A family winery with Hart

Hart Winery
Hart Winery

Hart Winery

When you drive into Temecula Wine Country the very first winery you come across is Hart Family Winery.  In 1974  over the weekends Joe and Nancy Hart  and their 3 sons planted the first grapevines in their vineyard in Temecula.  In 1980 they built their winery and produced their first wines.  This winery has stayed small and focused and still produces only 5000 cases of wine each year.  Growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot Grenache, Sangiovese, Zinfandel & Sauvignon Blanc.

When we visited in early 2012 we were greeted at the door by “Bosco”.  He was resting on the rug at the door.  Inside you step into the coolness of the tank room, the tasting bar is just inside the door with a small area for gifts, beyond it you see the stainless steel tanks and typically Joe Travis Hart walking about checking the tanks.

While there we tasted the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Rousanne, 2010 Zinfandel, 2007 Merlot, 2007 Cabernet Franc, 2010 Blanc de Franc ( a rose of Cabernet Franc), 2008 Syrah, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Aleatico (an obscure grape native to the Puglia region in Italy) from the Palmador Vineyard which is a fortified dessert wine.

This small family run winery is well thought of in the community and respected for paving the way for Temecula Wine Country.

Lone Madrone and Conversations with Christian Tietje

On my first trip to Paso a friend suggested that I stop by Lone Madrone. We did, and it was actually after a stop at Lone Madrone, and we fell in love. Jackie, Neil’s sister was pouring that day and we tasted and continued to fall in love. Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek. If you love Rhone varietals, I need say no more. These are some of the best in the US. Their sister property is in Chateau-Neuf de Pape in France at Chateau de Beaucastel. At Lone Madrone, Neil adds, in the words of Christian Tiejte, “The Funk”. This tasting room is built on the old Bonny Doon site as well as the Sycamore Farms herb gardens which are now Fat Cat Nursery. They share a tasting room with the incredible Kenneth Volk.

Christian Tiejte is the founder of Four Vines. After selling the name “4 Vines” he started Cypher. These are “Freakshow wines” based on the Anarchy, Peasant and Phoenix wines. He signs his posts as ” Winemaker, Troublemaker, Firestarter” if that tells you a little.

Bless you Neil Collins for starting your Conversations with a Winemaker. This 6 part video (parts are around 15 minutes each) are stellar! I love the opportunity to hang with you guys and listen in. For a wine geek, this is heaven.

So my friends, I had an extraordinary afternoon enjoying these. If you are a wine geek, you will love these too. Start here http://www.lonemadrone.com/videos/index.php?category=9


Santa Barbara and Los Olivos part 2

Carhartt Vineyard and Winery

We headed up the street again to Saarloos and Sons, only to find them closed on this weekday just before the holidays.  So…we took a leisurely walk around the town to see what else might be open.  We ended up coming full circle and stopping into Carhartt which is directly across the street from Saarloos and Sons.  Known as the “worlds smallest tasting room” they weren’t kidding!  This tiny tasting room had a couple at the counter, a big group on the back patio and us at the end of the bar squeezing in.  None the less Robin welcomed us immediately to the tasting room and got us set up.  The group on the back patio Robin told us were local kids back from College and Afganistan. They came in looking for Chase which is the owner’s son, and then she realized they were really looking for her son, whose name is also Chase.  He was not yet home from college.  They asked us to take a photo of them with Robin in front of the tasting room.  When they were gone Robin invited us to head into the back patio and be comfortable in the barrel chairs and she would bring us our tastings.

