Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer and the amazing Sarah Tracey

The line up of Bubbles from Gloria Ferrer for the Bubbles and Bites Sparkling Pairing Exploration with Sarah Tracey

It’s the season for bubbles and this past October I was able to do an amazing tasting and pairing event with sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla Washington.

I met Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life the evening before her Bubbles and Bites Seminar at WBC18. At the dinner at Doubleback Winery, we finished with the hors d’ouervres in the winery and headed back into the beautiful tasting room to find a seat for dinner and as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to Sarah. We had great conversation throughout the evening (we both fell in love with the AMAZING lobster bisque) and at the end of the evening she mentioned that she was hosting Wine Discovery Session “Gloria Ferrer Bubbles and Bites” which I had signed up for.

The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life
The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life (and no, that’s not her dog, just a friend she made who was happy to pose with her for this shot!)

Sarah has quite the history! She writes a column for Martha Stewart (you can check that out here) . She’s a Somm, a wine educator and is spectacular at putting on events. She loves to travel and loves bubbles! (my kinda girl!).

The Bubbles

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard View
The view of the Carneros Vineyards from Gloria Ferrer

Before we get started with the pairings, I should probably tell you a little about Gloria Ferrer. This winery is located in the southern part Sonoma County. We visited one early morning and enjoyed glorious views from the patio while doing a seated tasting. I love their sparkling wines. We loved them enough to join the club. When a morning is tough, I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting there on their patio with a glass of their sparkling in hand. It inevitably makes the day better. We wrote about our visit in Bubbles to Start the Day at Gloria Ferrer and give you a little background in Gloria Ferrer – a Little History

The wines of Gloria Ferrer, while always well received, particularly by the critics, have continued to improve over 30 growing seasons. The family legacy of uncompromising quality is passed down through generations. The Pinot Pedigree born of decades nurturing our Sonoma Carneros Estate vineyards. The patience-testing méthode champenoise process of aging and blending is paramount. It’s all coming together in the perfect blend of savor and celebrate. Find them on Facebook, Twitter at @GloriaFerrer, and Instagram.

Source Gloria Ferrer

Pairing Strategies

The Bubbles and Bites Session with Gloria Ferrer, was more than just showing you a pairing…this was meant to get your brain thinking about what makes a good pairing and why. Think of colors. There are complimentary colors and contrasting colors. Food and wine are the same way, you can match or contrast

Sarah laid down 4 pairing strategies

  1. Acid needs Acid
  2. Flavor Match
  3. Contrast Pairing
  4. Texture Match

Within these strategies, she paired a Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine with a small bite. Let’s walk through these delicious pairings. While we do this, keep in mind the flavor profiles and how you can use these to create your own pairings.

Acid needs Acid

For this strategy Sarah chose the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. This wine is 86.5% Pinot Noir and 13.5% Chardonnay. It is aged in stainless steel and then aged en tirage for a year and a half and you can find it for about $22

The pairing Sarah chose for this wine was a Classic Bruschetta with grated parmesan and a balsamic glaze. The acid in the tomatoes and the vinegar call for a high acid wine, a low acid wine would end up tasting flat.

This pairing worked! Keep this in mind when pairing dishes with tomatoes, lemon or vinegar and reach for a wine with higher acid to keep the flavors bright in both the wine and the food.

Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back  Bubbles and Bites
Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back

Flavor Match

The second pairing strategy is one that I often employ. Flavor Matching pulls from the wine and matches the food (or vice versa). I often use this when I picking up a wine I have not tasted. I can read the tasting notes on the shelf talker (or that I have looked up) and pull from that for my pairing. Syrah’s often have blackberry notes and I will pair them with a dish that has blackberries or a blackberry sauce. Spice notes on a wine, can inform the direction of your seasoning.

The wine for this pairing was the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. This wine is 91.6% Pinot Noir and 8.4% Chardonnay. (I know, they are so exact with their percentages!). This wine is hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. They blend 5-7% Vin Gris (cold-soaked Pinot Noir juice) into the base wine. This Vin Gris with it’s skin contact gives the wine it’s bit of color. It is again stainless steel aged and a year and a half en tirage.

Sarah paired this with a Turkey pinwheel with Cougar Gold, strawberry preserve, boursin & arugula. Okay…if you are asking, “What is Cougar Gold” you are not alone. When she announced this half the room murmured with smiles on their faces while the rest of us looked about bewildered. Okay here’s the deal.

Cougar Gold

Cougar Gold is a cheese. A canned cheese developed in the 1940s at Washington State University, funded by the US Government. The idea of a canned cheese that would last indefinitely was appealing at this time. It’s a white cheddar. You can find it online at the WSU siteor on Amazon, where a 30 oz can will set you back $64.99. You can watch a quirky fun video called The Making of Cougar Gold Cheese on Vimeo.

Okay, now that that is out of the way…so this pinwheel is turkey with Cougar Gold, which we now know is a white cheddar, plus boursin (a rich crumbly Gournay cheese made of cows milk), strawberry preserves and fresh arugula.

The strawberry notes in the wine match with the strawberry preserves enhancing both the wine and the food.

Contrast Pairing

We head now to pairing the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé. This wine is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. To get that lovely pink color they macerate half of the Pinot Noir on skin for 36-48 hours. This also developes the nose and flavor. This is aged en tirage for 2 years. This wine runs about $29.

The pairing is Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger. The wine with it’s vibrant fruit sits in contrast to the heat and umami in the dish with the seaweed, sriracha and ginger. For other contrast pairings think, sweet and salty or sweet and tart. Think Thai food and Riesling or lambrusco and chinese food. (somehow I’m always drawn to Asian pairings here, but there are many more!)

Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli
Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli

Texture Match

Wine, most especially sparkling wine, has a definite texture in your mouth. Sarah used this pairing to highlight this. The wine was the 2010 Anniversary Cuvée by Gloria Ferrer 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay this wine only uses the first press of juice. It ferments in stainless steel and spends 5 years en tirage. The growing season for this vintage was very cool. This lovely bottle runs $45.

Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée
Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée

The pairing here was elevated, as was the wine and was a bacon wrapped scallop with meyer lemon aioli. The creamy texture of the scallop and the creamy texture of the wine are gorgeous together in your mouth. Then you add the fat and salt of the bacon…yep…pretty heavenly.

The wrap up

Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs
Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs

These 4 strategies for pairing wines, work with sparkling as well as still wines and you can use them beyond that, with beers and spirits and even with creating a menu or a dish.

I encourage you to drink bubbles often. They are not all the same! And put them in a wine glass, not a flute, you will be able to enjoy the aromas in the wine even better.

Bubbles are joyful and these bubbles we discussed are affordable. Don’t just hoard your bubbles for an “Occassion”, life is short, make Thursday an Occassion!

Thanks to Gloria Ferrer for sponsoring this seminar and to Sarah Tracey for such an interesting seminar. And of course thanks to the Wine Bloggers Conference (newly rechristened the Wine Media Conference) for making this all possible!

A couple of quick disclaimers. I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference as a Citizen Blogger and this tasting was part of the conference. The conference is offered at an amazing rate for citizen bloggers to entice us to write about the different wineries and areas we visit. So…this great tasting and pairing, cost me next to nothing. BUT, I assure you that had it been crap, I would not have written about it. So there you have it. Second side note, I’ve written about Gloria Ferrer before and enjoy their wines on a regular basis as a paying wineclub member, so yeah, I like their wines.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Balletto Vineyards in the Russian River Valley

I had a plan, well sort of. It was Day 3 of our Flash tour and Flash tours are pretty busy! We had spent a day in Sonoma and this day was to start in Napa and end up in the Livermore Valley. That’s a lot of ground to cover. I had a plan to start the day and to end the day, but the middle was a bit mushy. There was much driving to be done, so the wine needed to wait until later in the day and I had not done enough research to find a proper stop. Michael dove online and saved the day. A mid afternoon stop that could be our final Sonoma destination that had a patio for a picnic lunch and a hike! Balletto it was! Since then I have had multiple people tell me how much they like this winery, but at the time…I knew nothing about them.

Balletto Vineyards

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Balletto Vineyards is located in Sonoma, with their winery just a little bit off the 12 on Occidental Road.  The address says Santa Rosa, but they are closer to Sebastopol.  They were farmers first, with John Balletto starting the business running the family’s 5 acre farm growing vegetables in 1977.  John’s father had passed away and to care for his family, he gave up college athletic scholarships to start the business.  They expanded the property they owned and grew more and more produce.  In 1995 they had 700 acres and grew 70 different varieties of produce and were one of the largest vegetable farms in Northern California.  Multiple El Ninos in 1998 wiped out much of their crops and as they looked at potential future water crisis’ they determined to turn their properties to wine grapes.  They began with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and sold fruit to Sonoma Wine Producers.  In 2001 they created Balletto Vineyards, keeping 10% of their fruit from their Russian River Valley Vineyards for themselves.  Their produce packaging and shipping center, became the winery.

#VineyardAdventures

In the tasting room you can ask about the self guided tour and they will give you a laminated map to guide you.  These are done in conjunction with Sonoma.com and on their site you can find details on multiple Free Vineyard Walking Tours.

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

We started out with the hike, it was a beautiful day and getting to see the soil and the vines and a little of the story of this place seemed to be a good way to set the mood for the wines we would taste later.  The tour had 7 stops, each telling you a bit of behind the scenes information on things Balletto Vineyards is doing to be sustainable, to care for the land and the people on it.  Because after all…that really does make for better wine.

Preservation of Habitat

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

Located in the Russian River Valley the vineyard and winery sit next to the Laguna de Santa Rosa which is a major tributary of the Russian River. This part of the Russian River Valley is flat and open and the Laguna de Santa Rosa is a wetland habitat where you can see a variety of birds, including osprey, pelicans and Great Blue Herons.  Diversity in species and landscape are vital to keeping environments healthy.

Water Conservation

When Balletto began as a vineyard, they already understood the importance of water conservation.  Here next to the winery they have 3 holding ponds where they reused water from the winery.  The water is specially routed to the ponds from the winery where it is treated.  It is then reused for irrigation and in the spring for frost protection.  In addition they have mobile fans for the vineyard. Frost protection can be quite the water guzzler, so the fans allow them to use less water.  They also utilize recycled water from the City of Santa Rosa’s Laguna treatment plant.

Trellising

While water can be in short supply, the morning fog brings lots of moisture to the vines.  When you get close to harvest, this can be detrimental as it can increase the chance of fungal diseases.  To mitigate this, vineyards use trellising.  The Chardonnay vines at Balletto are trellised to keep the clusters of grapes even along the vine, allowing for more air circulation among the leaves and clusters and decreasing the chance of mold and fungus growing.

Grapes

We walked along the vines and were drawn to the beautiful clusters which were going through veraison, turning those beautiful shades of deep purple, bronze, or silvery gray.  Balletto grows 9 varieties of Pinot Noir and one Pinot Gris (known as Pinot Grigio in Italy).  Pinot Gris is Pinot Noir’s lighter dryer cousin.  These grapes thrive in the Russian River Valley’s cool coastal climate.  There is Chardonnay here also, so the colors of the berries in the blocks varied from the bright greens of the still ripening Chardonnay to the dusty grey bronze of the Pinot Gris to the deepening purple of the Pinot Noir.  Here for your viewing pleasure, a selection of grape glamour shots.

