Winter in the Vineyard

winter-vineyard

Winter in the Vineyard. It’s the quiet time. Harvest is over, the cellar has done their thing and now the wine sits quietly and ages. The leaves in the vineyard turn red or golden and then fall, the vines are going dormant. They will get pruned mid winter, cutting back the vines to ensure a healthy crop for next year.

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Fertilizing the vineyard

Now is the time to compost the vineyard. Many vineyards save the unripe fruit and/or pomice (the skins from the grapes after the wine is pressed off) to use in their compost. Sometimes additional fertilizers will be added. (We like when they used the natural kind). Then the soil is disked to get the nutrients mixed in with the topsoil. This way when the rain comes the soil can soak up all these nutrients.

Grapevines and mustard growing in California's Napa Valley

Grapevines and mustard growing in California’s Napa Valley

Cover Crops

Cover crops will also be seeded, and coming up, likely making the vineyards look green in early winter. Cover crops help with keeping down erosion, adding nutrients back into the soil and help lure in those beneficial insects. Vineyards with sheep and other animals may have them out grazing in the vines. This helps keep the soil loose and adds natural fertilizer.

Pruning

Pruning may seem simple. It’s just cutting back the vines of course, but there is strategy involved.

A weaker vine may be pruned more deeply than a healthy vine.

Pruning also has some determining factors for harvest. As you prune you determine the number of spurs per vine (the knubs left of the pruned branch which will bud out in the spring). Each spur will have a shoot in the spring that will probably hold 2 clusters. So when you prune you can calculate your crop size for the next vintage (of course accounting for frost, shatter, birds, rot and rain, LOL).

There is also the matter of timing in pruning. All the vines of a varietal that you prune at the same time are likely to ripen at about the same time. So spreading the pruning out a little, changes the pacing of your harvest. And Pruning will stimulate the vines causing them to push out earlier. So depending on your forecast for spring, you might hold your pruning until later.

The pruning typically removes most of the canes leaving just those spurs. As you prune you can see how the sap is flowing. The sap flows stronger as you close in on bud break

These vine cuttings can be used to graft to new rootstock to plant again.

Pruning is often done by hand and it is laborious work. There are Pre-pruning machines that can cut the larger parts of the canes back, making it easier to get in and finish the job by hand.

As winter ends we will head toward spring and as the sap starts to flow and we get closer to bud break the sleepless nights when freeze warnings happen. But that’s for Spring (and you thought spring was all bright greens and flowers?)

 

find out more of how the Seasons work in Wine country.

Lompoc, the Wine Ghetto and Beyond

lompac Ghetto

We visited Lompoc.  It was a Thursday…so limited wine tasting rooms were open, but it gave us a chance to do a few tastings and scope out tasting rooms we would like to return to.  But perhaps you have never heard of Lompoc?  Let me bring you up to speed.

Lompoc

Lompoc is located on the Central Coast of California in Santa Barbara County.  From a wine perspective, it is the area just west of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.  The Chumash Indians were the first known settlers here and enjoyed relative peace and quiet for what is thought to be 10,000 years until the first European Settlement was built in 1787 with the La Purisima Mission.  The original mission was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake and was rebuilt several years after at another site.  The mission is now a state park and is host to the Wine and Fire Event held annually by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. the name Lompoc comes from the Chumash Indian word “Lum Poc” for “Lagoon” (or for stagnant waters, but lagoon sounds better).

The city of Lompoc was Incorporated in 1888 and many wharves were built for incoming supplies to the coast.  At the turn of the century the rail system took over transport of goods and slowed traffic to the coast by boats, but the new rail system ran from San Francisco to LA with a spur coming into Lompoc. The city is known as the City of Arts and Flowers and indeed they became know as the capitol for the flower seed industry.  The area became agriculturally based and still grows many flowers.

In 1941 Camp Cooke was established as a Army Training base and was renamed Vandenburg Air Force Base in 1958 when the Air Force began using it as a test site for intermediate-range ballistic missles.  In the late 1980’s this was to be the new spot for launching Space Shuttle Missions and the town grew and boomed with the expectation of people coming in to see the launches.  Sadly the Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986 ended that program and the city struggled to find a way out of the recession they found themselves in.

They turned to Tourism and now in addition to their arts and flowers, they are home to many wineries with around 30 tasting rooms, which are typically open on the weekends.

The Wine Ghetto

The Lompoc Wine Ghetto came about in 1998 when Rick Longoria moved his winery operations to an industrial Warehouse in Lompoc.  It was close to the vineyards and allowed an affordable space to make wine.  Others soon followed suit, and while Longoria moved out of the Ghetto, in to a new facility down the street (in the historic JM Club), there are still plenty of great tasting rooms in the Ghetto.

We had tasted in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto before at Palmina by Steve Clifton and a little further outside the Ghetto at Brewer Clifton back in 2012.  It seems like not so long ago, but really it has been a bit of time and things have changed.  Brewer-Clifton was founded in 2001 by Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton.  In 2015 Ken Frederickson and his team joined Brewer Clifton and recently the winery was purchased by Jackson Family Wines.

We also visited Fiddlehead Cellars during a Vintners Spring weekend event and enjoyed a great tasting with Kathy Josephs the winemaker there as well as some great home-cooked food!

Currently the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is home to 18 wineries and tasting rooms.  In addition there are individual tasting rooms like Longoria and Brewer Clifton further to the West and just east of the Ghetto is the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center Where you can find 4 tasting rooms and several other wineries.  The tasting rooms here include Zotovich, AVE, Kessler-Hawk and Transcendence.  In the Ghetto you will find Ampelos, Arcadian, Bratcher, DSP, Fiddlehead, Flying Goat, Holus Bolus, Jalama, La Montagne, La Vie, Montemar, Morretti, Pali, Palmina, Piedrasassi & Stolpman.  Check out the Lompoc Wine Trail for details and a map.

During this visit we stopped at A Taste of Sta. Rita Hills tasting room, which shares space with Moretti, located in the Wine Ghetto and then visited AVE and Transcendence located a short walk away at the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center.

