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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Qupe, Verdad, Ethan & Bob Lindquist

Qupe Verdad Ethan Menu

We left ABC and hurried back to the car (it was a bit of a hike!) and headed on to Los Olivos to try to get to Qupe before the tasting room closed.  We had driven from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos before taking the 101, but this time Google routed me on 154 past Lake Cachuma.  It was a beautiful drive and saved us time!

We pulled into Los Olivos and Parked at the end of the street.  Saarloos & Sons was closed for the day, but were obviously busy with an event on the back patio!  We passed them and headed to Qupe apologizing for arriving so late!  The tasting room here is cozy and welcoming. There are 3 logos on the windows: Qupe is Bob Lindquist’s label; Verdad belongs to his wife and Ethan to his son.

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe Verdad Ethan Tasting Room

Qupe (pronounced Kyoo-pay) is the Chumash Indian word for the California poppy.  The Chumash Indians are native to the Central coast and Bob wanted to honor these people.  Bob Lindquist moved to Southern California with his family in 1964 when he was just 11.  He got into the wine industry in the mid 70’s starting with a harvest at Fortino Winery.  From there he went to San Martin Winery to work in the tasting room and worked his way up to assistant manager.  He ran the San Martin tasting room in Ventura County and started frequenting the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley.   Here he felt his calling.  The story goes, that he worked in a wine shop in Los Olivos for the son of the co-owner of Zaca Mesa.  From there he met Jim Clendenen who was the assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa at the time.  Here’s where rock-n-roll steps in…Bob got tickets to see the Kinks and got fired from the wine shop for attending the show (I’m assuming he skipped work for it). Jim Clendenen hooked Bob up with a job as Zaca Mesa’s first tour guide.  Without many tourists to guide, Bob spent most of his time in the cellar learning from Jim how to make wine.  In 1983 he left Zaca Mesa to work full time on his own label Qupe.  Bob & Jim share a winemaking facility to this day out at Bien Nacido.  Verdad is the label Bob partnered with his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist to specialize in Spanish varieties. Verdad makes a Grenache based Rose, as well as Albarino and Tempranillo.  Total production is about 2000 cases.  Ethan is the small label of one of his older sons (Ethan!).  This label is small and produces Grenache, Sangiovese, Grenache Blanc and Syrah.

 

Qupe Wine Glass

Qupe Wine Glass

So on to the tasting!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Grenache Rose Sawyer Lindquist.   This wine was harvested in two lots.  Lot one was then de-stemmed and sat overnight to absorb color.  Lot 2 was whole cluster pressed.  This was stainless steel fermented with a long cool fermentation using native yeasts.  You get ripe strawberry and rose on the nose and then watermelon and strawberry on the palate with a little herbal quality. Really nice, and we took a bottle of this with us!

 

  • Verdad 2011 Albarino Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the Edna Valley Acid, minerality. Done in stainless and whole cluster pressed.  Only 100 cases produced.  So different from everything else we had tasted that day.  This was the first stainless white of the day.

 

  • 2009 Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Reserve – Block 11  This wine is aged 18 months in French oak with 60% of that in new Francois Frères barrels. This wine is clean on the palate. While you get lots of oak on the nose, it is not over oaked and still has a bright acidity. This is a really nice Chard.  This wine is grown on a steep north-facing hillside, which softens the sun exposure.

 

  • 2008 Ethan Grenache, Edna Valley.  This wine would pair perfectly with pork.  It is a lighter red so good for warm weather drinking but with enough intensity of flavor to stand up to pulled or roasted pork.

 

  • 2009 Qupe Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. This is a spicy peppery cool climate Syrah. It is complex and well balanced with a depth of pepper on the nose.

 

This tiny little tasting room has some gems to taste and…if I get a hankerin’ for a Qupe wine…he has a high distribution Chardonnay that I can get right down the street at Fresh & Easy!  To bad they don’t carry that amazing Verdad Grenache Rose!

Reflection Tasting in Vertical from Wiens Family Cellars

Wiens Family Cellars was having a Vertical tasting of their Reflections red blends and we couldn’t go…so we put together a vertical of our own.  We had the 2008, 2010 and the 2011.  These are of course blends, so they are all a little different, so this a little different from a typical vertical.  Typically you would have a single variety of grape or a fairly set blend that you would be comparing from year to year.  You would get the differences in the climate and season that affect each year’s harvest.  You would also be able to see how the wine ages.  We were able to do those things, but the field for comparison was a bit more wide open.  Let me take a minute to give you the breakdown on these three vintages.

