Friday, June 15, 2007

Fake it till you make it- Wine tasting is fun

Having safely arrived home from the travelling debacle (still sans a place to live next year, unfortunately), I've been taking some time to enjoy the California "amenities" that I'm going to miss next year. Not that I'll notice anyway- I'll be in the library.

So, I went wine tasting in Sonoma yesterday with a good friend. As it happens, going wine tasting on the weekdays is the way to go, especially in Sonoma- the roads were dead, and we had some time to actually socialize with the sommeliers & wine makers, which was nice. Despite the overwhelming temptation of the Carneros region, we visited true Sonoma vineyards first, and then worked our way up Highway 12.

We stopped at:

Valley of the Moon: which had a tasty Rose (shocking), and a pretty lovely reserve Cabernet. We got to talking to a few of the folks working there about our common athletic roots, and smiled and socialized our way into a reserve tasting and a few free tastings up the road- go team! Fun Friend (who is infinitely more wine-literate than myself, and has no fear of being told her BS is...well, BS) also had the good sense to ask them for restaurant recommendations, which they were glad to give.

Arrowood: Tasted upwards of 7 or 8 wines here, including a flight that had several different vintages of Chardonnay, Reisling, and Cabernet. It was nice to compare a reserve bottle from one year with the previous one- I felt my palate, if not more discerning, was at least better educated for having visited here. I really enjoyed their 2004 Alary Vineyards Chardonnay- light & crisp & lovely on a summer afternoon. The Riesling was also good (for a Reisling), although this one was so sweet that it felt like drinking syrup- maybe something you could have a sip or two of for dessert, but not anything I'd drink more than a half-glass of. Arrowood was my moment to shine and socialize, as the man who poured for us had gone to law school in a previous career. I'd certainly go there again- the wine, as a whole, was good, and I felt well taken care of.

Vineyard Inn (Kenwood): yummy! Just off the side of the road, and it doesn't look like anything special from the outside, but we had a wonderful Spanish/Mexican/California cuisine style meal, and it was mostly locals inside, which meant more chatting and less eye rolling at the cameras.

Chateau St. Jean: Arrowood sent us to try the reserve tasting at Chateau St. Jean, which was a gorgeous location, in the most Gatsby-esque sense imaginable. Having floated and charmed our way through our other tastings, we were a bit put off by our host at Chateau St. Jean-not-the-french-pronunciation-thats-wrong-she's American. Though he kept up a certain amoung of patter about beautiful ladies & pretty blue eyes, it became uncomfortably clear that he was reading from a script- and despite Fun Friend's best efforts to engage him, he really wanted nothing to do with either of us. Perhaps because of his emphatic lack of charm, the wines themselves seemed a little over-rated. Although they were entirely quaffable, his constant insistence on the "world class wines" was a little suspect. Like the storefront that proclaims "classy dresses sold here": if you have to say it, you're probably not. However, they did have a tasty viognier that I took home, which tasted vaguely of apricot & key lime, and which will make a nice graduation present for my non-wine drinking roommate. Although Bob was decidedly uninteresting and not that fun to chat with, the winery itself was gorgeous, and the $10 reserve tasting fee was a worthwhile investment to try a number of interesting wines.

Seventh Day Adventist Camp: We got lost outside Healdsburg. The camp in the mountains is not, although it may appear so on the first glance, either a golf course or a cemetery. Oops. The Healdsburg visitor center, however, is extremely helpful, so kudos to them.

Williamson Winery: Has a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg- the wife of the winemaker poured for us, and I was pleasantly suprised. We spent upwards of an hour here, and I was impressed with the quality of all of their wines. Everything was very soft- no 'kick you in the teeth' Merlots here, and I loved that it was a family operation. Also, Dawn (new friend, again!), spent alot of time chatting with us about food and wine pairings, and referred us to her friend the sommelier at a nearby restaurant, so we learned quite a bit from her company. Her husband, the winemaker, was equally charming and knowledgable, so we felt a bit as though we'd discovered a little local secret. I'll be back - and I found myself, within the space of a few sentences, trying to use the parents' dinner party as an excuse to bring home a bottle, then quickly deciding that they didn't really deserve a $50 Cabernet anyway- so I took it home. I've set it next to my fabulous Frank Family Cab for a special occasion, and now I've got the beginnings of a cellar.

Wine Annex (Healdsburg) : Went to a food and wine pairing here- at $20, an interesting time, but not really quite enough food to make it a great investment. Although it was the end of a very long day, both wine and food were just mediocre enough to make only a slight impression. On the plus side, savoring small bits of food & wine together was another educational experience for my palate, so at the very least I've learned something about pairing.

Today I learned: I have a terrible weakness for Cabernet Sauvigon.


Anonymous said...

dreary indeed.

All rights reserved to my snotty and generally self-deprecating writing. And if your comments bother me, I'll delete them. That's right, pumpkin.
...How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
-- Emily Dickinson