You will find that most of the tasting rooms and wineries here focus on the varieties of grapes coming from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, meaning lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but there are other varieties available also.

While I was unable to get there, on Friday afternoons, Piedrasassi, Sashi Moorman’s Winery also has it’s Bakery open run by Melissa Sorongon.  You can get fresh baked bread and taste some great wines all at one time.  It’s on my list.

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We will be sharing the details of our tastings in Lompoc in future posts.  Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

A Grenache Vertical from Tablas Creek

Grenache Vertical Tablas Creek

We had planned to head to the Valley of Fire, but the winds kicked up and it didn’t seem like a good day to go, so…how to fill our day off?  Michael suggested a vertical.  We settled on a Grenache Vertical from Tablas Creek Vineyard.  We had a 2009, 2010 and 2012 in the cellar (they didn’t make a single variety Grenache in 2011).

Grenache

First, let’s start by talking about Grenache. The grape likely originated in Spain where they call it Garnacha, but it is found abundantly in France in the Rhône Valley. It is the “G” in a “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre) which is the traditional Red Blend from the Southern Rhône. About half of the Grenache grown in the world is in France, with the next biggest portion being grown in Spain. As far as the Rhône Valley goes, it is the most widely planted grape and it is the second most widely planted grape in the world! When you have a single variety Grenache you are looking at a Medium bodied wine.

 

Grenache Noir Tablas Creek

Grenache Noir in veraison at Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek has an incredible website, most especially if you are a wine geek. So here’s a link if you want to dive in deep on Grenache and in particular Grenache from Tablas Creek. https://tablascreek.com/story/vineyard_and_winemaking/grapes/grenache

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek Vineyard is located in Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast Region. The Vineyard and winery are a collaborative effort between the Perrin Family of Chateau de Beaucastel in the Rhône Valley’s Châteauneuf du Pape area and the Haas Family. Vineyard Brands, the wine import company founded by Robert Haas had been the exclusive importer for Beaucastel wines. They spent 4 years searching for a property that would be similar to the southern Rhône and settled on this piece of land with limestone soils similar to Beaucastel. In 1989 they founded Tablas Creek Vineyard on the West side of Paso Robles to grow Rhone Varieties. Hot sunny summer days and cool nights from the nearby Pacific, were just the right conditions. At the time, Paso Robles was one big AVA. This ginormous AVA which covered 614,000 acres of land and had 40,000 vineyard acres, was broken into 11 new AVAs including the Adelaida District AVA which is where Tablas Creek is located.

So they found the spot, now it was about the grapes. At this point in time, Rhône grape vines were not abundantly available in California, so they began the process of importing vines from Beaucastel. 9 grape varieties, with several clones from each as well as a variety of rootstocks where selected and imported. Of course that sounds easy right? Just get the cuttings and FedEx them right? Nope. The process is tedious, but important. After the Pheloxera outbreaks in the mid 1800’s and again in 1980’s, regulation to keep vineyards safe was imperative. The first vines arrived from France in 1990 and went through a 3 year process to be sure they were free of all virus’. Once the vines were released they needed to make more vines to have enough to plant. They created a nursery to do this which “at it’s peak produced over 200,000 bench-rafted vines for planting in Tablas Creek’s own vineyard and for sale to interested growers each year.” ( from https://tablascreek.com/story/history) They later partnered with NovaVine in Sonoma to handle this. You can now find Tablas Creek Clones in over 600 vineyards in multiple states.

They began with 9 varietals from Southern Rhone, including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Picpoul. They continue bringing in varietals so that they eventually will have all of the Châteauneuf du Pape collection.

We have been lucky enough to visit them multiple times and even had an opportunity to do an extensive interview a few years ago with Jason Haas their General Manager.  You can find all that info here on the website on our Tablas Creek Page.

The Grenache Vertical

Yes, each of these wines are grown at the same vineyard and made by the same winemaker, but there are differences.  First of course is the difference in age, when it was made and how much time it has spent in the bottle before opening.  But each vintage is unique.  We began our Grenache vertical with the 2009 which was the fourth time that Tablas Creek had done a single varietal Grenache bottling.

 

Grenache Vertical poured

Vertical tasting through 3 years of Tablas Creek Grenache

2009

In 2009 California had been in drought conditions for 3 years. April frost and a huge October rainstorm caused the lowest yields they had ever seen at 1.85 tons per acre for the reds. Low yields do typically indicate more concentrated fruit and that held true for this wine when it was made. This was the 4th bottling of Grenache as a single varietal for Tablas Creek.

The Vintage Chart for this wine (which you can find on the Tablas site) indicates that this wine is “Drinking Well: Youthful” while the other two vintages are noted at “Drinking Well: Mature”. Seems strange that the older wine is more tasting more youthful right? The concentration of this vintage allowed more tannins in the wine to give it more room for aging, and in fact they believe that this wine will continue to age nicely for another decade or more.   When it comes to aging wines, these folks know a thing or two.

This wine started off warm with red fruit topped with baking spice and prune then it opened up and became spicier with fine ground white pepper. It continued to open through the evening with more herbs and resin.

2010

Harvest for this vintage was late, starting 3 weeks later than usual and ending 2 weeks later. As opposed to 2009, yields of Grenache were almost doubled from the previous vintage. The summer was cool, but not foggy and while they had a little rain during harvest, it was followed by sun and wind to dry out the moisture. This wine and the ’12 are expected to continue to age well for the next 15 years.

This wine had more fruit on the palate than the ’09 and it was a little figgy on the nose (which caused me to buy some fig butter to pair with it). As it opened up I got a little leather, then prunes and more warmth.

2012

The yields from this vintage were similar to 2010 (just a small increase in the tons of Grenache). The sugar levels in the 2012 Grenache sit at just about the same place as the 2010 also.

My first impression in the glass was dried strawberries and cocoa. It opened up to more savory notes of black tea on roasted meat with dried herbs and then some caramel at the end.

