers - unfortunately this one missed the mark. If you are a fan of light, crisp, high acid chardonnay then you will definitely enjoy this wine. The saving grace for this stop was the winery itself. It had a wonderful ranch-like charm with fun outdoor seating areas and one of the cooler uses of an old barrel and corks I have seen. The winery is dog friendly too so if you bring your pup along this could be a good stop.
I really enjoyed this winery. It has a quaint country home feel with the nicest staff and a really great higher end chardonnay. I always love a winery with dogs, and Roy, the elderly pup above, was adorable. The cheaper option on the chardonnay front, the Riverbench Bedrock Chardonnay, was a bit acidic and had no oak but the Riverbench Reserve Chardonnay was a great wine. It probably did not have enough butter to be in a Chardonnay Box shipment, but the wine had great aromas and flavor. They used 50% new French oak and it really comes through nicely. I don't get nutty flavors out of too many of the chardonnays I try, but this one had hints of hazelnut and almond, which added to the robustness of the wine.
Cambria Winery & Vineyards
I had tasted Cambria chardonnay before and enjoyed it but at the winery you can really explore the depth of chardonnays they make. They are a huge winery, producing over 100,000 cases of wine per year and you can really see the size of the operation as you walk by the big tanks on the way to the tasting room. I tried the Fog Tide, West Point, Clone 4 and Benchbreak chardonnays as well as a couple others. They were all quite good but my favorites were the West Point and the Benchbreak. The Benchbreak was the most robust of the group having a wonderful mix of oak and butter with subtle notes of pineapple, brown sugar and minerality. Cambria is only ~5 min off the beaten path and is definitely worth the visit for the chardonnay lovers out there.
Beckman vineyards was an interesting stop. If you like butter in your chardonnay you can skip this winery, but the way they farm their grapes was really interesting. They use a method of farming called Biodynamic Farming. This is like organic farming on steroids, except the steroids would be organic and good for you. Basically, you know when you drink their Ballard Canyon Chardonnay you are getting the most raw representation of the grape.
Blackjack Ranch Winery
I had fun at Blackjack Ranch and it was only partially because it was the 7th winery of the day. Blackjack Ranch had really good chardonnay and their tasting room was featured in the movie Sideways! They also had a very unique tree growing in the middle of their vineyard. The two chardonnays I tasted were the Chardonnay "21" and the Reserve Chardonnay. The Chardonnay "21" was definitely the best fit for my buttery chardonnay fans out there. It has buttered popcorn, cream, cantaloupe, Fuji apple, toast and a little dessert wine flavors that hit the tongue in a big way. The Reserve Chardonnay is a bit more subtle and balanced but has many of the same flavors. I would say aside from toning down the richness, this chardonnay trades some of the big butter flavor for a less intense smooth cream. Definitely stop by Blackjack Ranch if you are in the area, even if you don't love buttery creamy chardonnay. They have a wide range of other wines and the tasting room has a fun humorous feel to it that makes it a great destination. Also, this winery is much closer to Santa Ynez and Solvang than some of the others farther up in the Santa Maria Valley, so it is quite easy to get to.
For those of you who have been to Solvang you know it's Danish charm. If you have not been there and you are planning a trip to Santa Barbara, definitely stay in this quaint little town for a night or two. It is full of cute shops, fun restaurants and of course, more tasting rooms (should you feel so inclined). Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on the Chardonnay Box journey!
3 Ways To Host a Blind Wine Tasting Event
Wine tasting is always a fun event. For my wedding we wanted to select the wines we wanted to serve to our guests. My fiance and I both knew the wines we liked but with a larger sample size, we would get a better idea of what the majority of guests would prefer to drink. That being said, we wanted to make sure our taste testers were not influenced by personal bias towards certain brands so we did a double blind competition to find the wine people liked best! It ended up being a really fun process that broke up some of the tedious parts of wedding planning.
Hosting a blind tasting may seem like something only the pros can do, but actually can be easy - it is a great way to select wine for an event, test your wine tasting skills, or just to have fun with friends and family. In this post we'll teach you 3 ways to host a wine tasting:
Single Blind Tasting
The single blind tasting is the easiest way to hold a tasting event. In the single blind tasting one person will know what the wines are but all other participants will not. The organizer can either participate or not, but they will know which wine is which.