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Soils

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour

Terroir is the idea of the essence of a place.  This begins with the soil.  The vineyards of Balletto encompass 5 different soil types with the two primary types being Wright Loam and Blucher Fine Sandy Loam.  North of the winery near Oxnard road you find Clear Lake Clay.  The differences in soil, site and climate are what make vineyards unique.  Mind you, we were just standing on one of the Balletto Vineyards, they own 16 estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA from the Santa Rosa Plains to the Sebastapol Hills area and Petaluma Gap.  From these vineyards Balletto creates 8 vineyard designate wines, allowing you to taste the difference in terroir.

Pomace for Fertilizer

Pomace is the seeds, stems, skin and sometimes pulp, left over after the grapes are crushed for their juice.  Named for the Goddess of Fruit “Pomona”  this leftover from the wine making process can be used for fertilizer.  It tends to be a little smelly, as any good fertilizer is.  Here at Balletto they create piles of pomace after harvest and let them dry for 16 to 18 months, then they use them as fertilizer between the rows.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…there you go.

Field of Dreams

There is more to wine than the soil and the grapes, the people who make the wine are part of this story.  It’s their hard work you taste in the glass.  Protecting the land and conserving it’s resources, is good for grapes, but it’s also, more importantly, good for people.  A sense of community is important.  Here is one story from Balletto on building community.

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour field of dreams

Balletto Vineyard, Vineyard tour, field of dreams

Next to the winery, it is impossible to miss the “Field of Dreams”.  Instead of being in the middle of a cornfield, this field sits on 4 acres in the middle of the Balletto vineyard.  In 2004 the Balletto vineyard crew asked John Balletto if the winery would sponsor their league baseball team.  John Balletto took it a step further and took 4 acres next to the winery and donated all the materials to build a regulation baseball field.  The vineyard crew built the field and now in the Spring and Summer the league plays games here on Sundays. Blocks in the vineyard now sport names like  “First Baseline Chardonnay” or “Field/Dream (west) Pinot Gris”.  (scroll to the bottom to see the field in our video of our walk)

On to the Wines

Balletto has an extensive tasting list ranging from Sparkling wines (which makes perfect sense since they grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), to Pinot Gris, Sav Blanc, Chardonnay and a Gewurtztraminer. They produce a lovely Rosé of Pinot Noir and a Vin de Paille dessert wine from their Pinot Gris.  Their Reds are dominated by Pinot Noir (no surprise there), with several vineyard designates.  They also have a Zin and a Syrah.

Balletto Vineyard, Tasting Menu

Balletto Vineyard, Tasting Menu

2013 Brut Rosé 2013 $42

This wine spends 3 years in the bottle. In June of 2017 it was given 90 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay this Sparkling wine is made the the Methode Traditionelle.  It is dry and refreshing with balanced acids and a little mineral note.  Stacy at Briscoe Bites did a great review on this wine http://briscoebites.com/balletto-brut-rose/

2016 Savignon Blanc $19

This wine comes from the Balletto Estate Vineyard on Hall Road, where they have two blocks that balance each other. The South block fruit is 80% of this wine with bright fruit and high acidity while the fruit from the north block adds a rich and savory note to balance the wine. My note on this was “Bright without being abrasive”. They note that the wine is pressed lightly in whole clusters and fermented in neutral oak for 5 months on the lees. 20% of this goes through malolactic fermentation. They produce 1200 cases of this wine.

2016 Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay $20

The grapes for this wine come from the west end of the vineyard around the winery which has sandy soil and they are a Robert Young clone.  The grapes are harvested early, whole cluster pressed and given a long cool fermentation.  This is 100% stainless steel, no lees stirring and no Malolactic fermentation.  What you get is vibrant with great acidity, but also with a great texture.  They made 3,260 cases of this wine.

2014 Cider Ridge Chardonnay $38

This wine comes from their new Cedar Ridge Vineyard which sits just 10 miles from the Pacific.  It is cold and foggy and windy, but the vines are on slopes that face west, get amazing sun and sit at an elevation of 950 feet.  This wine has tropical notes and well as subtle nut tones and a little minerality. The grapes are whole cluster pressed and then barrel fermented, so it is a great contrast to Teresa’s Unoaked.

2016 Gewütztraminer $19

This Gewürztraminer is from their Piner Road Vineyard where they have 2 blocks of Gewürztraminer totaling less than 5 acres on the 58 acre vineyard.  With a nose ripe with lychee, beeswax, honey and white flowers, this wine steps away from the traditional Burgundian wines this winery is known for.

2016 Rosé of Pinot Noir $18

Rosé has come back full force and drinking pink is finally fashionable again.  This particular Rosé is of Pinot Noir.  They specifically farm blocks of Pinot Noir at Balletto for their Rosé, the idea is to have brightness and soft tannins to give the wine structure.  This rosé is light in color because they limit skin contact.  They do 80% whole cluster pressing and 20% is sanguine (or the bleed off from their regular Pinot Noir fermentation).  This gives the wine depth.  Luckily they make 4,840 cases of this wine, but you should still plan to get the 2017 as soon as it comes out, and stock up.  Our friend Sarah did a review that I will share with you.

Sonoma Magazine – “22 Best Sonoma Rose Wines to Drink All Summer,” June 2017
“A perennial favorite, we loved the easy drinkability of Balletto’s Rosé. The classic strawberry notes are complemented by herbaceous green tea, Kefir lime, candied apple and a bit of minerality. At under $20 a bottle, easily findable at the grocery or liquor store across the country, and family owned and operated, it’s an easy pick for the ice bucket when company comes over.”- Sarah Stierch

2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $29

This Balletto Pinot Noir is a blend from 7 of their estate vineyards.  Because the vineyards are diverse and range from warmer to cooler areas and open flat areas like the estate vineyard at the winery to vineyards that are steeper hillside vineyards, these grapes blend to create a wine with depth and complexity.  This wine and all of their Pinot Noirs are fermented with native yeast.  They ferment in 6 ton open top fermenters and then age in mostly neutral French Oak.