On the Tablas Blog you can find a charming comparison of vintages to Hollywood stars

The Pairings

We opened the wines mid day and had a taste to see what we wanted to pair with them. We did not decant, which was recommended and here’s why. We had 3 bottles, and we were planning to pair with lunch and then again with dinner and we did not want to let them dissipate too quickly. So after sipping, we set out to find some pairings that might show up the similarities and differences in our Grenache Vertical.

Lunch

Cheese Pairings with Grenache

Our cheese pairings with the Tablas Creek Grenache Vertical

Our lunch pairings included a Beef Shepherd’s pie, lentil soup and then a cheese plate that consisted of Asiago with Rosemary, a triple crème cheese and a Cambolzola (a triple crème bleu), fig butter, cherry preserves, dates, strawberries and rosemary.

Dinner

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For dinner, we made bacon wrapped dates, roasted root vegetables (carrots and beets), roasted strawberries with rosemary and crostini’s with cherry preserves and Beef Sirloin Tri Tip in a Kansas City BBQ sauce, which we topped with a little fresh rosemary.

The Tasting

The lentil soup: This went well with the ‘09, great with the ‘10 and not so much with the ‘12. The 12 was just a little too fruity to go with the spices, where the 09 was good, but took a little bit of a backseat. The ‘10 was “just right”.

The Shepherd’s Pie: The ’09 was really nice, there was less spice in the shepherd’s pie than in the soup and that seemed to lend itself to a nice match with the ’09. The ’10 was a little big for the pie and the ’12 a little fruity but okay. The ’09 wins for this pairing.

With the cheeses the Fig butter and triple crème brie were wonderful with the ’09, and the ’10. The Asiago and rosemary went best with the ’10 and the Triple Crème Bleu and cherry preserves were heaven with the ’12.

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The bacon wrapped dates and the crostini with cherry jam and BBQ tri tip were heaven with all 3.

My idea of the roasted strawberries seemed great and the nose and taste seemed like it would be great with the wines, but  I tasted alone with the ’12 had me reeling. The sugars in the strawberries made the wine go pure heat and alcohol in my mouth (don’t try this at home).

These wines continued to open up. We vacuum sealed them at the end of the evening and popped them open the following day to taste again. They continued to open up in our glasses with more nuances and surprises.

This was a wonderful vertical…I just wish I had another bottle of each that I could hold for another 10 years and try then! (This is why I need a Coravin!)

Check back for more vertical tastings! We will be doing an Esprit de Tablas (with one Esprit de Beaucastel) vertical with Thanksgiving Dinner!

And keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Pairing food with Picpoul Blanc – (speed dating for food and wine)

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

While on the Central Coast we made the pilgrimage to Bonny Doon Vineyard’s tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway in Davenport, CA. We left with a couple bottles of their 2016 Picpoul. The grapes for this 100% Picpoul Wine come from Beeswax Vineyard in Arroyo Seco.

Picpoul

So this grape is from the Southern Rhone and often is used as a blending grape. The label by Wendy Cook steers you toward the meaning of the name.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 Picpoul Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard Label Art by Wendy Cook

“Pique-poule” means lip stinger in French (or pecking hens depending on your translation, either way…you can picture the hens pecking your lips) It’s one of those 13 varieties of grape that are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Picpoul does come in red (Picpoul Noir), white (Picpoul Blanc) and pink (Picpoul Gris), but the white variety is most prevalent, which is why Bonny Doon refers to their Picpoul Blanc as simply Picpoul.

In France it is best known today as Picpoul de Pinet from the Pinet Region of Languedoc.

Arroyo Seco

Arroyo Seco is an AVA in Monterey County. The AVA covers two towns, Soledad and Greenfield. The area sits in the Salinas Valley 40 miles from Monterey Bay, which brings dense fog and howling winds during the growing season in the Eastern and Central Portions of the AVA. Named for the “Arroyo Seco” a seasonal waterway that brings in water from the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest. The Western portion of the AVA runs east to west in a narrow gorge that is sheltered from the Monterey Bay fog and winds and has higher daytime temperatures. The AVA covers over 18,000 acres and is one of the smallest AVAs in California and has about 7,000 planted acres.

Beeswax Vineyards

Beeswax Vineyard is owned by the Silva family who also runs Poppy Wines. It was established in 2000 and has 24 acres of organically farmed wine grapes with blocks of Pinot Noir, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Picpoul Blanc. This tiny vineyard is in the Salinas Valley toward the southern end of the AVA and is nestled into the Santa Lucia foothills.

Bonny Doon 2016 Picpoul – Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

This wine was mouthwatering and bright, with a light straw yellow color. You get minerals, ocean and a floral note when you stick your nose in the glass and then tart green apple and stone fruit pits in your mouth. There is in the background this little bit of beeswax. It is a lovely and subtle wine.

What to Pair with it?

I spent a little time in the afternoon researching what to pair with this wine. I started with the Bonny Doon site, which gave me “the briniest oysters you can find or Dungeness crab.” Well, sadly, finding either of those for the evening dinner was not really a possibility, so I searched further.

Tablas Creek Vineyards also does a Picpoul (there are not many wineries in the country that do), and they suggested; Fried Calamari, Thai dishes with lemongrass and ginger, Dover sole, Cerviche, Braised tuna or Swordfish. Well, that I could work with and Calamari and some Thai lemongrass sticks were added to the shopping list.

Digging deeper The Wine Cellar Insider suggested “salmon, swordfish, scallops, clams, oysters and rich cream or butter sauces.” And Picpoul de Pinet suggestion “not only….seafood and shellfish as well as other traditional Mediterranean dishes, but also with cheese and chocolate.” And finally Wine & Good Food suggested “oysters, Mahi Mahi or a salad topped with strawberries and goat cheese”

Okay…so now we had a list to work with. We headed to TJ’s, to see what we could find that might fit the bill and give us a wide variety of things to try.