Carhart Winery

Carhart Winery

The barrel chairs were VERY comfortable and the wines..sublime.  The garden patio is beautiful.  The tiny tasting room filled up and another couple joined us on the patio.  All of the wines here were extremely nuanced and layered and many were surprising.  The 2010 Savignon Blanc from the Faith Vineyard at Carhartt has the expected bright grapefruit on the nose, but then is much smoother on the palate and slightly sweeter than you would expect.  The 2010 Pinot Noir from River Bench Vineyard….okay, we tasted several styles of Pinot Noir on this trip and I love the Bien Nacido Pinots that we tasted in Paso, but this, this is a completely different animal.  I am in love.  Elegant, sophisticated  it has lavender and forest floor on the nose, the mouth is butter and oak and lavender.  It is light in the mouth but sooooo complex!  This is a stunner.  The 2009 Estate Merlot from Rancho Santa Ynez was deep with licorice & tobacco.  The mouth feel was big at the top and then ends clean making it the perfect food wine.  Finally the 2009 Fourplay is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot (a Meritage minus 1).  With a nose of dark berries, cedar and toasty oak this is balanced and beautiful.  I will admit that we had fallen in love with the place the people and the wines, and without a second thought we joined the wine club here.  Before leaving Robin told me that Pete would call me the next day to welcome me to the wine club.  He handles all the wine club stuff.  She also gave me a Carhartt business card, which has Mike Carhartt’s cell phone number on it in case we need anything.  This is truly a family run business.  Mike grew up raising cattle here and then turned the cattle farm into a vineyard.  Bill from Foxen encouraged them to make their own wine.  He had been buying their Merlot grapes for that great Merlot that I mentioned yesterday.  Mike’s wife Brook does the lab work creating the wines and their son Chase is currently going to Cal Poly studying Vinticulture and Enology, is home in the summer to assist in the vineyard.  All the grapes are manually basket pressed in small batches.  I look forward to finding a way to get out one of their pick up parties or the annual dinner that is held for members at the Ranch.

Okay, so that would be a pretty perfect end to the day, but…Matty’s Tavern was suggested to us for dinner and it was just up the street.  When we get there I find that this is actually Brothers Restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern.  The building was originally built as a stagecoach stop then turned into a restaurant and hotel.  But the hotel always came first.  Inside it is warm and welcome with lit fireplaces everywhere.  We had a stunning dinner that was finished with a Gingerbread bread pudding that was spectacular.  No trip to this area should miss dinner here.  It was a perfect end to our last day of vacation.


Santa Barbara and Los Olivos Part 1

Los Olivos Central Coast Wine Country

When we got to this point in our trip we woke up feeling wined out.  So…we began the day with breakfast and Aebleskivers from the Solvang Restaurant.  Great service and we even ended up with an extra order of aebelskivers as the cook made one too many and our waiter didn’t want them to go to waste.  The aebelskivers are like a pancake donut served with powdered sugar and a house made raspberry jam.  So we filled our tummies and then decided to head to Santa Barbara and the ocean.  I think after so many days driving down the coast, we were experiencing withdrawal!

The drive to Santa Barbara is relatively short, about 45 mins.  It’s only about 15 min from Buellton (right next to Solvang) to Gaviota State Park and from then on you have a view of the coast for most of the drive.  We parked by the beach and went for a stroll, just soaking in the ocean on the final full day of vacation.  I will say that after enjoying the pristine coastline and whale watching at Big Sur, this part of the coast was disappointing.  Not because of the coastline, while it is different it is still beautiful, but because of the unsightly oil rigs.  The sight of them actually made me slightly nauseated.  I was longing to look for whale sign, but here, I want the whales to stay far away from the coast.  The thought of a spill in these waters where the grey whales migrate annually made me worry.

After our walk, we were ready for wine again.  We could have tasted in Santa Barbara but on a whim decided to head to Los Olivos and the tasting rooms there.  This little town has become a hub for tasting rooms interspersed with galleries and cafes.  We have never actually done a group downtown tastings, typically we head to the vineyards, so this was new.  The town is charming and welcoming.  We headed first to Consilience who now shares a tasting room with Tre Anelli.   Consilience produces Rhone Varietals and since we had tasted so many Rhones in Paso, we decided to taste at Tre Anelli who does Spanish and Italian grape varietals.  The wines here were all good.  From the 2010 Albarino with my favorite descriptor “languid” to the 2007 Langrein which had a deep deep nose but was surprisingly light on the palate, these were enjoyable wines with great layers.  Jim in the tasting room was terrific on sharing information on the vineyards and the wines and also on the growth of  Los Olivos.  Consilience was the 7th tasting room in town, when Tre Anelli opened they were the 15th.  Now there are over 30 tasting rooms in town.  Truly you could spend several weekends just here tasting in town.  Consilience and Tre Anelli are also Dog friendly, so feel free to come with your four legged friends!

From Tre Anelli we wondered up the street to Epiphany.  Michael had read about them, so we stopped in.  It’s a lovely tasting room and was getting busy as we arrived.  It was the type of place where conversations with other tasters was open and welcomed and we enjoyed chatting with the other guests in the tasting room while we all enjoyed the wines.  It’s interesting to discuss the wines and different interpretations when tasting.  Again, all the wines were good!  We felt like we were on a real roll for the day!  The owner and winemaker here is Eli Parker yes….his family does some other wines over at Fess Parker which can be tasted at their tasting room and hotel down the street.  I very much enjoyed their 2010 Grenache Blanc and 2009 Rousanne here and I loved the 2008 Santa Rita Hills Syrah.  We were lucky enough to have a taste of the 2004 Hampton Syrah which is one of their library wines that had been pulled out for a tasting for a wine club member.  Michael really enjoyed the 2007 Petite Sirah whose fruit is sourced from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa.


Paso Trip to Cass Winery

The drive to Paso started very early.  The drive was uneventful and we arrived at Cass Winery in Paso Roble at 1:30 or so.  To get to the winery you take Union road off of 46 West right by Tobin James, follow Union to Geneovese and turn right on Linne.  The winery is ahead on your right.  Although there was patio seating outside, we opted to go in as it was a little cold.  The tasting bar is n the left as you go in and the cafe is to the right.  Lindsay told us to have a seat anywhere we liked and she would be right with us.  With the cafe, you can choose a glass of wine or a tasting free with lunch.  We opted for the tasting and a cheese pairing platter, plus I had the soup of the day which was an incredible deconstructed french onion soup with a veal broth (that was incredibly balanced) andouille sausage and of course onions.  Michael chose the pit roasted pulled pork tri tip sandwich..  Lindsay started us off with a 2010 Sparkling Grenache done in the Champagnoise style that is a Paso Roble Blanc de Noir.  12.5 % Alcohol. $55.00 225 cases.  Yeasty on the nose with bright tart green apple on the palate it was a refreshing start.  It is harvested early to keep the crisp acidity.  Cool weather made this especially good.  Michael who typically does not like sparkling wines, enjoyed this.   Jacob Lovejoy the chef brought the cheese platter and came out to describe each of the incredible cheeses that they had paired with their wine tastings.  We tasted the Midnight Moon from the Netherlands which is a pasteurized goat milk cheese done in a Gouda style.  This paired with the2010 Rockin’ One Blanc which is a White Rhone blend of Viognier (52%) Rousanne (20%) Marsanne (28%).  Alcohol 13.6% $32.00 Golden in color, you could smell the oak on the nose (18 months I think in neutral oak?) You get white peach and candied lemon on the palate.    The cheese is aged 24 months and has a great brown butter flavor with a bit of nuttiness.  Really good with the wine.

Next we tried the Western sage cheese.  The sage is beautiful in this cheese with the2010 Oasis Rose.  The Rose is a Syrah based Rose with a little Grenache, a little Cab and some other stuff kitchen sink style.  It is not a Rhone style grenache, probably due to the cab addition.  You get warm strawberries and guava on the nose.  On the palate it is crisp clean and refreshing cool strawberries and watermelon.  15.8 Alcohol.  225 cases $22.00 It was beautiful with the cheese.

Next was a central coast Holey Cow cows milk cheese.  Soft chewy nutty in a swiss cheese style.  This paired with the 2009 Grenache.  14.5% Alcohol and 18 months in french oak. $28.00 620 cases.This was a clear and clean wine with a nose of ripe cherries and strawberries.  This would pair well with turkey or duck.

Onto the cheese that Lindsay made!  This was a truffled goat cheese and it was paired with the 2009  Mouvedre.  15.3 Alcohol.  18 months in french oak$36.00.  The cheese is a creamy spread that we put on crackers. Later I added a little of Jacobs fig compote and it paired well also.  The Mouvedre was 2009. It is a light red, soft round and gentle.  Strawberries on the nose and palate.  Light mouth feel.

Next was a cheddar aged 5 years from Hooks cheese company in Wisconsin.  Jacob loves this and calls it velveeta on crack.  This paired with the Rockin’ One red blend.  This is a Rhone Style blend with 50% Syrah plush Grenache, & Mouvedre, petite Sirah . 15% alcohol and 18 month in the barrel.  The wine was dark red and peppery.  Michael found it hot when he paired it with his pulled pork.

Now to the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (700 cases produced) this is a typical cab blend with 75% cab, some merlot, cab franc, petit verdot.  Aged 22 months in 75% new french oak.  14.2 alcohol.  This is a big wine with a short finish and a clean aftertaste.  You could smell the tannins but they were not assaultive on the palate like the Petroni wines it left you ready for the next bite. Great food wine.  This paired with the Paive Vecchio cheese.  This is a cows milk cheese aged 12 months.  It has a texture between cheddar and parm.  Paired beautifully with the cab.  Roasted red pepper on the nose, deep red color, nice spice.

Last we tasted a syrah port 2009 1350 5 mil bottles produced paired with a 72% cacao chocolate.  Very nice.

Listened to Jacob working with the catering manager to plan a burger bar for a wedding.  He gets exceptionally excited about this stuff.  He mentioned that he had been to Wild Horse the other day and really liked the 3rd Pinot down, so we went looking for that.

More to Come.

Preston of Dry Creek

When you think of wine country often it is a French or Tuscan image that comes to mind.  Preston of Dry Creek takes you back to simple Americana.  It’s located in Dry Creek at the far north end of the Sonoma Valley.  It’s way out and then out a little further.  The entrance takes you down a country road through the vineyards and into the property.  When you arrive you wonder into the courtyard between the farmhouse style buildings.

There are picnic tables and porches and cats (careful not to let them in the tasting room).  Wine is just one of the things they do here.  This is a diversified farm and they grow plenty besides grapes.  In the tasting room you can sample Lou’s breads as well as olives and olive oil.  Across the courtyard you can visit the farm store and find fresh organic produce, artisanal cheeses, sauerkraut, salami, fruit and nuts.  It’s on the honor system, so you weigh the produce and put the money in the jar.

In the tasting room you the atmosphere was like an old time small town general store.  In that I mean, that people knew each other and you were welcomed like a new neighbor.   We heard stories about Lou, the owner and the bread baker, who is always trying something new with his breads which he also takes to the farmers market in Healdsburg.  His big white loaves are popular, but he is always trying to push the new stuff that he likes better.

We tasted the 2010 Madame Preston which is 58% Rousanne, 21% Viognier, 12% Grenache Blanc and 9% Marsanne.  It had apple pie spice to it with a warm nose.  It was a little dry with a thicker mouth feel.  It felt sweet, without being sweet.  Really interesting and nice!

We moved on to the 2009 Barbera which is 100% Barbera.  It was warm and rich, bold and bright with great acid.  It had a very big mouth feel.

The 2009 Zin has 15% Petite Sirah added.  It was peppery on the nose with a long finish and bold fruit.

The 2009 L. Preston is a blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre,  5% Carignane &  5% Grenache.  This Rhone blend has a long finish on the bottom of my tongue and with it’s tannins they expect it to age beautifully.

The last thing we tasted was the Syrah-Sirah.  88% Syrah and 12% Petite Sirah.  I loved this wine.  I got herbs on the nose and dark fruit.  Lovely balance.  I am a sucker for a Syrah.  You can drink it now (it’s delicious) or age it for 5-10 because of the Petite Sirah in it!

We visited quite a few wineries in Sonoma and while they were all great, this one felt like it transported me.  Driving back out the long drive I heaved a heavy sigh, like at the end of a great vacation.

Their website is stunning and will have you spell bound https://www.prestonvineyards.com and when you get to the winery you won’t want to leave.  I would say it is a simpler life there, except they are so busy with picking and baking and making wine, that that doesn’t seem the right term.  I guess it’s just prioritizing.  They have it right and I secretly want to move there and work for them.