To start, have all the participants leave the room. Bring out your wines. We of course were most recent tasting chardonnays. Place them in random order so you don't bias the tasting by putting them from least expensive to most expensive or some other logical order. Just so you don't get confused it is best to write the order down on a piece of paper in case the bottles get mixed up down the road.
Next, take tinfoil (or a brown bag) and wrap the wines so people won't know which wine is which. Two tips here: 1. take the cover off the top of the wine bottle. Even it it is just a solid color sometimes people may know what it is. I could always identify Rombauer blue for example ;-). 2. make sure to take the corks out before inviting people back in. The corks often have the winery name on them. Now label the bottles 1 through 4 so if your tasters move the bottles around you won't mix up the order.
Invite your tasters back in and start your tasting! Everyone will have a great time as they try to identify flavors in the wine and decide on the factors you choose to rate on. I typically have people write down what they taste in the wine, their guess on price, and ranking favorite to least favorite. But mostly I just want people to have fun and feel like wine experts. It is up to you, but I am a fan of letting people taste, repour and retaste again so they have a good chance to decide which wines they like. Everyone has a good time as you reveal which wine was the favorite and who got closest to the actual price. Note: When scoring the favorites I add up each person's rating and the wine with the lowest rating wins (see below with Wine 3 winning).
Double Blind Tasting
The double blind tasting is a little more difficult logistically but it is still easy to do. With this method the organizer gets to participate with the other tasters as he/she will not know which wine is which. Just like in the single blind tasting the organizer will need to take the top off the wine and remove the cork before wrapping the wines in tinfoil. Write down the order of the wines on a sheet of paper but do not write the numbers on the wine. (see below for step 1)
Take the piece of paper with the wines and their order and hide it from the group. Now it is time for one of your participants to complete the second part of setting up the double blind tasting. Without moving the bottles, have them write numbers 1 - 4 in any order they like on the bottles. In the example below my second organizer chose to label them 2, 4, 1, 3. She then writes down the order I placed them in as 1, 2, 3, 4 and associates her order with each wine so 1 = 2, 2 = 4, 3 = 1 and 4 = 3. Have your second organizer hide their piece of paper which is the key for which wine is which. Now they can place the wines in order according to the number on the tinfoil (1,2,3,4). The first organizer now will not know which wine is which and can taste with the rest of the group on even playing ground.
After you are done you can reverse engineer which wine was which by putting the two hidden cards back together. i.e. After tasting, the wine labeled #3 was the wine that was #4 when the wines were left out for marking on so it was the David Bruce chardonnay (see picture above). You can also just reveal the wines by taking off the tinfoil, but where is the nerdy fun in that!?
Double Blind Advanced
This type of tasting is the most expensive to put together but it is also the most fun. When I put these tasting on I usually have people get into teams of two so they can discuss the flavors. It's also fun to watch the team dynamics between couples and friends as they try to work together to win the game. I find it is more challenging to do this wine tasting with similar reds (i.e. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab) but you can also do it with white wines (Sav Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay). The added fun to this tasting is that you bring in the age of the wine as a component of the game. For this blind tasting you will need a newer vintage and an older vintage of 3 different brands. So maybe a 2005 Robert Mondavi Merlot and a 2014 Robert Mondavi Merlot then the same for the two other wine varietals (but choose different wineries for each type of grape).
Not everyone knows what older wines taste like, so to make things a little easier this event starts out with a pre-tasting. You choose some combination of 3 wines with a mix of new and old vintages like in the photo to the left. You will be best off if you have 9 bottles of wine total in this example (although 6 will do):
The next round is where the blind tasting comes in. In this round the organizer follows the steps for the regular blind tasting but with 6 wines. The organizer should not put the wines in any noticable order before they put the tinfoil on (i.e. don't put new pinot, old pinot, new merlot, old merlot, new cab, old cab) even though organizer 2 wouldn't know). Make sure to write down the order and which wines they are before putting the tin foil on. Then organizer 2 numbers the bottles at random 1 - 6 writing down the associated position and noting the number on the tin foil. Then organizer 2 puts the bottles in order by the number on the tin foil 1 to 6. The wines now wrapped in tinfoil should match the types (but not the order) of wine below.
Organizer 1 and the rest of the party can come in to taste the wines now! In addition to price and the order of favorite to least favorite you now can add "which brand do you think the wine is?" and "is this an old vintage or a newer vintage?" When I put on one of these tastings we score 1 point for old v. new and 2 points for guessing the brand/grape varietal. I usually have a prize for the taster(s) with the best score.