2014 Cider Ridge Pinot Noir $42

This Pinot is from the new Cedar Ridge Vineyard.  Balletto has 14 acres of Pinot Noir planted here and this is the first release of Pinot Noir from this site.  The Cider Ridge we found to be bigger on the palate than on the nose.

2015 BCD Pinot Noir $44

This wine is a vineyard designate from their BCD Vineyard.  This wine had more tannins than the other two Pinot Noirs that we tasted, but was still mellow and very nice.

2014 Zinfandel $28

The Zin had a classic Zinfandel nose, but was lighter on the palate due to the cooler climate.  It has spice and a bit of vanilla and is bright on the palate, with a long finish. Their Zinfandel comes from the BCD Vineyard where they have about a 6.5 acre block.

2014 Syrah $28

We are finding that there are quite a few cooler climate vineyards that started out exclusively growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, that are starting to grow Syrah and finding that it thrives and creates a lovely elegant expression of this grape.  This wine comes from the BCD Vineyard which is a rolling vineyard with sandy soils.  These are typically the last grapes picked by Balletto each season and they get maximum skin contact with lots of gentle pump overs.  To soften the tannins the wine is aged in French Oak for  22 months.  This was indeed a lovely Syrah, with cocoa, coffee and smoke on the nose and smooth tannins, but quite honestly it could not outshine the Pinots on this list.

We will leave you with a virtual tour of our afternoon at Balletto!  But a virtual tour is only so good.  Get out to Sonoma and visit Balletto for yourself.

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

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

Gloria Ferrer – a little history

On our recent trip to the California Coast we had the opportunity to stop for a tasting at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard.  Located in Carneros, which is the Southern end of Sonoma County Wine Region, this is a sparkling wine house.

The Ferrers

The Ferrers have a little bit of wine history.  The family has been growing wine since the 1500s.  They own La Freixendeda (which means “ash tree grove” in Catalan) outside of Barcelona Spain which is an 11th century farming estate.  From the estate name comes “Freixenet” the famous Cava from Spain.  Yep, they own that too.

Freixenet

The story of Freixenet, goes like this: Pedro Ferrer marries Dolores Sala (from another winemaking family). Phylloxera hit Spain as they got married wiping out vineyards.  The two replanted their vineyards with white wine varieties and decided to make sparkling wine.  The first bottles of Freixenet (which was Pedro’s childhood nickname) were released in 1914. You are sure to have had one of those signature black bottles at some point.

There have been lots of articles out recently about Cava and Prosecco, and the one thing that stands largest among the difference between the two (other than grapes and location) is the method in which they are made.  Cava is made in the Traditional Method (like champagne) where the secondary fermentation is done in bottle.  This produces much smaller and more persistent bubbles.

Cava is made with 3 primary types of grapes Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada.

Vineyards Gloria Ferrer Carneros Sonoma County

Vineyards over the lavender at Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer

José and Gloria Ferrer came to California in the 70’s on a road trip.  They fell in love with Sonoma and wanted to come and build a winery here.  The Ferrer Team knew that they wanted to make méthode champenoise wine in New World terroir and that to do that they would need Pinot Noir.  They acquired Pinot and Chardonnay clones from Champagne and brought them to plant in Carneros. They purchased 100 acres from three cattle ranches in Sonoma to plant the original vines in 1982 and in 1986 they opened the beautiful winery with the Vista Terrace for visitors to enjoy the wine and the view.  They now farm 335 acres of Vineyards, still primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The vines at Gloria Ferrer are hand farmed and many of the original crew that planted the grapes 30 years ago are still a part of the process.

The Winery and Vista Terrace

The Winery which opened in 1986 was designed like a Catalan Farmhouse originally, with wooden beams and old world charm. The caves were the first built in the area. The president of the Catalan Government actually came to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony.   When they decided to update the tasting room they worked with a Catalan interior designer, Isa Rodriguez (he also designed the Freixenet’s building in Spain). The modern tasting room still includes the wooden beams, but in a much more modern aesthetic.

So while modern tasting room is stunning, the view will draw you out to the Vista Terrace.  This is a civilized tasting, you don’t stand at a bar, you are escorted to a table where you can enjoy glasses or flights.  They have expanded the Vista Terrace to have an area reserved for Wine Club Members as well as lots of additional room for other guests.

There are umbrellas for shade, but the morning that we were there it was early and the sky’s were still a little cloudy allowing us a comfortable and cool tasting right on the edge of the terrace, with expansive views out onto the front vineyard blocks as well as to the South which are part of the “Home Ranch” and just a little further south to the Circle Bar Ranch.  Well, so much for the view, our next post will tell you about the tasting.  Bubbles to Start the day – at Gloria Ferrer

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A Day in Sonoma County

We spent a day in Sonoma.   I suppose that’s a pretty vague statement when you consider the size of the area, so let me be more specific.  We spent a day in the Southern part of Sonoma County, starting our day in the Carneros region and finishing in the City of Sonoma.

When you find yourself in this area, it is tempting to try to take in as many wineries as possible.  I would encourage you to select just a few and soak up each.

We started our day with a visit to Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, enjoying the views and tasting sparking wines.  We continued to see the amazing landscape around Viansa just south of them.  Our day finished in the city of Sonoma with a visit to the beautiful Sonoma Plaza and an amazing tasting and cheese pairing at Corner 103 across from the Plaza.

Take the visual journey with us here.

If you want to know more of the details visit Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 2 Sonoma

This was one of the two “Beyond” days where we enjoyed a little of the North Coast.

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Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and beyond – Day 3 – North Coast

Napa Vineyard

The flash tour continues!  Day 3 finds us Exploring Napa, more of Sonoma and then making the trip a little south to the Livermore Valley.  Much of this day takes us out of the Central Coast region and into what is considered the North Coast Region of California Wine Country which encompasses, Napa, Sonoma, Lake County, Los Carneros, Solano County and Mendocino.

