SAN FRANCISCO, DECEMBER 1, 2011 - Thanksgiving is over, and the craziness of the holidays officially begins. Americans are busy decorating, fighting insane moms, grandmas and dads while holiday shopping. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. It’s time to dig in and find possibly the most important holiday gift of all, wine.
Now that the stockings are hung by the fireplace with care, get away for the weekend to Sonoma and taste and purchase some much needed holiday wine.
Wine is the perfect gift to give to your friends, and it’s what you drink at holiday dinners and New Year’s Eve celebrations toasting 2012. It is also a welcome gift to bring to the countless holiday parties. As usual, you are going to so many parties that you’re not quite sure where one ends and another begins. Be sure to bring wine you love, since you can never be sure what the host will be pouring.
During the annual Sonoma Holiday Open House, I tried to visit wineries that I had not yet been to. I wound up visiting 15 wineries in total (out of the 22 participating this year).
Eric Ross Winery: Just down the road from Benziger you will find the Eric Ross tasting room. You have probably driven by it 20 times, but never stopped in. I am so happy we did. It has a rustic, barn-like setting that is down to earth and very welcoming. Try their Tempranillo, Old Vine Zinfandel and Old Vine Zin Port. Grab some dark chocolate for the Port!
Moondance Cellars: Literally across the street from Eric Ross is Moondance. Park at one and walk over to the other. As soon as I laid one eye on David Cohen, I knew I’d like him. He is super friendly and natural, he knows what he likes and takes it all in stride. Try their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This would be wonderful with holiday dinner.
Audelssa Estate Winery: Two hops and a jump away from Moondance you will find Audelssa. It is more urban sheik than the others, but not snobby. Try their ‘08 Summit Bordeaux Blend. There were only 550 cases produced, so get ‘em while they’re hot.
Wellington Vineyards: Around the corner and up the road from Audelssa is Wellington, nuzzled just off the main Highway 12. Wellington offers some more unique varietals than what you usually find in Sonoma. Try their Noir de Noirs and either the ’06, ‘05 or ‘04 Meritage if you can find it!
Loxton Cellars: A stone’s throw away from Wellington is Loxton. Loxton is the passion of Australian winemaker Chris Loxton. As a natural result of his heritage, be sure to try the various Syrahs here. Also give the Late Harvest Zin a swirl.
Deerfield Ranch Winery: We had a very surprising experience at Deerfield Ranch. It’s just across the other side of Highway 12 from Kunde. Complete with comfortable and luxurious cave tasting rooms, this is a must see! Fall in love with their Red Rex, Cabernet Sauvignon Los Chamizal, Ladis Meritage and Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel.
Paradise Ridge Byck Family Winery: I was excited to try Paradise Ridge on the first stop of the second day of wine tasting. This is an absolutely, fabulously wonderful winery; very cheery and bright, and they were pouring wines not on the event menu. I loved their Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, ’09 Pinot Noir, ’08 Estate Zinfandel, ’07 Elevation Cabernet Sauvignon and the ’08 Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ty Caton & Muscardini Cellars: Ty Caton & Muscardini are in one convenient location, and right around the corner from Enkidu, VJB Cellars and Paradise Ridge. It is easy to park at one and walk to the others. The scene at Caton was like Vegas meets wine country, complete with hip hop music and glitter. This is most likely due to the Open House event, but the energy was high and oh my, was the wine flowing! Be sure to try Ty’s Estate Red, Estate Syrah, Estate Upper Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Petite Sirah and Tytanium, as well as Muscardini’s Zinfandel and Tesoro.
Collier Falls: Collier Falls’ tasting room is conveniently located in the Family Wineries tasting room in Kenwood, so you get the bonus of tasting wines from 6 other wineries in a single stop. I had the fortune to meet Barry Collier at a tasting event in San Francisco earlier this year, so I knew I wanted to find him and taste more than the 2 wines he was pouring at that earlier event. Absolutely try his Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Primitivo.
After a very full day of wine tasting on Friday, we checked into our suite at The Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, the perfect location for wine tasting in Sonoma. A gallon of water and visit to the hot tub later, we were ready to head out for dinner. Downtown Santa Rosa is full of boutique and artisan restaurants. Be sure to check out historic Railroad Square, which offers many dining options.
After hours of wine tasting, we chose to visit Russian River Brew Co, grab a few of their famous beers and try the pizza. They offer a wide beer selection to please every palate, from Belgian ales to porter. They are famous for their Pliny the Elder double IPA. The beer was easy to drink and pizza was delicious and hit the spot!
For advice and tasting notes on all the wineries visited, follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Complete weekend photos can be found on Facebook. Additional wineries visited: Benziger Family Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Enkidu, Kaz Vineyard & Winery, Kunde Family Estate, Macrae Family Wines, David Noyes, and Simon Levi Cellars.
For a complete list of the wineries that participated in the Holiday Open House event, check out the Heart of Sonoma website.
Download the weekend program and map here. And start planning for next year. Even though the event is over, many of the wineries are still offering discounts on wine purchases. Check out the winery websites for details.
Be sure to have a designated driver or hire transportation.
Drink plenty of H-2-O.
Try to stick to 5 or fewer wineries per day. Visiting more won’t allow you to truly experiencing the wineries and the wine.
Stay overnight at one of the many Sonoma hotels, inns and resorts.
Grab dinner at one of Sonoma’s super yummy restaurants. Estate restaurant in Sonoma has a not-to-be-missed brunch on the weekends and daily homemade pastas. They were just written up in the Chronicle for their Grappa selection. A great finish to a fabulous meal.
More on the history of Sonoma Valley.
Swirl into Sonoma – for winery recommendations and advice.
For part 1 of the Sonoma tasting event, be sure to read Begin a new Thanksgiving tradition in Sonoma.
Columnist Sherrie Perkovich offers an insider’s perspective of the very best San Francisco has to offer. Join her weekly to experience the best the City by the Bay has to offer - from parties to parks and everything in between.
Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all. If it’s happening in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sherrie is in on it. Follow her column, for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco treats.
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