However you decide to host your tasting you'll have a great time enjoying wine with friends and family. I always learn a little something about the way I compare wines when I participate in these tastings. Enjoy and please leave any comments on your experiences!
Wente Vineyards and a new discovery, Lone Dove Winery
On our quest for great buttery chardonnay we traveled out to Livermore Valley on a Saturday to see what the region offered. First off, Livermore is a nice area filled with cool restaurants and a fun "small town" vibe. It is much more laid back than Napa Valley and lends itself well to a casual day of wine tasting. One thing to note, most tasting rooms in Napa open up around 9:30am or 10:00am but the earliest opening we saw of the wineries we wanted to go to was 11:00am -most open at noon. The first winery we went to and one we'd been to before was Wente Vineyards. Wente is probably the most well known winery of the Livermore Valley wineries and they had a very nice tasting. The staff was very friendly and they even let us taste some extra wines!
We only got to taste two of the chardonnays during our visit although I think they were the most relevant ones for Chardonnay Box. We started with the Morning Fog Chardonnay which is a very nice crowd pleaser chardonnay. It was not overly buttery or crisp, just a very good drinkable wine for anytime drinking or for a party where you have a diverse group of wine drinkers. I got a mixture of flavors that seemed like they mixed a sauvignon blanc with their chardonnay. It had a nice acidity with a hint of lemon zest. The second chardonnay and definitely one our fans will like is the Riva Ranch Chardonnay. This is one I get at the grocery store often as it is a good price and has great flavor (note: this wine had not chilled for very long when we tasted it so the flavors were even stronger). The Riva Ranch is filled with rich oak and butter. I got a bit of toasted marshmallow immediately after the oak and butter. The flavor that followed was an amazing creamier version of the dessert bananas foster. Notes of vanilla, cream with some banana mixed in and a delicious brown sugar to round it out. Don't worry, although I got a dessert flavor out of the chardonnay, the wine is far from sweet. Just a really great chardonnay all around.
In addition to the chardonnay, we got to taste some great red wine as well. The son of the winemaker, Karl Wente, created a sub brand within Wente called Nth° where he takes the absolute best grapes and make Wente's most premium wines. We did not get to taste the Nth° Chardonnay (although I have had it before and it is amazing) but we did get to try the Nth° Merlot. It was so fantastic I had to buy a bottle. These wines are very difficult to get unless you go to the winery or they do have an Nth° degree wine club where you get each wine as it is released. It's a pricy club but if you can afford it I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
We went to a couple other wineries but none that surprised me as much as Lone Dove. Lone Dove did not show up on Google Maps (2.25.17) but we found a Yelp page and were able to locate the tasting area. It sits in what looks like a temporary wine tasting area with 3 other wineries. They probably had upwards of 20 wines and so many of them were just delicious. They have quite a few white wines and a whole line of rosés which you don't see as often these days when tasting. I was blown away with how much I liked each of the different wines. They did a great job on their reds as well.
I got to meet the winemaker George while I was there and really enjoyed my conversation with him. He takes what he calls a "spice rack" approach to making wine where he has numerous say, chardonnays, that he can mix together to make the optimal wine that his customers will love. For example, he might have some stainless steel fermented chardonnay, some American oak barreled chardonnay and some chardonnay in French oak barrels that have been toasted to bring out more flavor. He will then mix and match until he gets the perfect wine. And he can experiment as he gets feedback from his customers. Additionally, George was a ton of fun to chat with and made the Lone Dove "tasting room" experience very memorable.
Most people who come to Northern California wine country may not have enough time to get out of Napa/Sonoma but if you can or if you live in the area and want a fun and laid back alternative, make the trip to Livermore Valley for a day or two. It's really fun, the people are so nice and, bonus, the tasting fees tend to be lower! ~ Have fun!
I made a quick trip up to Napa this week to taste at some wineries around the downtown area and had a wonderful tasting experience at JaM Cellars followed by a great culinary experience at Oenotri. While at Oenotri I revisited a hidden gem chardonnay I had tasted about 4 years ago.
First off, JaM Cellars has a cool tasting room that does live music every Friday night. You can really tell that a lot of passion went into creating the retro music vibe theme they have there.