Day 3 North Coast – Napa to Sonoma then the Livermore Valley

Yountville

Day 3 Started with a drive into Napa, destination Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Yountville is a glorious place to start the day and a Café au Lait and a Pain au Chocolat eaten on a bench outside Bouchon Bakery is the way to go. We then enjoyed a stroll through beautiful Yountville where there is art around every corner.  We also made a stop at the French Laundry Gardens to see what they were growing.

Napa

We had not set appointments ahead of time and wanted to do a bit of driving and sightseeing, so we got back on Highway 29 and stopped for photo ops at Opus 1, Robert Mondavi, Gott’s Roadside (where you really have to have lunch), and Chateau Montelena. The drive through Calistoga and into Northern Sonoma on Rt 128 is stunning with Spanish moss dripping from the canopy of the trees over the road and the smell of cedar in the air. The roads here are curvy, so it’s best if you have not overindulged in tastings before making the drive, but the slower driving allows you to roll the windows down and soak in the air.  The North Coast is noted for it’s redwoods and cool climate.

Sonoma – Russian River Valley

We jumped back on the 101 and made our way south to the Russian River Valley and to Balletto Vineyards. In conjunction with Sonoma County.com they have a self guided walking tour where you can learn about the local wildlife, grape varieties, soil types water conservation and see the baseball field built on the property.

Livermore Valley

From here we left the North Coast and drove on to the Livermore Valley arriving in time to enjoy a tasting at the gorgeous property at Wente Vineyards. This stunning property has a full concert series in the summer, they have an 18 hole golf course and an award winning restaurant. Founded 130 years ago they are the country’s oldest continuously operated family owned winery. The grounds are stunning and there are tables outside where servers will bring you tastings or wine by the glass.

Thus ends Day 3!

Day 4 sees us making the pilgrimage to Bonny Doon on the Coast then driving to Paso to visit Tablas Creek. Come back for more of the trip!

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Flash tour Central Coast Wine Country and Beyond – Day 2 Sonoma

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard Carneros

We continue our 6 day journey through Central Coast Wine Country and a little beyond with Day 2, which is the beyond part.  After driving from Vegas to Santa Barbara and making our way up the coast through San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, we ended Day 1 in Monterey.  Our 2nd day takes us to Sonoma.

Day 2 Monterey to Sonoma

Sky at Marina Dunes

Morning Sky at Marina Dunes

 

The sky was lit up beautifully behind the clouds as we headed out from Marina California, just south of Monterey in the morning.  We hit the road to make the drive to Sonoma.

Gloria Ferrer

We started the day with some bubbly at Gloria Ferrer in Carneros. The wine, the view, the gardens and the service all started the day off beautifully. We will do a detailed post on our tasting later…for now, just soak in some of the beautiful scenery and bubbles.

Viansa

This is the southern end of Sonoma and we made one more stop in the area at Viansa. The grounds here are beautiful and the views phenomenal. They are committed here to preserving the wetlands habitat that surrounds the vineyards.  After soaking up the views, it was time to head into the city of Sonoma.

Sonoma Plaza

We had time for a visit to the Sonoma Plaza to relax and watch the ducks and take in some of the art.

At the center of the plaza is the City Hall built in the early 20th century.  It was built with all 4 sides identical, so as not to offend any of the merchants and businesses on the surrounding square.  It has a beautiful duck pond on the corner where I rested soaked in the calm and enjoyed some of the wonderful large art pieces.

Corner 103

Now it was time to head across the street to Corner 103 where we had a 2pm Cheese Experience Scheduled. This is a great way to start a wine trip, they will guide you through a tasting of Corner 103 wines, paired with cheeses and help you to find our what your preferences are. Schedule in advance and allow at least an hour and a half. (And watch for an in-depth posting on our experience here)

Day 3 has us exploring Napa, more of Sonoma and taking a trip out to the Livermore Valley!  Come back for more of the trip!

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Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

Non traditional Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

So we did a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year. We bagged the turkey and instead did a stuffed flatiron steak, and instead of potatoes for a starchy side, we went with a pumpkin lasagna. We of course tied in some traditional sides with cranberries in red Belgian ale, green beans almandine and a bright arugula salad with flavors of the season with apples, pecans, maple syrup and bacon. So what to pair with our eclectic Thanksgiving? We dug into the cellar and here’s what we decided.

Start with a sparkler!

It’s a celebration and I was ready to celebrate when we finally had dinner complete and ready to eat. We looked in the wine fridge and Michael pulled out a sparkling wine from a very (I mean VERY) small winery called Lumiére in Temecula, California. We did a blog post on them awhile ago which you can read here. Lumiére is only open on weekends and only once have we been able to stop by. The owner and winemaker’s mother, Martha was there pouring. They have a charming tasting room on a hill off of Calle Contento Road on the North side.(more on the winery here). One of the final things we tasted was their Voulez Vous Brut sparkling wine.

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This is a Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and it was lovely with the salad of arugula, pink lady apples, pecans, maple brown sugar bacon and the dressing of maple syrup and yogurt.

Chardonnay with Pumpkin Lasagna

So an Oaked Chard with a rich cheesy pumpkin lasagna seemed the right choice and allowed us to relish some great memories at the same time. We pulled a bottle of 2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay. This Santa Barbara County Chardonnay comes from the Los Alamos Vineyard and was a gift when we stayed at the Clendenen Ranch in the spring. This vineyard is beautiful, take a look at the photo on our homepage. That was the view we were privileged to enjoy. The home is warm and obviously meant for relaxing and entertaining friends & family. There is history here also. The first Au Bon Climat Winery was in a small barn that you can see from the house. The story, as Marissa told us is, after long days of harvest the folks that owned the house on the hill and had the olive orchards would invite the entire gang up for dinner. When the owner was looking to sell the property,s Jim Clendenen quickly bought it up, as it was filled with so many fond memories. The previous owner still makes olive oil from the olives on the trees, which you can find in her olive oil tasting room in Los Alamos called Global Gardens.

