Tag Archives: sonoma

Revisiting Sonoma

Back in March (!), we had the wonderful opportunity to go back down to Sonoma again, for a very brief, but delicious trip. We took off from Walla Walla on Monday, had an amazing dinner that night, attended a very excellent luncheon at a very special winery, tasted at 3 other wineries and 1 brewery, and flew home the next morning.

John Ash & Co

We stayed at the beautiful Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa, and had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, John Ash & Co, on our first night. My grandma was so incredibly excited to eat here, as she’d taken a cooking class from John Ash in Seattle, way back in the day, and she’d loved it. As a souvenir, we all got a signed copy of John Ash’s cookbook! And it was an incredible meal; I had the miso-glazed black cod with soba noodles and vegetables, and it was the most tender, perfectly cooked fish. I’ve experimented with a poor-man’s version of this meal since, and it’s always good, but never quite as good. We started off with sparkling wine and then moved on to the Flowers Pinot Noir, which was excellent. It was a very Pinot trip, which I found so exciting! Walla Walla is not exactly known for its Pinot, although the winery where I work does make one. Really, this meal started the trip off with a bang, and it just got better.

Kosta Browne Winery

The next day, we started off at 11am to the big event of the trip; our luncheon at the small and fairly exclusive Kosta Browne Winery. We were greeted with sparkling wine (not their own, but definitely festive!), given the tour of the new facility, and did some barrel tasting of Pinots from some radically different vineyards. The luncheon itself was very memorable; the main course was a southwestern-French cassoulet paired with two different Pinot Noirs: the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which was lighter with great fruit and the 2012 Santa Lucia Pinot Noir, which had some tannin to it and some earthiness. Both were fantastic; it’s probably a good thing that they wouldn’t let us buy wine then (although many of our group did sign up for the waiting list!), because I would have maxed out my wine budget here.

Iron Horse Winery

After lunch and debating our options, we took ourselves to Iron Horse Winery in search of some sparkling wine, because we can never, ever resist a nice bottle of bubbly. Iron Horse has an outdoor tasting bar on top of a hill, with some truly stunning views. They also have a winery cat, so naturally I spent most of my time during the tasting making friends with her (the cat’s name is LG, which stands for Late Disgorgement, a sparkling wine term for when the lees, or sediment from dead yeast cells, is taken out of the bottle of wine). Iron Horse makes a huge variety of wines, but we elected to taste just the sparkling.  We especially liked the Fairy Tale Cuvee and the Wedding Cuvee. All in all, we had a great time on that hilltop with the cat and the sparkling wine.

Papapietro Perry

Our tasting at Papapietro Perry was short; we only made it there at the very end of the day. What the tasting lacked in personality, it more than made up for in great wine. The Pinots had plenty of oomph to them, like those at Kosta Browne, but for a much lower price. We tried the Zinfandel, but we were just stuck on the Pinots this time. This was really my first experience with the Sonoma Pinots, and I found them to be full of flavor and body, with well balanced acidity. I’m sure you can find insipid, watery Pinots in California, but we definitely did not find them at Papapietro Perry.

We were only in Sonoma for one full day, but it felt like we’d been there for a week! I really enjoyed my time there, but it felt great to come home. Everyone we met in Sonoma was friendly and informative, but there’s something about the down-to-earth, agricultural feel of Walla Walla that makes me feel connected to the wines. Maybe it’s the difference of working in wine country here and visiting wine country there. Either way, I’ll definitely be back to Sonoma. When I do, where should I go and what should I see?


Exploring Sonoma: One Winery at a Time

Last month, we took a weekend to escape from cloudy Walla Walla for a trip to 65-degrees-and-sunny Sonoma! I’m going to be honest- I’ve never actually been tasting in California before, and the astonishing amount of wineries and AVAs in the state kind of boggle my mind.  I like to keep my eye on what’s going on in California wineries through blogs and Wine Spectator, but the idea of narrowing our options down to just three wineries to visit made me realize how much I don’t know about California wineries! Luckily, I had a few tasters come into the winery in the weeks leading up to the trip, and I managed to wrangle some recommendations out of them. And by “some”, I mean a whole page full of winery names, so I had to do some digging to figure out which wineries would be the most exciting for us.

MacLaren Winery was the first winery we went to, and I think it ended up being our favorite of the trip. Cool-climate Syrahs, several single-vineyard offerings, and really elegant food wines. Steve Law, the owner and winemaker, is from Scotland, but spent 10 years in France learning to love wine before moving to Sonoma to make it himself. He doesn’t make much, 1000 cases at most, and it’s almost all Syrah. I love how different these Syrahs are from hot weather Walla Walla; it’s amazing how much climate impacts the taste of wine.

Next, we went to Loxton Winesrecommended to us by some Sonoma wine folks who we ran into in Walla Walla. Also a small winery, Chris Loxton focuses on Syrahs and Zinfandels; we liked the Zin the best (partly because we almost never see it here in Walla Walla). After MacLaren’s wines, these seemed really fruity and almost unbalanced compared to the high acidity of his Syrahs.

Our last stop of the day was Kunde Family Estate, a much larger winery than the first two we stopped at. The tasting room was crowded, and it was harder to get the attention of the tasting room staff, but eventually we got settled at the bar. Kunde owns a lot of vineyard, and their wine was very pleasant- maybe not special occasion wines, but very drinkable.

We also had lunch at The Girl and the Figwhich was super busy (a good sign, right?). I had their Moules-Frites (delicious!), and everyone else’s food looked great, too.

We’re headed back to Sonoma in two weeks; what is the one winery we should definitely not skip?