Posts Tagged With: wine

Time to Stomp on the Grapes

There is no time quite like fall at a winery.  The grapes are ripe and being harvested.  New wines are revealed.  All around you, the leaves are changing in a display worthy of a state with actual seasons.

Fall is a great time to settle down with a nice cup of red and start preparing for winter.  It is also a great time to check out winery events!

If you have money to spare, and you are looking for a fall winery party, I would check out V. Sattui’s Crush Party.  Alas, I do not have money to spare, so I cannot go nor have I been in the past, but it looks like a lot of fun.  They take you through the wine production process with a good, old-fashioned grape crushing…with your bare feet.  There’s really nothing quite like people telling you it’s OK to squish a giant vat of grapes by stomping on them.

Watch and tell me this doesn’t look like a ton of fun:

Fall also means passport days are upon us!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is winery passport days, this is the time when you can try any winery you choose for a flat rate.  Wineries that generally do not do tastings are open and all sorts of special stuff can be found like barrel tastings and food pairings and vineyard tours and unique wines not generally available to the public.  Passports are split up by region, so take a look at where your favorite wineries are and mark your calendars!

Around these parts, we have…

Santa Clara Valley                        October 5 – 6                        $30
Santa Cruz Mountains                  November 16                        $45
Napa and Sonoma also have a continual passport deal.  For details, see sonomapassport.com and napavalleypassport.com.

Harvest Festivals abound this time of year as well in all parts of wine country.  The big wineries all have their own, but check out these to see a bunch of wineries at once:

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair encompasses three days worth of wine tastings from over 150 wineries, complete with food, demonstrations, seminars, and a FREE grape stomping competition.

If you’re looking for something a little more wine-centric, Reserve Sonoma Valley offers special peeks at wineries generally closed to the public along with food pairings and winery tours.

Of course, there are tons more harvest and fall events all across Northern California, so be sure to check with favorite vineyards for their festivals.  Which fall wine events are you favorites?

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Categories: Bay Area, Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Napa, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Storrs Winery: Pleasantly Surprising in Every Way

Whilst in Santa Cruz, the husband suggested we do some wine tasting.  You can perhaps imagine my reaction.  It was somewhere in the vicinity of “OK!”  And so I perused my Santa Cruz Mountains wine guide for a promising-looking tasting room and came upon Storrs.

Storrs is one of those rare local wineries whose products I have seen in abundance in local stores.  In fact, they have their own little section in the World Market next to my work.  Because I always enjoy knowing what I’m buying, I figured I’d give them a try.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Since they are in my local shop, I wasn’t expecting the highest quality, but we liked just about everything we tried.  The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and clear if a touch too grassy.  We both agreed that the Zinfandel was divine, and I liked the light yet flavorful Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noir as well as the Grenache, notable because I’m usually not a Grenache fan.  However, the bottle we went home with was the Riesling which was light yet sweet with a hint of bubbles.  I cannot tell you how exciting it was to get to try a Riesling.  Riesling is probably my favorite varietal, but it just doesn’t grow very well around here, so very few wineries have one, and not only getting to try one but having it be good enough to buy made me almost giddy.

Perhaps the most pleasant part of our wine tasting experience was how reasonably priced the wines were.  Our Riesling was a mere $16, and most of the wines cost around $20 which is low for this region and quality. I would absolutely consider buying several of them at World Market, and with a sale, I could even afford it.

Our pourer was pretty cool too.  She was very nice, easy to chat with, let us try quite a few wines, and let us do both of our tastings free even though we only bought one bottle.  I would definitely go back.

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Categories: Northern California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Casa de Fruta: The Most Random Place on Earth

Huddled in the hills between the 101 and the 5 in Hollister is one of those off-the-highway places you’d expect to find somewhere like Kansas.  It’s cute, it’s clearly there for tourists, and most importantly, it is super random.

But not in a bad way.  Casa de Fruta has much to offer:  fruit, nuts, fudge, candies, wine, even entertainment.  It’s just hard for me to get over how in the middle of nowhere it is.

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Like any good roadside attraction, Casa de Fruta has a lengthy history.  It began in the 1940s as a cherry stand for the nearby orchard.  As per tradition, fresh and dried fruit can still be found in abundance at Casa de Fruta.  The family expanded into nuts as well, and I must say, their nut collection is varied and delicious.  My husband and I are big fans of the chili lemon almonds.

But these days they have much more to offer than just fruit and nuts.  Along with Casa de Fruta, there is Casa de Restaurant, Casa de Wine, Casa de Sweets, and even Casa de Choo Choo (hehehe).  Everything you need for a roadside stop to get the kids out of your hair for an hour.

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Waterwheel and Panning for Gold (Except Not Really)

 

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Peacocks Were Everywhere

Of these, I’d say Casa de Fruta is still the most impressive.  It has a wide selection of dried fruit and nuts with some offerings that are not so easy to find, like toffee-glazed chocolate-covered pistachios, fruit and nut rolls, and those chili lemon almonds.

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With my unrelenting sweet tooth, I of course had to check out Casa de Sweets.  Much of it was pretty standard candy, but they make their own fudge, chocolates, and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, and it was all good.  My mind was not blown, but hey, when is homemade fudge not delicious?

