Dry Creek Vineyard Luncheon

Thea surveys our seating options. We were first to arrive & quickly snagged a shady table!

Staying in CA after the Wine Blogger Conference certainly has its perks.  I’m not sure that food ended up costing Thea, Ashley, and me a dime for the 2 days we spend criss-crossing Napa and Sonoma since so many wineries were hosting after after after WBC events…we tried to attend as many as possible…but I can only drive so fast!  Out first after the WBC event occurred at Dry Creek Vineyard.

Dry Creek Vineyard, along with Gustafson Family Vineyards and Rued Wines hosted a lunch on the property of Dry Creek Vineyard. In addition to some very yummy food and wine, they held a drawing for Passport tickets, won by my friends Shana and Russ! Now, the only problem was that it was hot hot hot that day. SO HOT.  And shade was limited so the wines I think suffered due to that..the reds were warm and not showing well due to the heat. For that reason, I’m just going to tell you about the two wines that were kept on ice as they were served at a decent temperature.

2008 Gustafson Rosé of Syrah: $20. Strawberry, cranberry, lime, crisp, dry, floral, light. Very refreshing on this extremely hot day.

2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc: $16. Melon, lime, citrus, orange blossoms, floral, light, tropical notes, guava.  Enjoyed this one.

Dry Creek also set up a wireless signal that broadcast over the whole lawn, which many of my fellow winos really appreciated as they Twittered away on their iPhones. Not that I was/am jealous or anything.  Nope, not at all. In our info packet from the lunch was a nifty corkscrew that I absolutely adore…it’s become my go-to waiter’s corkscrew!

Someday soon I will finish telling you about my California trip. Still to come: C. Donatiello, Cornerstone, Hall, and Corison. Stay tuned!


I Don’t Do Nature

Pretty much anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows this. I don’t like bugs, I don’t sleep outside, and I refuse to be too far away from a place with a shower and facilities.  Perhaps it was Girl Scouts that did me in…I was always afraid of spiders, but one year my good friend MC spotted a gigantic wolf spider on the ceiling of our platform tent….she tried to kill it and instead knocked it down into the middle of a pile of screaming 12 year old girls.  I didn’t camp again or really do much in terms of outdoorsy things until I went to college…where orientation was more disorientation and they tossed you into the woods with 12 of your classmates, a sleeping bag, and no showers for 3 days.

Now, I still am wary of the whole camping things, but in the last year, my attitude towards hiking, packing food into the woods, and generally enjoying a good trail has done a 180.  I’ll give that credit to my good friend Russ.  I’ve had the fortune to make multiple trips to Northern California and everytime, Russ, the Winehiker, has been there to urge me out onto the trail with him.  So much so that Matt and I independently took a vacation to go hiking, tubing, and communing with nature in the Smoky Mountains! I give Russ full credit–he’s been a fantastic trail guide and I’ve enjoyed every minute of hiking around Northern CA with him!

This time, he kindly picked me up at SFO yet again, and whisked me off to do a few moderate hikes up into Mt. Tam.  While we didn’t see any Banana Slugs (it’s too hot and dry), I did manage to snap a few lizard shots.  I’ll leave you with the rest of my pictures and highly recommend hiking with Russ on your next adventure out West.

Rendered Speechless

I could not get over this winery facility.  Apparently the owner originally intended it to be his home….wow….but so many people pulled up looking for a winery that he instead decided to make it the home of the tasting room for Ledson Winery.  This one was worth a visit just to see the place….I believe our host told us the house is 26,000 square feet….I can’t imagine furnishing a place like that!

Our host at Ledson rocked. He was SO friendly, answered all our questions, and pretty much let us taste everything he had open, including a bunch of wines not on the menu.  We stopped in with Russ after our hike to taste a little wine and spend some time sitting at one of the many picnic tables on the gorgeous grounds.  While a family owned winery, Ledson produces about 40K cases of wine per year, owns 60 vineyards in 10 counties, and has 20 acres onsite.  With over 70 wines, the selection at Ledson is dizzying.  We tried 13 wines, just the tip of the iceberg.

Our friendly host.

2007 Gewurztraminer: $18.  Orange blossom, honey, lychee, spice, lime, melon, pear, nice finish, crisp. I really enjoyed this one and we took home a bottle.

2007 Carneros Chardonnay Reserve: $48. Toasty smoke, oak, lemon, popcorn, vanilla, apple, pear, smoke on the finish, oak.  NMS.

2005 Mes Trois Amour: $36. Blend of Mourvedre/Grenache. Flowers, chocolate, perfume, smoke, cherry, red currants, red fruit, tobacco, tannic, nice.  We took home a bottle.