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This Chardonnay is one of their Historic Vineyard Collection Wines. They harvest by hand, gently press and then ferment in 75% new French Oak and leave them in these barrels to age surlee for another year.  The amazing thing about this wine is that you get the richness of the oak and a full nose and then it is beautiful and bright on the palate. If you ever want to explain to someone what French Oak is…pour a glass of this and stick their nose in it.  Au Bon Climat has a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara and a history that is as rich and exciting as their wines.

So as a pairing the richness of the nose of the Chardonnay, went beautifully with the lasagna and then the brightness of the wine on the palate kept you from getting bogged down in all of that glorious cheese! One sip had your palate reinvigorated for another decadent bite.  The Lasagna was more than just pumpkin too. We did 3 different types of puree, pumpkin, queensland blue and sweetmeat. Each got a layer in the lasagna between layers of ricotta, parmesan and fontina.

Stuffed Flatiron Steak Screams for a Red

This recipe called for a dry red wine. While it suggested a not too fruity Syrah or Zin…Michael found a beautiful 2008 Ferrari-Carano Merlot. We opened this way early to start cooking with it and give the wine time to open up. We have a history here too. While working on Smokey Joe’s Café in Reno we were at the El Dorado Casino, which is owned by the Ferrari-Carano’s and got hooked on their wines there. We have since made a couple of trips to their Northern Sonoma Vineyard and Winery.

So these steaks are flatiron steaks which are a shoulder cut. They are pounded out and filled with a stuffing of toasted bread in olive oil, prunes rehydrated with the red wine, rosemary, roasted chestnuts, pancetta, pecorino, salt, pepper & cayenne. The Merlot went beautifully with this.

So there you have it. A feast to be thankful for with beautiful pairings that brought back great memories of visits to 3 different areas of California Wine country.   Now that’s a perfect Thanksgiving.

For more information on these wine regions:

http://www.temeculawines.org

Santa Barbara Vintners

Sonoma.com

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You can find more great Farm to Table recipes on our sister site  4Farm2Mrkt

Adventures with Savignon Blancs

whitesaviog33120133I’ve been on a Savignon Blanc kick lately and it’s totally by accident.  I had a day off and Michael was working and I took myself to a movie and lunch.  I asked for a recommendation to pair with my lunch at The View Winebar and Joey  took the time to be sure to find something I would like.  After determining that we were going white and that I was having gnocchi au gratin she suggested a Sav Blanc.  I hesitated.  I am not usually a Sav Blanc girl, it’s a little too tart and often…I searched for the word and she replied “metallic”.  “Yes”.  “Wait” she said.  She popped open a new bottle and poured me a bit.  It was lovely.  Definitely a Sav Blanc and with the distinct grapefruit on the nose, but without that overly sharpness that I often get from a Sav Blanc.  So I enjoyed a glass or two of this lovely Savignon Blanc from Francois Chidaine Touraine Blanc 2010 from the Loire Valley.  It was perfect to cut through the fat in my luscious gnocchi au gratin and was really pleasant to just drink on it’s own.

Last night Michael and I went out to dinner at Grape Street Cafe.  It’s been awhile since we have had the opportunity to have dinner together with our schedules.  I ordered the Smoked Salmon pasta and asked for a recommendation for a flight to pair with it.  Our waiter suggested the Sav Blanc flight as the dish has a creme sauce.  This flight included Walnut Block “Collectibles” from New Zealand, Auntsfield Estate from New Zealand, Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc from Napa and Vogelzang 2009 from Napa.  Okay so not really Napa.  I came home and did my research today and found that the Vogelzang makes estate Savignon Blanc with fruit from their vineyards in Happy Canyon.  The winery itself is located in Santa Barbara.

So first my tasting notes on these wines.  Last night I snapped a shot of the flight menu, then put it away so that I could just taste the wines without being influenced by the winery or location.  The first wine (The Walnut Block) had a gorgeous nose!  There were lovely floral notes (it felt like more than one) lime leaf and zest and then subtle grapefruit.  I wanted to dab this wine behind my ears.  It was heavenly to smell.  On the palate it was aromatic with perfect acidity.  It was light and clean and was beautiful to balance the fried calamari we had as an appetizer.  The second wine (the Auntsfield Estate) was everything you expect from a Savignon Blanc.  It had big grapefruit on the nose and on the palate it was bold and tart.  The third wine (the Ferrari Carrano) was the Fume Blanc.  It reminded me of the Carhartt Savignon Blanc that I love so much.  The nose is a nuanced grapefruit and citrus but on the palate it is much more dimensional.  It is less tart and more balanced and rounded with a touch of sweetness.  The final wine was the  Vogelzang 2009 Savignon Blanc.  I was immediately surprised that the wine was more golden, but I didn’t look too closely in the dark light.  On the nose I immediately got oak.  On the palate I got the tartness of a Sav Blanc but then also a peat note that made me wonder if someone had scotch in this glass.  At the end of the night as I was getting to the bottom of my tasting glass, I noticed a squiggle of something burnt on the bottom of the glass.  Well, that would do it.  So my tasting on that wine has to be tossed out. But….after visiting the website I did find that this wine is aged in neutral chardonnay oak for 10 months.  So…maybe I did taste some in there?  Who knows.

Okay so now for my research on the wineries!

Francois Chidaine has been producing biodynamic wines for a while, but that’s not what he’s about.   As is typical of french wines this is not 100% Sav Blanc, it has a small percentage of Chardonnay.  His 40 to 80 year old  vines are trained low to hug the ground and by hand harvesting happens in mid October.  He does not encourage malolactic fermentation but lets the wines sit typically for a year on the lees.