Pairing a Picpoul

Picpoul Blanc Pairing Bonny Doon 2016 Arroyo Seco Beeswax Vineyard

A Picpoul Blanc Pairing

So we ended up with a big platter with a variety of things to try with this wine. We included;  smoked oysters, herbed goat cheese, anchovies,  smoked gouda, sardines, olive tapenade, capers and a couple Spanish Cheeses; Manchego and Iberico . We later dinned on the Calamari with a mayo, greek yogurt dip with thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest and the Thai Lemongrass chicken sticks.

As I tasted an allegory took hold in my mind, so indulge me as it carries me through my tasting notes.

The tasting hook up

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Smoked Oysters

Smoked oysters are not my favorite thing, but paired with the Picpoul they mellow and created a lighter tone for both the oyster and the wines and pulling up a floral note in the wine. This couple I really didn’t think would get along and they ended up having a great conversation.

Iberco

This is a fine pairing (remember when your date told you that you looked “fine”). The Spanish cheese pulls out the body in the wine and the saltiness in the cheese. These two might date for a while.

Anchovies

Anchovies are a little loud and unruly in your mouth. A sip of the Picpoul mellows and soothes the flavor and makes those anchovies much more likeable.

Olive Tapenade

These two change when they are together and continue changing in my mouth, like a couple lovingly pushing each other to take another step.

Manchego

They meet and compliment each other. The compliments make them smile and their smile makes each more beautiful.

Sardines

This is a blending that just makes you happy. Neither the Spanish cheese or the wine stand out, but together they are just right, snuggling in my mouth like an adorable quiet couple.

Capers

The picpoul just flatters the capers here, brightening them, while toning the acid in both and giving a little floral note to the bite. I think Picpoul might get Capers number.

Herbed Goat Cheese

Alright these two are the life of the party. Each are good but together they are a party in my mouth and are tearing up the dance floor!

Calamari

I’m out of allegory here. This was a great pairing, and while I think it would have been good with just Calamari and Picpoul the addition of the dip with the greek yogurt, thyme and lemon zest really kicked it up a notch.

Thai lemongrass chicken sticks

This was good. Mellow not a stand out, but certainly a good meld.

Last notes

Just before finishing this post, I was doing some additional research on Picpoul and came across this description on Appellationamerica.com. http://wine.appellationamerica.com/grape-varietal/Picpoul.html

Maybe my allegory wasn’t so far off.

Hopefully, this will inspire you in a couple of ways. To search out some Picpoul to start with and then to try some pairings. Take a moment with a wine and a food and think about them. What do you taste, what does it make you think of. Taste and explore! Then come back and share with us!

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Crawford Family Wines

Crawford Family Wines Tasting Room Los Olivos Santa Barbara County

Celebration of Harvest with the Santa Barbara Vintners is upon us and with the endless number of wineries in the Santa Barbara Valley, there are plenty to explore.  On our last trip we made a new discovery, as we visited Crawford Family Wines in Los Olivos.

Mark Horvath is the owner and winemaker at Crawford Family Wines.  That being so, you might ask where the name for the winery came from.  Well before Crawford Family Wines, Mark had another winery with Joey Gummere (who now runs his own winery Transcendence).  They spent a bit of time batting around names for their collaborative venture, mixing and matching their names and they came up with Kenneth Crawford.  Not names either of them were really known by, Kenneth is Joey’s first name, but he doesn’t go by it and Crawford is Mark’s mother’s maiden name but together…it sounded pretty cool, better than Gummere and Horvath or Mark & Joey, that was for sure.  So when opening his own winery Mark figured he would stick with the Crawford, and Crawford Family Wines was born.

Mark Horvath, Crawford family Wines speaking at the Santa Barbara Vintners Syrah Seminar April 2016

Mark and his wife Wendy have been in the wine industry for a while.  Spent time immmersed in the industry in Sonoma, with Mark working at Carmenet Winery, learning the cellar, the lab and then taking UC Davis courses.  It was at UC Davis, that he ran into a bunch of Santa Barbara Winemakers.  Mind you, back then there was not alot of buzz about Santa Barbara, but these winemakers had a passion and Mark and Wendy found themselves drawn to the area.  Mark worked at Babcock as the assistant winemaker, then started Kenneth Crawford with Joey Gummere and recently has worked at Tres Hermanas as the winemaker.Wendy has a background in the restaurant industry, she worked at The French Laundry and at Santa Barbara’s Wine Cask and has done work with a wine distributor.

The focus at Crawford Family Wines is Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills, many of which are vineyard specific.  They also do a Chardonnay from Rita’s Crown.  Outside of the Burgundian wines, they have an Albarino, a Rosé and a couple of Rhones.  We enjoyed a Syrah Seminar on the range of Santa Barbara Syrahs in April of 2016 and Mark spoke about the cool climate Syrah he was making from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.

Crawford Family Wines Los Olivos Santa Barbara County Tasting Room

Tin Roof and all at the Crawford Family Wines Tasting Room in Los Olivos

The day we walked into the tasting room was a Monday and we were lucky enough to find Wendy manning the tasting room.  On the outside the building is rustic with a tin roof and wood siding, and beautifully manicured plants.  When you walk in the tasting room is clean and bright with white walls with large vivid photography gracing the walls.  While clean and sharp it’s also warm and welcoming.

We had a wonderful conversation with Wendy while tasting through their wines.

Speaking of the Wines….

 

Crawford Family Wines 2016 Albariño

Yeah, one of these things is not like the others…but this is a great wine and a great grape that is getting more traction in Santa Barbara.  The grapes for this particular wine come from Brick Barn Vineyard, which is located just outside the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Buellton.  The entire vineyard is 50 acres on a former horse and cattle ranch.  This is only the 2nd crop of this grape.  It is fermented in Stainless steel and is bright and crisp with a some lemon, some peaches and florals.  This is what I would consider a Zesty wine.