2005 Russian River Valley “Old Vine” Zinfandel Amy’s Vineyard: $40. Brown sugar, black fruit, candy, spice, pepper, smoke, herbs, red berries, pepper, tannic.

2006 Mourvedre: Funky, smoke, flowers, dusty chocolate, red fruit, tart fruit, acidic, cherry, nice structure.

2007 Mourvedre Barrel Sample: Licorice, bright red fruit, cherry, coconut, dusty chocolate, cream, red cherries, darker than the ’06, earth, big wine, great finish.  Loved this one, but sadly, it’s not bottled yet!

2005 Knight’s Valley Bellisimo: $60. Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend.  Funk, cherry, red fruit, mint, leather, plum, cherry, milk chocolate, blackberries, raspberries, earth, tannic.

2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon: $54. Cherry, spice, clove, funk, eucalyptus, dusty, cherry, red berries, chocolate, tobacco, big structure, very tannic.

2005 Knight’s Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: $75. Floral, licorice, blackberry, chocolate,herbs, plums, blackberries, tannic.

2005 Sonoma County Cépage: $85. Bordeaux style blend. Funky, blackberries, plums, oak, spice, cherry, raspberries, chocolate, pepper, pepper, herbs.

2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: $90. Funk, mint, chocolate, blackberries, herbs, sage, cherries, leather, bright cherry, plum.

2005 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Reserve: $52. Chocolate syrup, pepper, cedar, blackberry ,red fruit, chocolate, earth, spice, smooth, really well done, red berries, violets, floral, pomegrante, brown sugar. One of the best Zins I’ve tasted in a while. We bought two, one for us and one for Russ!

2007 Orange Muscat: $18. Orange, spice, apricot, honey, white pepper, tangerines, sweet oranges, fairly dry, light.  Matt really like this so we took home a bottle.

Overall, I thought some of the wines were extremely pricey…some were worth it, some I thought were just too high.  However, they had a good range of prices and wines and it was definitely a fun visit.  I could have gawked at the grounds and the house for quite some time.  We had fun in the shop too, purchasing some tasty olive oils, chocolate sauces, and vinegars.  If you want to eat on the grounds, they sell all kinds of foods, cheeses, breads, spreads, salads, etc., and will prep a lunch box for you to have a picnic with, including wine.

A Hiking We Will Go!

Matt and I had the absolute pleasure of connecting with our very good friend Russ, the Winehiker, on our recent Sonoma/Napa trip.  Russ kindly agreed to mosey on up to Sonoma and meet us to go on a hike.  I promised Matt we would do something non-wine related on this trip, and while Russ’ hikes always end with wine, a hike would give us a good full day of non-wine activity.  I am the wino in the family afterall, so it’s only fair that our vacation includes something Matt would really like to do.

We met Russ on the morning of tax day, intending to go on a hike with a 2000 foot elevation on Sugarloaf Ridge in Sonoma.  That hike would have taken….well, at the rate I hike, probably 6-8 hours and I probably would have needed several packages of moleskin.  I’m so woefully unequipped to hike that the only socks I own that were higher than ankle height to wear with my hiking books (amazing I have those) were Christmas socks…Russ got a chuckle out of that.  So Russ took pity on me and had us hike in Annadel State Park instead, up to Ledson March.  Russ said the hike ran us about 6 miles round trip, so that seemed perfect for a vacation hike…especially when it was followed by a stop at Ledson Winery and then dinner at Zin!

As usual, Russ proved to be an excellent trail guide.  He’s always pointing out interesting flora and fauna, making sure you not only get a good hike in, but a lesson in the nature of the area.  Plus, he puts up with me and abject fascination with various living creatures….on our first hike I was enamored by the banana slugs…on this hike, the lizards.  We don’t get lizards in this part of Virginia, so I’ve rarely ever seen one in the wild.  I spent much of our hike attempting to get close enough to photograph the wily critters!  Following are some of the many many photos I took on our hike…next up, a review of Ledson Winery where we stopped after our hike!



Matt and me!

Flower we couldnt id.

Flower we couldn't id.

Lizard 2!

Lizard 2!





Hiking with Russ!

This past September, I finally had a chance to go hiking with Russ. Russ, in case you haven’t heard of him, is better known as the Winehiker.  He leads hikes all over the Northern California wine country that involve a hike, lunch, a wine tasting.  Russ kindly picked me up at the airport the day I arrived in San Francisco and whisked me away for a 5ish mile hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Now, I’m not much of a hiker.  At all.  Actually, I’m all around unathletic. And, I had just gotten off a plane from DC that left DC at 7am! But I was up for trying, and Russ promised it would be a moderate hike!  Now let me tell you, even if you are about as athletic as I am, it is worth it to get out on a hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Russ.  Russ is incredibly knowledgable about all the flora and fauna in the area and makes for a great field guide.  Following are some photos from my lovely hike, including the Banana Slug(s) that fascinated me!  Next time you are in CA, I’d highly recommend giving Russ a call to schedule your own Winehike!