If you already know JaM Cellars you probably know that I was drawn there by the call of their flagship chardonnay, "Butter." Don't let the name fool you, this chardonnay has way more than just a delicious buttery flavor. It starts with a wonderful chardonnay aroma that immediately gets you excited about your first sip. Like it's name, you definitely get that great butter flavor, but I would describe it more as the flavor you get when you put melted butter on brown sugar. Pure deliciousness. The winemaker did an amazing job of counterbalancing the butter with a slight minerality that rounds out the wine nicely. The wine finishes off with a hint of pineapple that invites you to take your next sip.
What is even more exciting about tasting chardonnay at JaM Cellars is that in addition to their California Butter Chardonnay, they have a Napa Butter Chardonnay which is sourced from premier grapes in Napa. In the picture it looks like two bottles of the same wine but you can tell the difference on the bottom of the bottle to see if it is Napa or California Butter.
The Napa Butter was a real treat. It is much more complex than the California Butter. First off, you get toasted marshmallow on the nose with just a hint of brown sugar. The first flavor that hits your tongue is sweetness. Not overpowering in any way, just a nice start to a fantastically balanced chardonnay. As the unique flavors of the wine start to emerge I got hints of roasted pineapple. If you have ever been to a Brazilian BBQ (churrascaria) and had them bring out the roasted pineapple on a sword, that is what it tasted like. The flavor is followed up with a mix of very soft vanilla and melon. I was chatting with the super friendly staff saying that the wine is so well balanced that it is quite difficult to pick out specific flavors. It's just a wine you want to just kick back and sip on. The only downside of the Napa Butter is if you want it you can only buy it from the tasting room.
Insider tip: they did tell me that if you call in you can place an order with the staff and they will ship it to you!
After the tasting I went across the street to Oenotri for dinner. I had been quite a few years ago but had forgotten how great their food is. They do traditional Southern Italian cuisine and they have it mastered. If you are in Napa I highly recommend making Oenotri part of your trip. As a huge bonus for my buttery chardonnay audience, they serve a hidden gem chardonnay here. Make sure you order the Rodde "Coombsville" Chardonnay. You can't get it at the winery or anywhere else that I know of except at the restaurant (as of 1/20/17). If you don't have time for dinner Oenotri has a bar area where you can order the Coombsville by the glass.
A gem on the road to finding the best buttery chardonnays
Last week I was up in Sonoma on business and had a couple extra hours to kill so I went out in search of more great buttery chardonnay for our customers. In my searching I came across one mention of a tasting room in Napa that apparently had excellent chardonnay. Now, when I call this tasting room a hidden gem it is somewhat of a double entendre because it is both excellent and hard to find physically. I tried to find it with Google Maps and the icon, although close, was not where the actually tasting room was. I ended up having to ask some of the staff of the Meritage Resort & Spa how to find the winery. On the map you can see that it's best to park in the back and walk down what looks like a deliveries entrance to get to the winery.
The tasting room it'self is in a cave where the hotel spa is as well. The website claims it is 40 feet underground which unfortunately is not an elevator taking you down to a subterranean cave but a tunnel built into the side of a hill that leads you to rooms under the vineyard. Still very cool though. I was there on a Tuesday and it was not too crowded but given the size of the tasting room and the fact that the hotel (and the one next to it) probably promote tastings there, I am sure it would be busy on the weekends.
The chardonnays at Trinitas are just fantastic. My tasting notes on the 2013 Chardonnay Carneros said "reminds me of Rombauer with less butter." I went on to taste the 2010 & 2013 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay which were quite different. It was amazing to me that a 2010 could last that long and taste so good. In speaking with the staff they told me that the wine maker does his best to not agitate his wines while they are in the barrel and he minimizes air going into the barrels while they age. This allows the wine to mature without oxidation and is apparently part of the secret to how they get ageable chardonnays. It is hearsay but apparently one of the wine makers from Rombauer came to taste at Trinitas and said that they had great wines, so if the winemaker of my favorite chardonnay likes it, it must be good!