$28.00

2015 Tin Shack Chardonnay

This wine comes from the Sta. Rita Hills, from Rita’s Crown.  As the name indicates this vineyard sits on the highest point in the region, the “Crown” in Sta. Rita.  The vineyard sits at 600 to 1000 feet and has diatomaceous soil.  Close to the ocean, you find fossilized seashells here.  It has southwest facing slopes and is surrounded by other well known, dare I say “famous” vineyards in the area, like Sea Smoke, La Rinconada, Sanford & Benedict and Fiddlestix.

This wine is called “Tin Shack” because it is fermented in Stainless Steel, then put into neutral oak for a year.  Only 180 cases were produced.  This is meant to get the best of both worlds with fermentation and winemaking technique.  The stainless steel fermentation captures the essence of the soil, the bright acidity and aromatics.  The year it spends in barrel on the lees softens it and adds some complexity giving you that baking spice on the nose.

The label for this wine as well as for the Walk Slow Pinot were done by Wendy’s Brother.

$42.00

2016 Rosé

This wine comes from probably the warmest vineyard that they source from.  It is a Grenache rosé from Mesa Verde Vineyard, which is one of the southern-most vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, sitting just west of Sunstone.  They picked early to keep the brightness, but because it is the southern part of the valley, the fruit developed some of those riper flavors.

$25.00

2013 Bentrock Pinot Noir

This is single vineyard wine from Bentrock Vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.  Bentrock was formerly known as Salsipuedes.  This is the far South West corner of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation and is close to the ocean catching daily cold ocean winds (not breezes).  This is a lean and earthy Pinot Noir, with minerality.  This is a wine that has capture the terroir, you can taste the wind, the ocean, the reach for the warmth of sunlight.

$52.00

2014 Pinot Noir, Walk Slow

This Pinot is a blend of fruit from Bentrock and Babcock Vineyards.  It does 30% whole cluster fermentation and is 75% Babcock fruit which is clone 115 and 24% Bentrock which is clone 667.  Both vineyards are in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, but Babcock sits down in the valley on the route 246 where as Bentrock is up on the far west end of Santa Rosa Road.

This is 30% new french oak, which is the only new oak in his winemaking program.  It spends 16 months in barrel.  The fruit from these two different vineyards balance each other.  With a beautiful nose of black tea with woods and dark cherry and cherries and tart red fruit in your mouth.  (My mouth is watering just thinking about this wine and I’m kicking myself for not leaving with a bottle!)

The name of this wine “Walk Slow” is Mark’s reminder to himself to slow down and enjoy.  This is a wine that opens up with layer upon layer, you have to slow down and experience it as it changes in your glass.

$48.00

2014 Second Street Cuvée

The Second Street Cuvée is a GSM blend, in a Cotes-du-Rhone Style. It is named after the “Second Street” where their winery is located in Buellton.

It is 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre from Lavando and Shokrian Vineyards.  Lavando is a small vineyard that is planted at a friends ranch just outside the Ballard Canyon AVA.  Shokrian is in Los Alamos and is owned by Babak Shokrian and was previously Verna’s Vineyard, owned by Melville.  This vineyard sits across the road from White Hawk Vineyard on Cat Canyon Road.  So there is a bit of distance between where the fruit grew.  The fruit came from hillside blocks together give this wine an earthy fruit quality, that is very food friendly.

$32.00

This tasting room is not on Grand Avenue, the main road in town, but is a block over on the main cross street Alamo Pintado.  If you find your self at the flagpole, head east on Alamo Pintado (past Panino) and cross San Marcos Ave.  It will be on your left past Blair Fox Cellars.  It is well worth the stroll to the outer edges of the town.  If you are hungry after your tasting, I recommend the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe, where they often serve Crawford Family Wines by the glass.

Celebration of Harvest Weekend which is coming up September 29th through October 1st, is a great opportunity to taste a variety of the amazing wines from this area and get to meet some of the winemakers.  There is so much to this amazing area you could spend weeks here and not see it all (trust me, we’ve tried).  So take the weekend and learn about this amazing wine region that is practically in LA’s backyard.  There are beautiful wines being made here and there is something for everyone.

You can find out more on the Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest site, where you can see the entire schedule for the weekend, buy tickets for the events and purchase your passport for the weekend.

And be sure to stop back here!  We look forward to sharing with you all of our adventures during the Celebration of Harvest.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

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The French Laundry Culinary Gardens

The French Laundry Culinary Gardens Yountville

I remember first reading about Thomas Keller in Michael Ruhlman’s “The Soul of a Chef”.  Ruhlman describes his first visit to the French Laundry and the out of body experience that it was.  He includes the story that is included in the French Laundry Cookbook about Keller’s first time butchering rabbits. The experience was for him, a turning point.  The experience was awful and he vowed to ensure that these rabbits were beautiful, there would be no neglecting them as they cooked, overcooking by accident and throwing away needlessly was not to occur after taking their lives.  This story of getting back to where the food comes from, the respect for that and subsequent care for the products that he puts on the plate is part of the essence of what makes the French Laundry so special.

The history of the building

The French Laundry is a two story stone building that was built in 1900 originally as a saloon.   In the 1920’s it served as a French steam laundry.  It had a personal residence and was also a brothel and saloon in the 1930’s, before going vacant for many years, but the locals still referred to it as the French Laundry.  In 1976, one time Yountville Mayor Don Schmitt and his wife Sally purchased the neglected property and turned it into a restaurant.  In the 1990’s the Schmitt’s were ready to leave Yountville, it had grown a little too big for them and an unemployed Chef from LA saw the property and knew it was his destiny.  Mind you, Keller had already made a name for himself at Rakel in NYC as well as Checkers in LA.  When he opened the French Laundry in 1994 he had immediate interest followed by profuse praise.  The restaurant continues to set high standards and be one of the most acclaimed restaurants on the planet.

The building is inconspicuous and you can easily walk by and miss it.  Covered in vines, it is humble and elegant.  While walking by, we watched multiple cars stop, it’s occupants hurrying around to have their picture snapped in front of this iconic restaurant.