Tardy Winery Reviews

Way back in September I had the excellent fortune to be sent to San Francisco for a conference for my job (somehow, blogging doesn’t pay the bills….) and I met up with some excellent wine friends who kindly shuttled me around during my free time.  When I arrived Russ picked me up at the airport so we could go hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  More on that in another post.  After our hike we spirited off to Thomas Fogarty to taste some wine.

2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay: $35. Butter, oak, apple, peach, honey, mouth filling, spice, peach, clean fruit.

2006 Monterey Gewurztraminer: $17.50.  I took home 3 bottles. Peach, orange blossoms, floral, so aromatic, smooth, orange, laced with spice. Fabulous.

2006 Michaud Vineyard Pinot Noir: $48. Strawberry crumble, pie, dirt, orange zest, strawberry, cherry, a little hot.

2006 Santa Cruz Pinot Noir: $25. Mushrooms, earth, leather, red fruit, cranberry, a little hot.

2003 Barbiolo: $35. Blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo.  Smoky, roses, red fruit, dark, spicy, bitter, currants.

2004 Martella Syrah: $55. Funky, burnt toast, vanilla, dark cherry, currants.

2003 Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon: $50.  Reserved, spice, tannins, berries, cherries, fresh fruit, eucalyptus, vanilla.

2003 Vallerga Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: $50.  Herbal, forrest floor, dark berry, herbs, blackberries, sour cherries, pepper.

2007 Barbera Rose: $21. Strawberry, really dry, delicious, flowers, lime, cranberry. I took one home.

I found the Thomas Fogarty property to be beautiful, and the view from the grounds unbeatable.  The tasting room seemed decently sized, and we were the only visitors on a Wednesday afternoon.  I especially enjoyed the Gewurztraminer, and would highly recommend it.

Rose, Rose, I Love You

I pulled out the 2007 Thomas Fogarty Rose of Barbera from Fiddletown Vineyards to drink the other night. I picked this up at the winery while Russ and I were tasting for $22. It had a real cork closure and clocked in at 14.1% alcohol by volume. I loved this at the tasting and the fact that it was made from Barbera grapes intrigued me, so I took a bottle home!

All I can say at first about this is wine is YUM! And I loved the bright pink color! On the nose I found slight cream, lime, strawberry, cherry, watermelon, and spice. The nose smelled refreshing and I couldn’t wait to drink the whole glass and then some. Overall, the mouth showed the same flavors as the nose, though I got even more red fruit, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, in the mouth than I did on the nose.

In the mouth, the wine showed dry as a bone. It’s a crisp Rose with racy acidity. I wish I had found this one when the weather was more suited for Rose as it’s just fantastic! I end with the same sentiment I started with: YUM!

WBW #50 Which Wine Which Wilderness

That’s right folks, WBW crept up on us again this month. Our host for this golden birthday of WBW is a man who recently celebrated his own golden birthday, Russ, the Winehiker! In keeping with his interests and passions, Russ has set the theme for this WBW at Which wine, which wilderness? By this he meant he would like us to choose a wine we would like to drink after hiking a trail. He wants us to name the wine and the trail, and you get bonus points for choosing a local wine to the trail you select. You can get all the details here.

So here’s the thing. On the scale of athletic to unathletic, I fall squarely in the “unathletic” camp. I force myself to exercise because it’s good for me and with the amount of wine I consume I’d probably be the size of adult elephant in no time flat if I didn’t. Sure, I’ve been on hikes. I hiked halfway up Mt. Moosilauke in NH before the altitude made it too hard for me to breathe and I got an asthma attack….but in reality I’m more of a “wine stroller” than a hiker.

Another notch against me is that within the Metro DC area, trails are simply not abundant. You’d have to drive a bit to get to anything remotely strenuous.

After considerable thought, I’ve decided that my trail is the Mt. Vernon Trail. We walk this one quite frequently as it’s beautiful and very close to our house. The Mt. Vernon Trail goes all the way from Mt. Vernon to Roosevelt Island, all along the banks of the Potomac River. It’s about 18 miles long, fully paved, and is open to both walkers/runners and bicycles. Matt and I like to walk back and forth along about a 4 mile stretch of this trail, through a pretty marsh land and up into Old Town Alexandria.

If I were to have a glass of wine at the end of this, I’d stop along the way at one of the many picnic spots along the scenic Potomac (you can see lots of the monuments from the trail) and pop the cork on a bottle of the 2006 Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer in honor of Russ himself and the wine hike he took me on a few weeks ago that ended with a tasting at Thomas Fogarty in the Santa Cruz Mountains!