And for the tasting notes:
Trinitas 2013 Carneros Chardonnay
Nice oak and butter with a hint of brown sugar. This wine is made with half American oak and half Russian oak which leaves it with a lighter oak taste than 100% American or French oak. Interestingly, although the flavor has more of the buttery characteristics I love, it has a green apple aroma. And as I stated above, this wine reminds me of Rombauer. I think it is the hint of brown sugar which I don't tend to find in a lot of chardonnays but I think ads to Rombauer's perfect flavor. The staff described this as more of a cinnamon/apple pie flavor. $32
Trinitas 2013 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay
This wine was great all around. It had a wonderful vanilla on the nose which made you just want to dive into it. It had great butter and oak which comes from 95% American oak, 5% Russian oak and 100% malolactic fermentation. This chardonnay was great because the oak and butter last on your tongue for quite some time. My notes say this is a "must have." $40
Trinitas 2010 Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay
This was a really cool part of my tasting. I actually got to taste the 2010 vs. the 2013. Now, you might think the 2010 would be over-the-hill but this wine was great. The wine starts with a wonderful mixture of toast, popcorn and marshmallow on the nose. I literally sat there just smelling the wine for a bit before tasting it. The chardonnay had some interesting flavors that I would not commonly use to describe a chardonnay but I think worked well together. I got a hint of campfire as the wine hit my tongue. It was not obtrusive at all (i.e. like a smoky scotch) but was inviting as the wines flavors developed. I picked up butter and oak next with a combination of whipped cream and lemonade. Lastly I picked up a subtle green olive flavor as the aftertaste. So, as I said, strange flavors to describe a chardonnay but I guarantee you, it worked.
Trinitas 2012 Family Collection Rutherford Chardonnay
This wine I described as a jewel. The wine spends significant time in new oak and goes through 100% malolactic fermentation. The first thing you notice is the aroma which gives off a beautiful oak marshmallow nose with butter, vanilla and cream. I even put in my notes "Wow! And I have not even tasted it yet." The first sip is like buttered popcorn in your mouth and you can taste that this wine has sat in oak for extra time. There is a slight bitterness but it rounds out into a fine cream. I tend to be pretty good at picking out and describing flavors but this wine is so complex that I had trouble picking out all of the subtle changes. Pricey at $65 but worth getting a bottle for a special occasion.
The chardonnays were so good here that I decided to try some of the reds as well. I recommend this if you have time. This winery has truly great wines.
A great time to go to wine country and a fun place to explore
This past weekend we took a trip up to wine country to do some research for Chardonnay Box. Every time I go up there at this time of year I am reminded of how gorgeous wine country is during the fall. Unlike many other parts of California, the vineyards actually have seasons similar to the North East. We felt like "leafers" headed up from Boston or New York to catch the changing colors in Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine.
We stopped at a few wineries along the way and then stayed over in Healdsburg, catching some of the wineries in the town square before they closed.
One of the more interesting sections of our drive was in the Dry Creek region. I had never been there before and it was truly beautiful. Interestingly, there is an ordinance in Dry Creek that you cannot hold events (such as weddings) there. It is zoned for farming and small business only. They claim to do this because the roads are small and they don't want the traffic congestion. It definitely helps to keep a small town feel in the region - although a wedding would be gorgeous here!
Our main stop in the Dry Creek region was at Ferrari Carano where we got to taste in both their reserve room and their main tasting room. The reserve room is a cavernous room down in the basement and is decorated with beautiful dark wood and stone. Even if you make it there and don't feel like doing the reserve tasting it is definitely worth going downstairs to take a look. Upstairs we tasted Ferrari Carano's mainstream chardonnay which is absolutely wonderful and for the price point it is well worth it. Downstairs we got to taste some impressive chardonnays that left us saying WOW after each sip of wine. Below are my notes on these wines:
2014 Fiorella Chardonnay
This chardonnay was very interesting. It definitely had some nice buttery notes to it but there was a decent amount of minerality. Fortunately that minerality was balanced out by a smooth oakyness. I noticed a bit of a dry sensation on the tongue as an aftertaste.
2013 Tre Terre Chardonnay
This chardonnay had much less minerality than the Fiorella. The oak and butter in the chardonnay were well balanced although not quite as pronounced as Ferrari Carano's mainstream chardonnay in my opinion. The subtlety of the balance makes this wine one that you would want to enjoy slowly to really appreciate the soft flavors.
2013 Chardonnay Reserve - Carneros
Well, I just can't say enough about this wine. My first tasting note was "just delicious." As you get into the reserve chardonnays in general you start to pick out some additional distinct flavors that really show the time and effort the winemaker put into each bottle. This reserve chardonnay has a lovely flavor of sweet vanilla. The sweetness is just right (not like a sweet wine) and when paired with the creamy butter and subtle oak, it creates a truly wonderful wine experience.