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I cannot say I was impressed with the wine, but they did have some unique flavors.  Along with some standard whites and reds, Casa de Wine sports a line of fruity wines which were certainly intriguing.  It’s not every tasting room that will serve you an apricot, blackberry, or pomegranate wine.  I wasn’t a fan of all of them, but the plum was good, and the sparkling pomegranate I actually considered buying.  Alas, it, like all of their wines, was grossly overpriced.  You could basically get the same flavor from sparkling pomegranate juice for a quarter of the price.  BUT the tasting was FREE!!!  You know I love me some free, especially free wine.

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While I did feel like their products on the whole were well-made, they are all on the pricy side, and I just don’t think the quality justifies it.  It’s so easy to find good handmade candies, luxury nuts, and farmstand fruits in this area that are cheaper, higher quality, or both.  And if you’ve read anything else on this blog, you know good wine (read:  better wine) is about as easy to find near Silicon Valley as computer programmers.  But if you’re looking to find all of these things in one place, want a place with variety, or just need somewhere to stop on your drive south, Casa de Fruta is certainly worth a look.

Categories: Bay Area Day Trips, Food, Local Travel, Northern California, Santa Clara Valley, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sipping at Cinnabar

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For years I have driven by the Cinnabar tasting room and thought I really need to go try that place sometime.

Today I finally did, and as usual left wishing I had gone much earlier.

We began with a rosé.  Rosés and I are not great friends with a few notable exceptions.  This is one of those exceptions.  It was light and crisp but still subtly sweet, a very pleasant summer wine.

Then came the Chardonnay.  Though I am a staunch lover of whites (don’t judge), I do not generally care for Chardonnay either.  Ironically, it is practically the only white that I dislike yet often the only one to be found in this area as well as the only wine drunk by my mother.  Figures.  As I have begun to frequent higher priced wineries, I have found more and more Chardonnays that I do like or at least tolerate, but nearly all are unoaked.  As the pourer began to describe this French oaked buttery Chardonnay, I prepared myself to endure it and move on quickly, but as it touched my tongue, I gasped in surprise.  It was delicious!  Light, fresh, buttery but not oaky in the slightest.  It was very nearly my favorite wine of the day, and had it been half the price, I may well have bought it.

From there my friendly pourer jumped off the tasting list to the Mercury Rising, a blend which is apparently one of their most popular wines.  I cannot say I was overly impressed.  For a blend, the mix of flavors was interesting with each presenting itself in turn, but on the whole it was a bit too scattered for my taste.

We moved on to the Petit Verdot which was actually kind of amazing.  “Bold flavor” does not begin to describe the first sip of this wine; it hits you like a rogue tree branch when you had barely realized you were standing under a tree.  It’s good though, and despite its strength, it’s light on tannins which is always a plus in my book.

In contrast was the Malbec which had more tannins but a smooth, even flavor.  Also one of their most popular wines, I much preferred it to the Mercury Rising.

My pourer was kind enough to give me a little something extra (always chat up your pourers, you won’t regret it) with the Incantation Blanc.  Also a blend, this one was my winner of the day.  Smooth, light, and sweet, this lovely little summer wine has a slight orange tang to it and would be a lovely wine to sip on a patio while listening to music.

Overall, a tasty way to spend an afternoon.  I’ll be back for their weekend wine bar evenings, complete with live music.

Categories: Santa Cruz Mountains, Wine | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

How I Discovered Wine at V. Sattui

Once long ago upon a time, I was 21 and wide-eyed.  I knew nothing of the world of wine that did not end in a wine-soaked whine.  “What is this swill?,” I was heard to say.  I had never had good wine those days.

Then an anniversary came our way along with a graduation day.  “Let’s go to Napa!” was all we could say.

And my world turned upside-down.

I had been 21 for barely half a year when I visited Napa for the first time.  Having come to drinking late in life (as in waiting to do it legally…mostly), I had yet to disabuse myself of the notion that alcohol tastes yucky.  At that point, my forays into the world of alcohol mostly consisted of fruity or chocolatey cocktails and cider, the latter only because my drinking education began in Great Britain where I was of legal age before my 21st birthday (Strongbow rules!).  I hated beer and wasn’t much happier with the wine options I had partaken of so far.

Thank the (wine) gods I consulted my wine connoisseur uncle before my trip!  I may never have found V. Sattui otherwise.

It was the first stop we made, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Clearly, I had never had good wine up until this point.  V. Sattui changed everything.  For the first time, I tasted wine I not only tolerated but actually liked!  A lot!  So much so that even in our fund-deprived state, we bought four bottles between V. Sattui and its sister winery, Castello di Amorosa.  At the time, that was A LOT of wine for me, especially at Napa prices.

It was all so good that I had trouble choosing which bottles to bring home.  The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and fresh, but the Off-Dry Riesling had that hint of sweetness and the Dry Gewurzstraminer that bold dessert flavor.  The Gamay Rouge had such unique strawberry accents, but could it compare to the sweet perfection of La Fantasia?  Not to mention the true dessert wines like the Madeira and the Port with strong flavors and subtle mellowing aspects that make these wines a delight for the taste buds.

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These wines made me realize that with the right varietals and the right care, wine could be great.  I didn’t want to drink to get drunk, I wanted it for the flavors.

I was hooked.  The wines alone would have done for me, but pourers helped make the experience come alive.  They were all very helpful, very informative, and very liberal, allowing us to try extras when we just couldn’t choose or when they found something they thought we would like.

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By the end of our trip, we had tried a wide variety of their wines as well as three food pairings and loved every minute.

And so began a life-long love of wine tasting.

Categories: About, Bay Area Day Trips, Local Travel, Napa, Northern California, Wine | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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