Thomas Keller's French Laundry In Yountville

Thomas Keller’s French Laundry In Yountville

When you follow the front walk to the end, you can see the beautiful new kitchen that was built in 2015.  This is modern in contrast to the restaurant building.  Thomas Keller comments that he was inspired by the Louvre, contrasting the older and traditional with the new and innovative.  There is a great video with him on the The French Laundry Culinary Gardens Facebook Page.

The French Laundry Culinary Gardens

The gardens across the street, are well kept, but also humble.  A vegetable garden, with herbs and flowers, that is not pretentious and is open to passersby.  As you stroll up the street you will see the hoop houses in the back.  At the center of the garden near the sidewalk you will find a podium with a wood and glass display box that shows the layout of the garden.  You can look about and see exactly where the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash…the herb patch and the flower bed with sunflowers are located.  Off to the side you see the chicken coop and you can wonder up and say hello to the chickens.  There are bee boxes for fresh honey as well as to provide a home for the bees who pollinate the garden. There are sun chokes, pumpkins, peppers and along the sidewalk you will see fruit trees.  Here and there you find benches to sit and enjoy the bucolic view.

The Gardens at the French Laundry in Yountville Napa North Coast

The Gardens at the French Laundry in Yountville

French Laundry Culinary Gardens and Bench Yountville

A shady tree and a bench to sit on while you take in the culinary gardens.

This is farm to table.  The produce comes in each morning and the menu can be based on what they know is going to be ready in the garden. Again, this is Keller getting back to the source of the food he is so beautifully preparing.

All in all, strolling Yountville and the French Laundry Culinary Gardens is a fantastic way to start a day in Napa.  It is stimulating to the senses, yet calming.  It quiets your mind and puts you in a reflective mindset, which I believe is the perfect way to start tasting wine.

Continue with us as we chronicle our journey through wine country and dig into some of the wonderful places we’ve already visited.  You can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles   or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Coffee, Art and a Morning Stroll in Yountville

Morning in Yountville

When in Napa, the best place to spend your morning, before heading out for wine tasting, is Yountville.  Bouchon Bakery….Ahh… I live in Vegas and there are two Bouchon Bakeries at the Venetian, so I am luckier than most to be able to have these delicious pastries closer at hand than most, but really there is nothing like a Café au Lait and a Pain du Chocolat while sitting on a bench outside Bouchon Bakery in Yountville in the morning.  You often start outside on the sidewalk, making friends as you exchange the duty of holding the door for the line that trails out of the tiny building.  Once inside you can watch the bakery though the glass windows as they make the bread and pastries, while you await a close enough spot in the line to see the pastries in the display case.  Once there you are mesmerized by all the beautiful pastries, which to choose?  Then you must quickly decide on your drink (this part reminds me of the Starbucks in Time Square).  The staff bustles behind the counter, maneuvering around each other in their morning game of twister as they fill orders.  You politely duck back to await your name being called and move 5 or 6 times to allow others to grab a napkin or a fork from the counter behind you.  This bustle could feel stressful anywhere else, but you’re in Yountville, so everyone smiles sweetly with an underlying sense of bliss for the deliciousness that is coming and the wonders of the day ahead.

Once handed your parcel of pastries, you scoot outside to find a seat.  This trip had us there on a Saturday, and we were lucky that a bench opened up quickly.  Immediately the sparrows stop by to demand crumbs.  I’m so blissful, I can’t deny them. Then suddenly my pain au chocolate is gone.  I nurse my café au lait to extend my reason for staying.  Finally, we vacate to allow someone else a little of this bliss.

But the morning doesn’t end there.  It’s cool and comfortable.  The birds are chirping and Yountville is the perfect place for a morning stroll.  The city is dotted with public art, and grapevines and then there is the French Laundry Culinary Garden.  And strolling is part of what this place is about.  If you visit the Yountville website, the first words you read are “Welcome to Yountville! Here we embrace the old world Italian custom “Passeggiata” – an appreciation for the art of stroll and all the discovery and comfort that comes with it.”  So, to embrace the local culture, we strolled.

First…a little history on Yountville.

Yountville and the surrounding area, in the early 1800’s was owned by Mexico.  In 1836, George C. Yount, the city’s namesake, got a land grant from Mexico that ran the width of the Napa Valley from the current city of Yountville, north to the southern edge of St. Helena.  George named the area Caymus Rancho.  He was the first to plant grapes in Napa Valley and laid out a village with a public square that he called “Yountville”.

Art Walk

The city is dotted with public art.  You can find a map for the Art Walk on the Yountville City Site.  I was enamoured with the Rock Mushroom Garden by Napa Valley Artists Rich Botto.

V Marketplace

As you stroll through town, you will find the V Marketplace across the street from Bouchon Bakery (and of course Bouchon, the restaurant).  This Marketplace houses Michael Chiarello’s restaurant Bottega as well as multiple specialty shops.  This spot has some history also.  In 1874 this was the site of the first winery in Napa Valley built by Gotteib Groezinger. The three massive stone buildings Groezinger built now house beautiful specialty shops with apparel, home decor, jewelry, art as well as restaurants and tasting rooms.  The structure encompasses gardens with fountains and often hosts events.

The city is also dotted with grapevines here and there, it is after all, their biggest industry, and the vines were beautiful with grapes in veraison as we strolled.  There is also a large oak tree in the in the center of town, branches shored up by posts, that provides shade over a park. We were strolling, but there is plenty here to side track you, tasting rooms, shops, galleries, bistros and then of course, some of the finest restaurants in the country.

And this was just the beginning of our stroll.  Next we will stroll down Washington Street to visit the Culinary Gardens of the French Laundry.

For more on Yountville visit the Yountville site where you can find details on places to stay, things to do and upcoming events.

Continue with us as we chronicle our journey through wine country and dig into some of the wonderful places we’ve already visited.  You can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles   or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest Weekend

Firestone Vineyard Koehler Vineyard Curtis Vineyard

Santa Barbara is one of our favorite wine regions. Typically we find our way that direction in April for the Vintners Spring Weekend, with it’s Seminars, special events and of course the Grand Tasting.  This year, we thought we would mix it up a bit and we will be attending the Celebration of Harvest.  Fall rather than spring, post harvest rather than bud break…it gives a different visual of the area.