The above picture is a Banana Slug I took a picture of while hiking with Russ. These creatures fascinated me and I’m sure it annoyed Russ to no end that I kept stopping to examine them and take loads of photos!

The Thomas Fogarty 2006 Gewurztraminer hails from Monterey County. It cost me $17 at the winery, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and had a real cork closure. On the nose I found orange blossom, honey, ginger, lime, spice, tropical fruit, lychee, flowers, and something almost nutty. The nose on this wine kept going and going, so aromatic. You could smell your glass across the room. In the mouth I got flavors of citrus, oranges, tropical fruit, spice, and ginger.

Overall, the wine seemed light and sprightly. It had a great mineral quality, and the acidity really made it a refreshing wine. I would drink this at the end of a long hike/walk on the Mt. Vernon Trail because it it would be the perfect pick me up and would be a wonderful wine to drink while surrounded by great views of Washington, DC.

Many thanks to Russ for hosting us in this edition of WBW and as always, a tip of the hat to Lenn of Lenndevours, our founder who has kept WBW going for 50 iterations.

Drinking with Patrick, Genevieve, and Russ

As I’ve mentioned before, Patrick was kind enough to escort Matt, Russ, and me around his stomping ground of Healdsburg one of the days we were out in California this spring. Not only did he play tour guide, but he also chauffeured us around, acted as the local restaurant critic, and provided Russ with accommodations!

For dinner that night, we were joined by Patrick’s wife and partner in crime, Genevieve at Zins in Healdsburg. An excellent choice, I’m still enamored by the Zinfandel glazed duck breast I had there, and I hope to return on my upcoming CA trip this October. While at the restaurant, Patrick put on yet another hat and played sommelier and wine provider!

We tasted through some of his and Genevieve’s current offerings from Iridesse wines, as well as through some of the wines Genevieve made while at Chateau Felice:

Iridesse 2005 Lodi Albarino: 13% alcohol, $18. From Sueno Vineyard. Floral, lemon, tropical fruit, crisp, almost a hint of cream.

Iridesse 2003 Russian River Valley Rose: 13% alcohol, $9. From Rodgers Family Vineyard. Berries, candy, spice, white pepper, very aromatic, really dry and refreshing.

Chateau Felice 2002 Tall Woman Likes Red: 13.8% alcohol, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel blend. Baking spice, white pepper, blackberry, plum, peppery, spicy, blueberry.

Chateau Felice 1999 Cabernet Franc Reserve: 14.5% alcohol. Dark, layered spice, strawberry preserves, full, fruity, earth.

Libe Lula 1999 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: 14.1% alcohol. Strawberry, cherry, earty, smooth, spicy, red fruit, very nice.

Many thanks again to Patrick and Genevieve, and to Russ for the company! Looking forward to seeing you all again in October!

Beautiful Bella

On our last trip to Sonoma, one of my absolute must visits was to Bella Vineyards. I fell in love with Bella on our honeymoon and we joined their club at that time. However, when we bought our house, we had to make some sacrifices and I had to give up my membership. It was a difficult choice, and I was determined to rejoin as soon as we could.

We twisted Russ’ arm to come to Bella with us on our last day in Sonoma (trust me, it didn’t take too much convincing!) and off we went, to meet him as soon as the place opened. We expected it to be a slow day, since we were there first thing, and it was a weekday morning, but alas, that was not the case. The cave was packed! I think Bella gets specific accolades from Russ though, as it was the only winery we visited where Russ bought wine!

Somehow, we carved out a tiny spot for ourselves at the tasting bar, and eagerly jumped into the current line up of wines.

2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel: $25. Peppery smoke, blackberries, dark berries, smoky fruit, toast.

2005 Big River Ranch Zinfandel: $36. Bark berry, blueberry, peppery, vanilla, fruity, oak, cinnamon. Very good.

2006 Belle Canyon Zinfandel: Sweeter nose, floral, chocolate, chili pepper, tannic.

2005 Hillside Cuvee: $28. 50% Cabernet Sauvigon, 50% Zinfandel, some Petite Sirah, some Petite Verdot. Big fruit, dark, plum, bold fruit, currants, earth, tannic, a little red fruit. We took home 2 bottles.

2007 Late Harvest Zinfandel: $24. 375 mL. Chocolate milk, earth, plum, blackberry, very nice.

After a lovely visit, I am very happy to be a member of the Bella Wine Club again. We received our first shipment about a month ago and I look forward to many more in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to taste Bella’s wines, you should seek them or stop by the vineyard if you have a chance!