Walnut Block in Marlborough New Zealand is named after the iconic walnut tree that is the regions oldest at over 100 years old.  The vineyard uses a three cane system and organic practices.  The Savignon Blanc is a wine that they say will cellar for up to 3 years.

Auntsfield Estate  is Marlborough’s first and oldest Vineyard.  The history page on their website is fascinating!  Filled with great stories!  My favorite….Bill Paynter who took over the property in 1905 and ran it until 1931 when the vines were removed and the land turned over to other farming had his final cask of wine hidden away and his sons were told it was only to be opened at his wake.  During shearing season while he lay ill his sons realize that the shearing shed was very quiet.  They found the shearers all asleep in the shed, having found and imbibed on the hidden cask the night before.  They now grow Savignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the property.

Ferrari-Carano is a winery that I go way back with.  I remember enjoying their wines at their Casino in Reno at the opening of the state of the art theatre with Smokey Joe’s Cafe.  So I have a fondness for them.  As to Fume Blanc, well that I fell in love with thanks to Mike Grgich and the fabulous pourer at his winery that suggested we take a split and pair it with the Tuna Burger at Gott’s Roadside.  So…here I bring together two loves.  And mind you last night, I had put the wineries out of my head as I tasted the wines, and this was one of my favorites.

Villa Fiore is Ferrai-Carano’s hospitality center.  They have tastings upstairs but I suggest setting up for  a reserve tasting in the Enoteca Lounge downstairs.  It is well worth it.  And allow yourself time to stroll the stunning Italian gardens on the property.  We enjoyed visiting a few years ago and long to return.  There is a coveted bottle of  their Tresor in my cellar.

Vogelzang Vineyard with it’s tasting room in Santa Barbara as I mentioned before grows it’s fruit in Happy Canyon, CA one of California’s newest appellations.  Located in the Santa Ynez valley (which has become one of my favorite areas) they  have a longer stretch of heat during the day because the morning fog burns off earlier than in the rest of the valley.  In addition to Savignon Blancs they grow Cabernet and Bordeaux Varietals.  Like most Santa Barbara County vineyards they don’t just grow grapes for themselves, they also supply grapes to well known wineries including Foxen, Dragonette, Fiddlehead and others.  I look forward to getting to Santa Barbara and doing a tasting here!

So…no longer afraid of Savignon Blancs I have a new appreciation for the range of this variety!

 

Wines that I can’t forget, part one

Michael and I do quite a bit of wine tasting on our vacations.  As you know if you have read our blog before, we love to visit wineries taste and get the feel of a winery.  Often you can get caught up in the moment (and the wine) and join a club or buy several bottles to take home.  On other occasions if you have flown in and it’s the wrong time of year to have wine shipped, you go home empty handed.  Today I want to explore the wines I remember and still want and maybe some of the why’s to that.  Was it the location, the people, the wine itself or a combination.

I started this by just going through by memory of some of the wines that as we traveled and tasted stood out to me.  Wines that I want to drink again.

Stoller Tempranillo,  Lange Pinot Noir,  Hart Family Vineyards Syrah and Chardonnay,  Argyle Black Brut,  Longoria Lovely Rita,  Grgich Hills Fume Blanc,  Carhartt Pinot Noir,  Tablas Creek Vermentino,  Terry Hogue Syrah,  Vino Robles Petite Sirah,  Lone Madrone The Will,  Veritas Cabernet Franc, Wildhorse Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir and Trisaetum Riesling.

As you can see the list is long and this is just me quickly running through this in my brain, not going back (as the wine geek in me so desperately wants to) and scanning all the wineries that we have tasted at in all the different areas we have tasted.  You will also note that I didn’t include  years.  I’m trying to keep my list short and I would have to research to remember the years and that would make my list grow!  So we will try to keep this simple. I have a list of 15 wines that off the top of my head I loved and want to drink again.  My list leans toward Syrahs and Pinots and then expands to many different varietals and includes a blend.  So….with a list this long I will break it up into groups of 5 (cause I will want to wax poetic on each and you don’t want to be here reading all day!).

Stoller Tempranillo

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller is located in the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Tempranillo is definitely not the first wine you would think of there.  I was a bit taken about when I heard they grew it right there by the winery.  The climate is much cooler than you would expect for a Tempranillo.  It was enchanting.  Dark and rich and a big contrast to the lighter more delicate Pinot Noirs we had been tasting.  Also my friend Adam was with us and he knew the person doing our tasting.  She was talking about her boyfriends new restaurant that he was opening and telling us about the bee hives they had in the blackberry patch in the middle of the vineyard and the blackberry honey they looked forward to getting.  So….the atmosphere had me pretty enchanted also.  Adam left with 3 bottles of the Tempranillo, so I will have to check with him to see if the wine lives up to the memory I have of it.

View from Lange Winery

Lange Vineyard, Oregon 2011

Lange Pinot Noir

Jack_the_cat_at_Lange

Jack the Vineyard Cat at Lange 2011

This particular Pinot that I remember was a blend of several vineyards and had a smokiness that I love.  I had researched Langebefore going there and was exited to see Jack the cat. He actually greeted us at our car.  There had been a blog post about Jack who they had adopted as a stray and named Jackie, only to find he was really a Jack.  They had won Snooth’s winery of the year distinction earlier that year and I was excited to see the small family winery that I had heard so much about.  They are again in the Dundee Hills.

Hartford Family Syrah and Chardonnay

In my research for our trip to Napa/Sonoma I had come across Hartford Family Vineyards who were doing a fund raiser while we were there for a local food bank.  They were serving an appetizer to pair with their chardonnay and the proceeds from the appetizer would go to the food bank.  Great food and wine pairings and for a charity?  I was in.  So we stopped by on a rainy December day to their beautiful Estate and had the crab cakes paired with their coastal Chardonnay.  The pairing was perfect…the wine seemed to have a slight salinity that spoke to the crab cakes.  I actually tried to order this wine once when I found it on a wine list to pair with seafood, only to have the waiter come back and tell me they were out!  In addition we had a wonderful Syrah that smelled like bacon in the glass.  I was enamored.  One of the guys working in the tasting room was full of fantastic information and was so passionate speaking about the wine…I felt sure that we were looking at a future superstar winemaker.  We did leave with a bottle of the Syrah and I long for more.