  • 2008 Reflection is 30% Sangiovese, 28% Barbera, 28% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot  with Alcohol 15.1  and Residual sugar .6%
  • 2010 Reflection is 63% Sangiovese, 14% Cabernet, 14% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel with 14.5 Alcohol and .5 % residual sugar.
  • 2011 Reflection is 42% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 14% Zinfandel, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Primitivo, 2% Montepulciano, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Dolcetto with 12.5 Alcohol! and .2 residual sugar

So as you can see this blend is Sangiovese based, but that’s about where the similarities end.  This makes for a brilliantly exciting tasting!  At the winery they are doing “Reflections of the Decades” and they are tasting 6 of these wines, 2006-2011. We somehow can’t find the 2009 so I must have already enjoyed it!  At the winery they are doing a decade theme starting with the 60’s for the 2006.  I perused their pairings and then went back to the suggestions with the wines. We picked up some Spanish meats and cheeses (yes I know, I could have picked up Italian!).  We did a tasting upon opening and then let them breathe for a bit and tasted each with the meats and cheeses.  For the pairings we went a little out of order and cooked them for each course.  I know it sounds tough, but…we have Trader Joes.  So here’s the run down for the pairings:

  • 2010 Reflection with a goat cheese and basil pizza, to which we added a little sage and thyme.
  • 2008 Reflection with Eggplant Parmesan
  • 2011 Reflection with meat lasagna and a spinach salad.

Then we had chocolate cake for dessert and tasted it with all 3.

 

We found that the wines opened up quite a bit over the course of the evening.  I had e-mailed the winery to ask decanting recommendations.  Bob was kind enough to get back to me and suggested decanting the 2010 and 2011 straight down into a decanter on the counter top to add as much oxygen as possible.  For the 2008 he suggested carefully pouring it down the side of a tilted decanter to give it some space to gently open up.   Thanks Bob!  Unfortunately, I do not yet own a nice decanter.  So…we took the advice the best that we could.  We opened up the 2008 and gently poured into glasses and let it air.  The other two we got the aerator out and poured them through to add oxygen.  On to the tasting!

 

Falkner Winery and Pinnacle Restaurant

Falkner Winery

Driving down Rancho California Road in Temecula Wine Country, there is lots to look at.  Beautiful vineyards, wineries on all sides, but you won’t be able to miss Pinnacle restaurant.  The rounded building sits on the hill top on just past Calle Contento Road.  The windows and patio will have you wanting to turn in and take in the view from the other side!  So make the turn and take the steep drive up to this stunning building.  Before you get there, you will find the winery and tasting room tucked into the trees behind the restaurant and I encourage you to stop in here and do a tasting before treating yourself to lunch and the view from Pinnacle.

Falkner Pinnacle

Falkner Pinnacle

The tasting room is open daily from 10-5 and the restaurant is open from 11:30- 3:30 for lunch.  If you get there after 3:30, never fear the gift shop at the tasting room offers food items to purchase and create a picnic to enjoy out on the picnic tables in the tree lined area outside.

You will find great lends such as their Amante which is a Super Tuscan style red with Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also do a Bordeaux style Meritage with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

The winery was founded in 2000 by Ray and Loretta Falkner. They opened the restaurant in September of 2006 and that gorgeous view is 1,500 feet up on the hilltop.  New to me as I researched was the “Wine Cave” below the restaurant.  This VIP room is a barrel shaped room with windows all around to see the barrels and case good that the winery has.  This space seats up to 20 people and is available for special events.

Pinnacle Lunch

Pinnacle Lunch

Michael and I tasted here on our very first trip to Temecula and then returned to have a stunning lunch paired with their wines on a later trip and the restaurant was busy!  When the weather is nice the patio is lovely for lunch.

They offer a monthly Wine Appreciation class with their assistant Winemaker and in-house sommelier.  This is a four hour class that includes lunch and is great for both novices and experts.  You should plan ahead and register in advance for these classes that happen on the second Saturday of each month.  They do have Public Tours available each weekend at 11 and 2 that are $10 per person.

Until you have a chance to get out to the winery and restaurant, you can enjoy a little at home by viewing their MAC and ME cooking classes online with Chef Mike.  Learn how to make Prosciutto wrapped asparagus at home or a wide range of other delicious things.

Lorimar, A Christmas Gallery

Lorimar holiday outside

There are only so many hours in the day and there is only so much wine one can drink.  Well at least when you are driving.  So our visit to Lorimar’s new winery and tasting room did not include a tasting.  This Temecula California property is beautiful and is conveniently located on Anza road off of Rancho California road across from the South Coast Resort, it was all dressed up for the  Christmas Holiday.  They have a tasting room in Old Town also but just opened the winery facility this year.  These folks are big into music.  The Old Town Tasting room often features music in the evening and stays open later than your typical tasting room.  It is no different in wine country where they have music every weekend.  They label themselves as “A Fusion of Wine, Art and Music”.  Both tasting rooms have art galleries and the winery has additional events all the time.  We got here around dusk and the place was packed.  After strolling a bit it got dark and the winery is all lit up for the holidays.  We stopped back early the next morning and were told that we had just missed all the hot air balloons over head.  So, while I cannot yet rave about wines we tasted, we will share with you some great photos of this stunning winery and we will look forward to getting back, tasting, viewing the galleries and enjoying some music here with Lorimar.