We just did a Flash tour through a large portion of California Wine country and our starting and ending point was Santa Barbara County.  You simply can’t beat the diversity.  With the East/West Valley and the temperature increasing a degree per mile as you drive from the cooler Sta. Rita Hills (think Burgundy) through the Santa Ynez Valley past Ballard Canyon (think the Rhone) and on into Happy Canyon (yep think Bordeaux), (not to mention the micro climates you find in Los Alamos Valley or the amazing Vandenburg fog that influences the grapes in Santa Maria and Foxen Canyon), you get a wide range of varieties that grow well here, so when it comes to the Santa Barbara Vintners events, there is something for everyone.  We have done a highlight reel of our favorite stops in this amazing area.  Of course that list is growing, but check out So you are heading to Santa Barbara and want to know where to taste wine.

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This years Celebration of Harvest, kicks off with their signature event “Taste of Santa Barbara Wine Country“.  This event will be held at the Fess Parker Resort, right across from the beach in Santa Barbara.  50 wineries will be on hand to pour their fall releases and word has it that many will have library wines available for tasting also.  And of course their will be great food from some of the best restaurants and vendors in wine country.

Many of the greats will be there, Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Qupe and some of our favorites, Beckmen, Casa Dumetz, Clos Pepe, Jamie Slone, Presqu’ile, Riverbench, Zaca Mesa. And don’t miss stopping by The Central Coast Group Project if you want to try something new.  Scott Sampler of CCGP has been working with extended mascerations and is producing some very interesting wines.

In addition they will have Harvest Experience Passports available.  The passport allows you to visit up to 12 of the participating tasting rooms over the weekend, many of which will have special experiences and tastings just for passport members.

They also have a series of Collaborative Dinners in various locations, where a restaurant or chef are paired up with several wineries for a unique dining experience.  There are 4 of these set up in various locations around the area from a Surf and Turf dinner Angel Oak at Bacara out on the shore with Fiddlehead, Zotovich, Martian, Longoria and Jaffurs wines, to a Cowboy BBQ in Los Alamos with Municipal Winemakers, Casa Dumetz, Lumen, Frequency and Bedford.  Further in there is a Farm to Fork, Vine to Glass dinner at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe with Bernat, J. Wilkes, and Refugio Ranch and then and East Meets West at the magical Ballard Inn Gathering Table with Chef Budi Kazali creating amazing dishes to pair with wines from Melville, Andrew Murray, Beckmen and Star Lane Vineyards.

Celebration of Harvest Weekend is a great opportunity to taste a variety of the amazing wines from this area and get to meet some of the winemakers.  There is so much to this amazing area you could spend weeks here and not see it all (trust me, we’ve tried).  So take the weekend and learn about this amazing wine region that is practically in LA’s backyard.  There are beautiful wines being made here and there is something for everyone.

You can find out more on the Santa Barbara Vintners Celebration of Harvest site, where you can see the entire schedule for the weekend, buy tickets for the events and purchase your passport for the weekend.

And be sure to stop back here!  We look forward to sharing with you all of our adventures during the Celebration of Harvest.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Corner 103 – more than just wine tasting in Sonoma

Corner 103 wine glasses

Just across the street from Sonoma Plaza in beautiful downtown Sonoma sits Corner 103. Appropriately it is on the Corner and the address is 103 West Napa Street. It’s an understated name. If you go by early in the day you are likely to see a man outside sweeping the sidewalk in front of the establishment. That man would be the founder and owner Lloyd Davis. Understated is a word that describes Lloyd well, he is soft spoken and mild mannered, and his tasting room, which is much more than a tasting room, like the man himself, is sparkling and spotless.

Corner 103 Sonoma

Corner 103 on the Sonoma Square

We had a 2 pm appointment for a Cheese Experience. Brent welcomed us and then Lloyd joined us at the table which was glistening with glasses of wine and plates of cheese and something more. Lloyd intends this to be an experience, and an educational one. This is not just educational in that you learn about wine, but that you learn about what you like and don’t like in wine. Every palate is different and the intention is for you to experience how you can find things that speak to your taste buds.

The table is beautiful with the glasses, and I realize that there are many different styles of glasses before me, each specific to the wine that it holds. While you can drink wine from any sort of container or glass, the right shape of glass can greatly enhance the experience, bringing out the aromas in a wine and channeling them in just the right way for you to be able to most appreciate them.

Under each glass sits a coaster size card giving you the wine, the area the grapes came from, the Vintage and any awards that the wine has garnered. Flip the card over and you are treated to even more information. This begins with a short description from Lloyd and then includes a map of the Sonoma Valley, with the specific area that the grapes for this wine were pulled from highlighted. It goes on to give you the Blend, the Total Production, Alcohol, the Appropriate glass style to drink it from, the Harvest and Bottling Dates, how it was aged, the appropriate serving temperature and the price. It’s quite a bit of information I know, but for a wine geek like me…heaven.

In addition there was a card specific to our tasting with each wine and the cheese and other other small bits.

As we chatted and Lloyd explained a little about Corner 103, he invited us to enjoy some of the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. This allowed us to prime our palates and get into discussing the wine and what we tasted. He asked each of us and explained that we were likely to experience the wine differently, our taste buds and experiences are unique to each of us and affect how we interpret flavors.

Corner 103 cheese Experience Sonoma

The Cheese Experience at Corner 103 in Sonoma

We moved on to the 2014 Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast which was paired with and Italian Style table cheese as well as crushed roasted hazelnuts. The process went as follows; taste the wine, taste the cheese, taste the wine with the cheese and finally taste the wine with the cheese and the hazelnuts. The idea is to identify what you are tasting separately with the wine, then the cheese and then how they are different when they are together. Adding the hazelnuts at the end change what you experience yet again. Depending on what you enjoyed or disliked about each bite, Lloyd can suggest a pairing. If you enjoyed the wine with the cheese, try a darker meat chicken, if you didn’t like it with the cheese try it with white meat chicken (adjusting the fat content). If you liked the addition of hazelnuts, perhaps try adding something earth to the dish like mushrooms. The possibilities are endless, but this small pairing can give you direction for planning an entire meal.

