Sunday, February 22, 2009

California, Day One: Sonoma

Hubby and I had been talking for the past year about taking a trip out to Lodi, which is a wine-growing region about 85 miles east and slightly north of San Francisco. All of the Lodi wines we'd tasted were big and fruity, our favorite kind. I had suspected that February would be slow, and Hubby had Monday, February 16 off, so we decided to take advantage of low air fares and flew from Atlanta to San Francisco on Wednesday, February 11. Lured by happy memories of Sonoma wines, we decided to go to Healdsburg on Thursday, to Napa on Friday, and then end up in Lodi for the Wine and Chocolate Festival over Valentine's weekend.

Wine tasting during the off-season was an interesting experience. Disadvantages included the inconsistent weather. I wished several times that I had brought a warmer jacket as the wind whipped the rain at me and speckled my glasses under my hood or umbrella. On the other hand, with harvest and bottling over, many of the winemakers were around and willing to chat, and we got behind-the-scenes tours of a few places. We also didn't have to fight the crowds, at least not until we got to the festival in Lodi.

On our way into Healdsburg, we stopped at J Winery, which we had been very impressed with on our first visit in 2005. We had wanted to join their wine club then, but since they had a distributor (you can get their sparkling wine here), we were unable to. We took advantage of the laws having been loosened and signed up. Our favorite was probably the 2005 Pinot Noir from the Robert Thomas vineyard, which was smooth and nicely balanced between earth and fruit. Yeah, it's $65 a bottle. No, we didn't get any since space in Bertha the wine safe (see bottom of blog) is limited, and we didn't want to kick off the trip with such an expensive bottle.

We checked into our B&B, had a good lunch at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill, and continued our tasting with a visit to the Selby tasting room (web site is down, so link not provided). We already belong to Selby's wine club but couldn't resist a bottle of their Dolcetto. I'm afraid I can't give a vintage year since that one didn't make it back with us.

Then it was up West Dry Creek Road to taste in Dry Creek Valley, which we had not made it to on our previous visit. The highlights were Wilson Winery, where we got a bottle of their 2005 Bordeaux Blend (37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 28% Cab Franc), and then Unti Vineyards, where we had to make an appointment, but which was worth it. We came away from there with a bottle of 2006 Sangiovese blended with %15 Montepulciano and a recipe for Amatriciana sauce, which should go well with the Sangiovese blend with its smoky ("popcorn," Hubby said) nose and smooth underlying fruit. We ended the day back in Healdsburg at Longboard Vineyards, where we bought a bottle of 2006 Old Vine Carignan.

Our theme of revisiting favorites continued that evening as we went to Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar for dinner. We both elected to do the tasting menu -- as if we hadn't had enough wine, right? -- wherein wine was paired by the chef with the first and second courses. We both had mixed green salads for our first course, and then I had the "Blue Plate Special" of spaghetti and meatballs, and Hubby had chicken with mole sauce. The harried server only gave us a brief glimpse of the wine menu and what we were drinking, so I'm afraid I don't remember, only that we didn't finish it. Oh, and dessert was an incredible and decadent chocolate brownie sundae.

We stayed the night at the romantic Camellia Inn.

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