Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
Our “8 Days in May” Wine Tour was promoted by Wine Road Sonoma that is an association that provides a wine country resource guiding visitors and locals alike through the scenic bi-ways and backroads of the three valleys, and points the way to the fine wine and exquisite cuisine of the region.
Their latest adventure, “The 8 days in May Tasting” offered you the opportunity to schedule tastings at a number of smaller wineries throughout Sonoma County for one ticket price which included a “club members discount” on wine purchases for the day you visited – turned out to be a very good deal.
It was a bit of a challenge to set up a matrix for the tasting schedule working on time and distance to get from one place to the other. I’ve used our schedule to show just how we accomplished our visits to twelve wineries skipping weekends and working around other commitments, it turned out to be just a bit of a challenge.
Here’s my thought on some but not all of the wineries that we visited, hope you enjoy the tour.
10:30 DeLorimier Winery
2001 Highway 128
Geyserville, CA 95441
Book your reservation on our website (no calls please)
– 2020 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
– 2018 Rose’ of Primitivo
– 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile
15% Discount on any wine purchased
Located in a lovely wooded setting in Alexander Valley the winery is part of the Wilson Family Wines and a family member Diane Wilson, is the winemaker for this winery as well as several others on the tour. We were taken by the Rose’ of Primitivo with a rich flavor and we recall it is one of the best wines we tasted throughout the entire experience.
Lunch at Diavola Pizza in Geyserville
1 PM Rued Winery
3850 Dry Creek Road
Smaller family run operation in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley, wines were okay but the highlight was finding a new pair of earrings for Peggy.
3:30 Ridge Lytton Springs
650 Lytton Springs Road
Well-known winery with a lovely vista and a classic Chardonnay. All of their wines were well made but just don’t fit our tasting profile
11:30 lunch in Downtown Healdsburg – Kin Smoke BBQ
12:30 Pezzi King Tasting Room
412 Hudson Street
Another Wilson property featuring some of Ms. Wilson’s work
2:30 – Rockpile Vineyards
206 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg
A lovely tasting room with entertaining staff at the edge of the downtown area located on a roundabout and maybe our best visit. The name “Rock Pile” implies just that, a 2000 foot rocky mountain where grapes are planted at different altitudes and benefit from the different environments, i.e. no fog at 2000 feet so lots of sun but some fog at eighteen hundred feet offering a cooler environment. We literally could taste the effect of the altitude on each of the zins that we sampled and chose one at 1,800 feet as our favorite.
11:30 GC Lurton Vineyards-Trinite Estate
10603 Chalk Hill Rd
Located in the vineyard covered Chalk Hill mountains above Healdsburg we found a French owner and winemaker who still owns a small château in France. As you might imagine the wines are of a distinct Bordeaux style, we liked the Merlot.
2:00 PM Viszlay Vineyards
851 Limerick Lane
Good olive oil.
3:00 ACORN Winery & Alegría Vineyards
12040 Old Redwood Highway
Everything was a field blend and rather pricy
Monday 5/31 – Our 35th Wedding Anniversary
12:15 Russian River Vineyards
5700 Hwy. 116 N.
As you might imagine the winery is located in the heart of the Russian River Valley and is beautifully located up in and among Redwoods. We only wished that the wines were as exciting as the location.
Lunch in the car with “to go” sandwiches to keep with our schedule
1:30 Carol Shelton Wines
3354-B Coffey Lane
Santa Rosa, CA
Located in a plain jane industrial Park on the far west side of Santa Rosa, Carol Shelton is a well-known and respected winemaker, her Wild Thing Zinfandel blend is probably the best known of her some 20 other wines all tasty and at a very reasonable price point. If you see the name, try the wine.
3:00 Hook & Ladder Winery
2134 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Our last visit took us to a winery on the rural west side of Santa Rosa established by a former San Francisco firefighter who was the “tiller man” on a hook and truck. Lovely, breezy vistas and well-made Pinot Noir and Merlot ended our tour.
We both agreed that this took a bit more work than we thought it would but we enjoyed it and discovered some wineries we’ve never been to and others we hadn’t been to for some time. It also reminded us of the many trips that we made out from Chicago during the thirty years before we moved here when we would often visit six or eight wineries in one day when you could just stop in and they were happy to see you.
Tasting Fees Almost Doubled in Past Five Years
There’s a bit of sticker shock taking effect at wine tasting rooms, the average price for a standard tasting fee has almost doubled in five years and is now $58 in Napa County and $30 in Sonoma County.
A recent survey from Silicon Valley Bank’s 2021 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Survey Report lists the average standard tasting fee in the US as $25, but that is brought up by Napa and Sonoma, as only those regions average more than that. Washington state is the bargain region for tasting: high-quality wines with an average fee of $15. More on Washington wines later.
Many wineries also are reporting having a higher “reserve tasting” fee, which averages $90 in Napa and $50 in Sonoma. “It’s about approachability and accessibility,” Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, told Wine-Searcher. The most important thing you can do when you’re trying to establish a region or winery is to get the wine in people’s mouths and let them experience what Washington tastes like.”
More than 40 percent of wineries expect to hold tastings only by appointment this year.