We continued on moving into the red wines:

2013 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley with California Daisy Cheddar & Dried Cherries

2012 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley with Asiago & Dried Herbs

2012 Merlot from the Alexander Valley with Oro Secco & Bacon Bits

2012 Red Blend (Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel & Petite Sirah with Romanello Dolce & Green Peppercorns

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley with Mezzo Secco & Blackberry Preserve.

Each time the sequence was the same; wine, cheese, wine & cheese, wine & cheese & the added flavor. Michael and I surprised ourselves with some of the differences in our tastes. Throughout the experience Lloyd encouraged us to not worry about what was right or wrong. We are each experts on what we are tasting. His quiet and thoughtful demeanor allowed us to open up to our own thoughts and interpretations.

With Corner 103 Lloyd is committed to creating a safe space for everyone to learn and embrace the wine expert inside each of us. He finds that too many people are intimidated by wines. His wines strive to be approachable.

The experience is really extraordinary and you are treated as an honored guest from the moment that you walk in the door. While we were there, the beautiful park was right across the street, people and cars were going by, people came and went, at least I think they did, I was completely absorbed in the experience.

You can visit the Corner 103 website to schedule one of these amazing tastings.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

a Corner 103 Photo Gallery

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Bubbles to start the day – at Gloria Ferrer

So we find ourselves on the Vista Terrace at the beautiful Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. It’s a comfortable morning where the clouds have not yet burned off, so the view is soft and the vines look happy.  And it’s time to get down to some tasting.  5 flights were available on the list including the Winery Exclusive Flight which included 3 sparkling wines that were exclusive to the winery (you can’t purchase them anywhere else), a 90 Point flight of their sparkling wines that have been rated at 90 points or about, the Glorious Flight which comes with a chocolate pairing, a Pinot Flight and a Ferrer Family Passport which includes 3 still red wines.  There are other wines available by the glass.

We chose the Winery Exclusive Flight.  I mean why wouldn’t you?  If we can taste the other wines elsewhere, this was the flight to go with.  This flight included the 2009 Extra Brut, the 2013 Brut Rosé and the 2005 Carneros Cuvée.

2009 Extra Brut

This is a blend that is 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay.  This is a “late disgorged” wine.  This wine cellar aged for 7 years.  The “late disgorging” enhances the bubbles.  This vintage, 2009 started mild, with ideal summer temperatures so the fruit was able to ripen and develop deep flavors.

With Green apple and brioche for your nose and then, citrus, honey and black cherry for your taste buds.

$50

2013 Brut Rosé

92% Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay. This wine has strawberry and brioche on the nose, Watermelon and peach on the palate with some ginger notes at the end.  This is a festive wine that is a real crowd pleaser.

$50

2005 Carneros Cuvée

53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay.  This is their flagship sparkling wine.  The 2005 vintage started out cool and wet with a late bud break.  The summer was sunny and dry and the temperature were mild going into harvest which meant more hang time between veraison and harvest.

This is made from the premium estate fruit.  It has 9 years en tirage, and 6 months on the cork.  It was indeed our favorite wine of the tasting. What is en tirage you ask? this is the French term for how long the wine rests in the bottle on the lees (the dead yeast sediment) from the secondary fermentation. This allows the flavor of the autolyzed yeast to develop in the wine.

This was my favorite from this tasting, with floral notes, apple, honey, ripe pear and a bit of mineral which keeps it clean even with it’s long finish.

$75

2014 Blanc de Blancs

We were lucky to taste the newest Blanc de Blancs their 2014.  It was a beautiful bright color and was crisp with green apples and pears and meyer lemon.  It had some lovely yeasty brioche and a creamy mouthfeel.

$50

In Addition we tasted the 2008 Royal Cuvée and the 2015 José Ferrer Chardonnay ($40).

2008 Royal Cuvée

The Royal Cuvée has a history.  The inaugural vintage of the “Royal Cuvée” was in 1987 and was first served to King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain when they visited California.

It is 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay.  These grapes are handpicked and brought to the winery in small bins and only the first press of gentle whole-cluster press is used.  It ferments in stainless steel.  It is blended after 6 months then bottled and aged sur-lie in the wine caves for 7 years.  It is then disgorged and finished with a dry dosage and aged an additional 6 months before being released.

This has peach, ripe apple and honey on the nose with black cherry and pear on the palate.  It is bright and crisp with a hint of ginger at the end.

$37

2015 José Ferrer Chardonnay

The only still wine that we tasted, this 100% Estate Chardonnay, is whole cluster pressed very gently.  It is barrel fermented and aged in French oak with 25% of that being new oak, for 9 months.  They put a third of the wine through malolactic fermentation.  The barrels were stirred monthly for 6 months to mix the lees and create the full mouthfeel of the wine.

This wine had some tropical fruit and green apple, but what stood out to me was the spice.  When I described the wine at the tasting, my first thought was “spicy”.  This is not heat or pepper, but more baking spices.

$40

The wines were lovely.  On our next visit I look forward to tasting the olive oil also.  They have multiple tastings to choose from as well as experiences.  I was tempted by a flight that had a chocolate pairing.  They also have 3 guided tours daily that should be reserved in advance.  There are several other experiences: Pinot Journey, Bubbles and Bites, A Taste of Spain, Glassware Exploration, Gloria’s Wine Country Picnic and Reserve Tour that are available with advanced reservations.

This beautiful winery is definitely the perfect way to start a day in Sonoma. If you missed our post on some of the history of Gloria Ferrer, you can find it here Gloria Ferrer – A little history.

Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram