Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sonoma-The 30th Birthday

So Sorry that I haven't posted in FOREVER, but I've been spending all my spare time studying for the Certified Sommelier Exam. More on that later, back to Wine Country . . .Kelly and I have been to Northern California wine country before, mainly Napa. However, I've always been a HUGE fan of Sonoma wines. Therefore, I wanted to focus this trip on Sonoma; specifically the Russian River AVA and Dry Creek AVA. The Russian River Pinots are beautiful and silky, the Dry Creek Zinfandels are powerful and luscious. We headed north out of San Francisco with the top down on our Mustang convertible; the sun beating down and the ocean breeze cooling us off. We popped in the audio cd "Napa Uncorked" narrated by David Hyde Pierce, pick this up for your next trip to Northern California. I did want to stop by Failla in St. Helena to check out what Turley's winemaker, Ehren Jordan, was up to at his new winery. There was an unfortunate miscommunication between us and the winery so we missed our appointment. Oh well, since we were in Napa I wanted to check out Cliff Lede in the Stag's Leap District. I've heard so much about their S. Anderson sparkling wines that I had to try them for myself. The tasting room was warm and luscious with wood and granite and large windows to stream in light. I was pleasantly surprised by their Petite Sirah (one of my favorite varietals). It was dark, rich, bold and filled with black fruits with big tannin. Yet it wasn't overpowering and jarring the way an overextracted Aussie Shiraz can be. Next up was what I came for, the S. Anderson bubbly. I tasted the 2000 Brut and the 1999 Blanc de Blancs, both were outstanding. The Brut was crisp and mineral-filled with bright citrus peel and biscuit aromas. The Blanc de Blancs had apple, pear, white peach and limestone aromas. We left with a bottle of the 2004 Petite Sirah and the 2000 Brut Rose. Onward . . .

We headed out of the Stag's Leap District toward Santa Rosa in search of Siduri. If you haven't experienced Siduri wines (and they are an "experience"), I implore you to go immediately to your favorite wine shop and buy a bottle of their wine. They produce only Pinot Noir (their sister winery, Novy, which is housed in the same facility produces Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and sometimes Pinot Meunier). The winemaking facility is in a warehouse park just outside of the Charles Schultz airport in Santa Rosa. It is very minimalist, no bells and whistles here. Obviously they focus all their energy on what goes in the bottle, rather than how to showcase it. What's inside the bottle is awe-inspiring. Their Pinots aren't cheap, but they are worth every penny (and I rarely say that). Some highlights were the 2005 Russian River (even being so young it was drinking beautifully), and the 2005 Rosella's Vineyard (which was luscious but needed some bottle time. Jill Kennedy, the National Sales Manager, led us through the facility showing us the incoming grapes, the hopper, fermenting bins and the barrel room. We also had the pleasure of tasting, from barrel, the 2005 Novy Christensen Family Syrah, Gary's Vineyard Syrah, and Rosella's Vineyard Syrah. They were all amazing, each with their own terroir, simply beautiful. The Christensen was my favorite, with supple tannins, blackberry fruit, rosemary aromas, and a long finish. Even in barrel it was showing signs of how amazing it will be. The Siduri experience was amazing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm 30, why not?

To celebrate my 30th birthday, my partner Kelly and I decided (well, I really decided) to take a trip out to the beautiful Sonoma Valley. Being in the business I was able to set up a few appointments with wineries beforehand. After a smooth 4 1/2 hour flight from Memphis we landed in San Francisco, a former home of mine. Our friend Cori picked us up from the airport and whisked us into the city. We had the whole day before us to play around in the city. We went down to the Ferry Building Marketplace (a must for any foodie) and had some wine at the Winebar. Service was kind of "ehh" but the wine was good. I almost purchased a bottle of Vega Sicilia's second label but the alcohol was a bit too high for a Spanish wine. I was concerned that it would be hot. We left the Ferry Building and walked towards Union Square. We then stopped at First Crush. This delightful little wine bar was beautifully stylized and had a lovely menu. Our server had been to Memphis and I recognized her (small world). After the recognition our server proceeded to shower us with wine and food. You've got to check this place out when in SF. Cori had to work the next morning so she bowed out at this point. We regrouped back at her and her husband's apartment in Noe Valley, and then Kelly and I went back out on the town. We found an amazing little place called Hotel Biron. Located in an alley behind the Zuni Cafe (which we had dinner at later in the week, I'll get to that), Hotel Biron looks like it belongs in Barcelona or Prague. It's very minimal and sleek, not to mention miniscule, and so very comfortable. With a wine list to die for (kudos to whomever put it together) and a small menu of cheeses and charcuterie, it had everything we were looking for. Kelly and I split a bottle of 1997 Calera Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir. The wine displayed gamey aromas of dried leather, dark earth, licorice and dried cherry. It had aged gracefully into a structured wine with black cherry, tea and espresso on the palate. Lovely!

We'll continue northward to Sonoma......


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Sunday, October 01, 2006

We're back

Kelly and I just returned from Sonoma. I will be posting soon about our amaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing trip.