Vintner Spent $10M on Winery Purchase with Plans for a $275 Cabernet
This item wended its way across my attention the other day and I thought you all might be interested as where to spend some of your retirement money.
Suzanne Deal Booth hasn’t released any wine yet, but the new vintner is already looking like an ambitious player in Napa Valley with her purchase of a third property in the valley’s prestigious Rutherford district, a 1.4-acre parcel, and the price – $10 million. She now has holdings of 32.6 acres. Vineyard land in Napa Valley can sell for anywhere from $300,000 to $350,000 an acre.
Booth’s entrance into the wine market will be bold, even by pricey Napa Valley standards: The first vintage of Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — 300 cases from the 2018 vintage — will be released this September for $275 a bottle, overwhelming a recent report that the average price of a Napa Valley Cabernet or red blend at $113.50. I love the .50 inclusion.
The Early Results on McDonald’s Chicken Foray
As you loyal “Whiners” know I didn’t think that much of the latest version of their chicken sandwich and it’s kind of fun to see them swinging in the wind about the fact that while some customers have tried the sandwiches no one is really stopping by just to have one on a regular basis and I love the “stimulus checks and other factors” statement being used to show sales growth, read on for more fun.
Executives said the chicken sandwiches—along with the return of Spicy Chicken McNuggets, stimulus checks and other factors—helped lift U.S. same-store sales growth to 13.6 percent in the first quarter.
(I’m not making this up) “I don’t have a Chick-fil-A near my stores, so the chicken products are well-received,” said one franchisee who responded to a company survey, but none mentioned pulling customers away from the chicken champ. Tellingly, none of the consumers polled described McDonald’s chicken sandwich as a “craveable item.”(Nor did I) In contrast, 32 percent of recent Chick-fil-A customers and 29 percent of recent Popeyes customers called those chains’ chicken sandwiches craveable, see a trend here?
McDonald’s chicken sandwich sales are primarily driven by existing customers switching from burgers and other menu items rather than new customers flocking to the chain for chicken, sort of like eating their young.
And the capper is this quote from a McDonald’s consult, “Look this is kind of the start of our chicken journey, there’s more to come.” I just wish they’d read the Whine.
Burger King Has Debuted New Chicken Sandwich
Named the Ch’King, Burger King said the new sandwich will be offered in several versions: regular, Spicy Ch’king and as a Deluxe, which includes lettuce and tomato but no pickle, when will these people read the reviews, pickles are a major component of the bestselling sandwiches, not lettuce and tomato. All feature a hand-breaded chicken filet on a potato bun with a signature sauce.
“Our guests said it best, our hand-breaded Ch’King sandwich is our greatest yet,” said Ellie Doty, chief marketing officer for Burger King North America, in a statement. How does she know that if it hasn’t been released yet?
“We said we would create a delicious hand-breaded chicken sandwich that was worth the wait,” Doty said, “we just didn’t anticipate that it would turn out quite this good.” (Or that it would take this long.)
Yet there’s more chicken news!!!
Chili’s Restaurant and Bar boasted in a release that it was “ready to put all other chicken sandwiches to shame” (I love all the pr. brew ha-ha) as it announced the introduction of the Chili’s Chicken Sandwich, a hand-battered, breaded chicken breast topped with a “secret sauce,” on a buttered and toasted brioche bun. The sandwich is topped with a tomato slice, lettuce, and comes with a side of fries.
“We didn’t want to create just another chicken sandwich. We’re all about food perfection and wanted to create the best chicken sandwich and that takes time,” Chili’s said in a statement. Chili’s added that it had tested the new sandwich “over a year to ensure we give our guests the perfect bite,” the company added. The new sandwich will be available nationwide but for some reason only through June 30th.
Wow the tasting panel has its work cut out for it, but Whiners have no fear we’ll eat through it.
The highly respected Decanter magazine has rated the 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet vintage 4.5 out of a possible 5 stating that,”…it belongs in an echelon with the finest of the past two decades. It was absent of challenges that plagued many of the previous years, ranging from drought, low yields and heatwaves. The best wines show control, poise and transparency between vineyard and appellation stay.
And let’s finish with some more normal wine pricing. While I haven’t tasted these wines recently I know the brands and I believe you will find them worthwhile. Here are the Wine and Spirits magazine value brands for June:
Alexander Valley Vineyards
2018 Alexander Valley Zinfandel $20
2017 Alexander Valley Zinfandel $20
Chateau Ste. Michelle
2017 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $15
2017 Columbia Valley Mimi Cabernet Sauvignon $19
2019 Columbia Valley Rose’ $11
2019 Oregon Rose of Pinot Noir $19
2018 Pinot Noir $19
H3 Washington State
2018 Horse Heaven Hills red blend $15
2019 Horse Heaven Hills rose’ $15
2018 Sonoma County Zinfandel $10
2017 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $10
2018 Napa Valley Red Blend $11
That’s my Whine and I could be wrong…
My recipes for Classic Shrimp Scampi and a Chickpea Salad with Fresh Herbs and Scallions are in fact right here, enjoy!
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks and matches wine and food in Santa Rosa Sonoma County at www.woodythewineguy.com