Argyle Black Brut

Argyle Winery Dundee Hills Oregon

Argyle Tasting room Dundee Hills Oregon 2011

Michael does not like champagnes or sparkling wines usually.  He says that the effervescence mutes the flavor for him and he has been known to allow a sparkling glass to sit and go flat before tasting it.  Me…I like my bubbles.  So Michael tasted Pinots and Chards and I tasted the bubbly when we got to Argyle.  Argyle has great appeal because Rollin Souls is just so cool!  He is microbiologist who was roomates with Lyle Lovett in college.  The tasting room is lovely with a big wrap around porch and the tasting room staff were down to earth.  When they poured the Black Brut for me I was in heaven.  Think cherry cola elevated to an extreme.  I still dream about this deep dark sparkler.

Longoria Lovely Rita

Longoria Tasting Room

Santa Barbara and the Santa Rita Hills are known for great Pinot Noirs and Longoria makes some of the best.  This tiny tasting room in Los Olivos is in a historic building.  I had read about Richard Longoria in Steve Heimoff’s book, “New Classic Winemakers of California”, so my expectations were high.  I was surprised when I enjoyed the Lovely Rita more than the vineyard designated Pinots.  We left empty handed since we had flown in but this is one wine that is on my list to order and have shipped to me this fall!

Okay….that’s a start.  If you enjoyed this and are interested in the other wines I can’t forget, stay tuned for the next couple of posts!

Wine pairings, no longer by the book.

The thing I love most about the gym is catching up on podcasts.  This morning I was listening to a great Splendid Table podcast and Lynne was speaking with Matt Kramer abut his new book On Wine.  He was discussing wines of fear and wines of conviction.  The difference between wines created for the market that could be from anywhere and the wines that are created out of conviction for a place or a grape that express so much more and can be so exciting and different.

This got me thinking about pairings and pairing apps.  Recently I spoke about the night and day Pinot Noirs that we tasted on our last trip.  The Bien Nacido Pinot’s that are rich and savory and full of fantastic barnyard (and yes this brett is fantastic!) and the glorious elegant Pinot we tasted at Carhartt which was floral and elegant but beautifully layered.  These didn’t seem to be the same varietal!  I think back to our trip to Portland and tasting at Erath where they do a bottling with the same varietal from three different sections of a row and they are all different!  There is so much variety in wine, that’s the amazing beauty of it, so how can we have a wine app that tells us that Pinot Noir pairs well with Salmon?  It seems so limiting and uncreative.

I am of course a huge fan of the Mayo Family Reserve room.  There the pairings come from the wine.  They taste the wine and determine which foods will pair well.  I remember Max (a previous chef there) saying that they would drink the wine and see what foods they wanted to eat with it.  Brilliant!  So really…you cannot pair a type of wine with a food, well you can but that is just too basic for me.  I think that wine pairing suggestions must come from the winery or from a chef who has tasted that wine.  The pairings have to be for the individual wine and vintage, not from just what varietal it is.

I am often frustrated in restaurants.  I think I have mentioned this before, when a server has no suggestions for a wine pairing.  I feel that if you are a restaurant that serves wine, you should be able to pair your dishes with one or two of the wines you are serving.  I suppose I am too much of a wine geek dining in restaurants without sommeliers.  Ah well.

 

This weekend’s wine…Poggio all a Pietra

My weekend is different from most of yours.  It encompasses Wednesday and Thursday each week.  The great thing is that if we choose to go somewhere it is typically less crowded.  The downfall is that special events in the area typically happen on Saturday and Sunday, so we miss those.  But…as most of your weekends are yet to come, maybe I can share what I did over mine and inspire you for yours.

My weekend was nothing exceptional.  Lots of relaxing with Michael.  Thursday saw us at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, then off to see “The Decendents” and then a relaxing afternoon, reading, researching and playing on the computer and then a nice dinner and finally enjoying our new fire pit out back under the stars.

Before dinner, I heard Michael popping the cork on a bottle of wine, and waited to see what he was bringing out.  He had opened a bottle of Poggio alla Pietra Brunello di Sonoma from Petroni Vineyards.  We were lucky enough to visit Petroni last year while in Sonoma.  A co-worker and friend set up an appointment for us.  I must admit this was the first “appointment only” vineyard I had ever visited.  The grounds were lovely and Elizabeth the Tasting Room and Events Manager graciously greeted us and set us up out by the pool for our tasting.  We had a wonderful time and joined the wine club and the Poggio all a Pietra was one of the first wines we received.  This wine is a rich Sangiovese  made from the high intensity Sangioves Grosso grapes originally from Matalcino Italy.  It is aged in French Oak for 20 months.

We had picked up a quick to fix dinner of steak pinwheels filled with spinach and cheese, butternut squash risotto and asparagus spears in herb butter.  Fresh, healthy and quick from “Fresh and Easy” this romantic dinner for two was under $15, before the wine.  Normally I would not have steak with a Sangiovese, these tend to go best with pasta in a red sauce, but this wine is bigger and much more intense than your typical Sangiovese.  It paired nicely and was a joy to drink on it’s own.  You definitely get oak on the nose along with a coolness that I associate with Eucalyptus.  It was spicy and rich and deep without the big fruit kick.

If you find yourself in Sonoma, give them a call or visit them at the famous North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco.  The vineyards are beautiful and they also produce and outstanding Olive oil!  They are currently working on caves built into the side of the mountain under the vineyard.  On their website you can find a virtual flyover tour showing the steep terracing and the stunning location.