Ferrari-Carano Winery: A “Special dessert”

September 30, 2009 1 comment

Ferrari-Canano Vineyards and Winery (located in Dry Creek Valley). My wife and I had talked about going to the Sonoma County / Napa Valley California wine country for quite some time but we just never made the time to do so.  It took a fund-raiser Gala event to turn that tide as one of the items was a private tour, tasting and lunch at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg, CA.  The item came up for bid and I thought, time to just do this.  We won the bid and I thought it would be great for our 25th anniversary celebration and it was even better than we could have imagined. I have written about the other wineries visited in previous posts as this is the last winery we visited during our July 2008 trip — we wanted to save this special experience for last — kind of like a special “dessert”.

Our first view of the winery:  outstanding

Our first view of the winery: outstanding

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery will treat you to fine wines and will overwhelm your senses with beauty throughout the entire winery.  You will be overwhelmed with the beautiful gardens, the tasting room, the wine cellar and the views and how the design of the winery compliments the beauty you will see all around you.

Upon arrival, Patrick Mukaida (Director of Hospitality) greeted us and took us on a private tour, where we met Sara Quider (white wine winemaker), followed by a private tasting and lunch which all combined to be perfect to help us celebrate our 25th anniversary.

The view is simply amazing

The view is simply amazing

Patrick Mukaida takes on the tour of the vineyard

Patrick Mukaida takes us on a tour of the vineyard


Downstairs: "Enoteca Lounge"

We walked through the cellar and the great smell of wine, it is just something that I will always remember and hope to experience again and again.  The cellar itself is beautiful as is the downstairs limited release and reserve wine tasting room (the “Enoteca Lounge”).  Shortly after tasting a few of the select wines we moved on to the private lunch at “Villa Fiore” as provided by Chef Joseph Costanzo.  The entire experience was just amazing and gave us the chance to experience wine and food pairings that were outstanding.  Chef Costanzo gave us many hints and did a great job in teaching us how he paired wines to compliment the food served.

We started out with a Chilled Avocado Soup with a Tomato, Shallot and Mango Crab Salad paired with the 2005 Tre Terre Chardonnay.  Next, we had a Pan-Seared Herbes de Provence Marinated Lamb Loin topped with Goat Cheese paired with the 2006 SIENA.  The Siena is mostly made up of Sangiovese (about 75%) blended with about 25% Malbec and the pairing was perfect.  Next we had Blackberry Sorbet paired with the 2006 Eldorado Noir.  The Eldorado Noir is made from 100% Malbec and is styled as a “late harvest” wine.  I had never thought of such a combination and was amazed at how outstanding it was.  Just as a note of information, Ferrari-Carano’s web site has a wine and food pairing guide along with all kinds of fun recipes which you may find useful.

After lunch, we walked outside to enjoy the gardens and said goodbye to our host Patrick.  Ferrari-Carano was the last winery visited on our trip in July 2008 and absolutely was fantastic.  The sights, the wines and the friendliness of the staff left an impression that will last forever.


View from "Villa Fiore"


Garden View

Garden View

Recommendation:  A must visit winery! If you are going to be in the Healdsburg area, the wines and the views will be worth the effort to visit.

You will need an appointment to take the winery tour which I highly recommend.

Tasting Fee; $5 (No appointment necessary) — fee refunded with purchase of $25 or more

Location:  Ferrari-Carano; 8761 Dry Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

Follow on Twitter:  @ferraricarano


Stryker Sonoma Winery: Beautiful “room with a view”

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

We included Stryker Sonoma Winery on our list of wineries to visit for two reasons: (1) to taste the award-winning wines and (2) as Stryker’s design won the 2002 Architectural Design Award for Northern California from the American Institute of Architects we thought it would be great to see and experience a design that achieved such an accomplishment.

As you walk towards the entrance of the tasting room (the “room with a view”) you will experience how the design of the walkway focuses your eyes towards the beauty of the vineyards, the landscaping and the winery structures.  As you walk along the pathway, the vine canopy above assists in framing the picturesque view.  The view is enhanced by this design and it is amazing how such beauty has been enhanced!  It truly is impressive and you will see why the design of Stryker won the noted award.  The attention to detail is apparent and the design integrates the natural beauty of the vineyards with the inner workings of this small winery.  Additionally, the picnic area has a wonderful view of the vineyards, providing a great setting to relax and have lunch (if you brought one with you).  Impressive views and this is only the walkway; we haven’t even gotten to the “room with a view yet!”

Styker: Walkway towards tasting room

Stryker: Beautiful design

As you open the door into the tasting room you will be welcomed with spectacular views. The glass pavilion design gives an open feeling allowing you take in the view of the valley as you enjoy the nice wines offered.  You will see why this tasting room is called “the room with a view”.  During our tastings, we felt almost as if we were in the vineyards tasting the wine.  During our visit, we had the tasting room to ourselves mainly due to the fact we visited during a week day in the last week of July.  Since we do not enjoy being part of a huge crowd, we have found timing our visits for the last week of July to be an excellent choice.

Stryker: Tasting Room with a view

Stryker: Tasting "Room with a view"

View of the tasting room as you walk in

Entrance into Tasting Room

At the time we visited the following tasting fees applied and should give you an idea of what fees you can expect:

Complimentary tastings: 2005 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley; the 2005 Merlot, Alexander Valley Estate; the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

$5 tasting fee taste all of the noted Zinfandels: 2004 “Old Vine”, Alexander Valley; 2005 Russian River Valley, Alegria Vineyard; 2004 Speedy Creek Vineyard, Knights Valley

$10 tasting fee to taste all of the following: 2004 Merlot, Rockpile Vineyard; 2004 Cabernet Franc, Russian River Valley, Alegria Vineyard; 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Two Moon Vineyard; 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, Monte Rosso Vineyard.

Recommendation:  If you have the time, swing by and visit as you will be impressed by the beautiful tasting room and the views you will be able to experience.

Location:  Stryker Sonoma Winery:  5110 Highway 128; Geyserville, CA 95441

Next time:  We head to a winery in the Healdsburg, CA area!

Chez Roux: What a great dining experience

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Chez Roux

Chez Roux opened in the early part of 2009 as part of the of the LaTorretta Del Lago resort located on Lake Conroe in Montgomery, Texas.   For those who live in Houston or the surrounding areas, the drive to Chez Roux will be rewarded with a dining experience that will both surprise and amaze you.

Chez Roux is an outstanding restaurant that provides a unique setting on Lake Conroe with exceptional food making for a dining experience that you will truly enjoy.  From the outside, the stand-alone building is not impressive as it looks very stark and uninviting.  However, once you walk inside you see the floor to ceiling glass encased wine room that is both impressive and appealing to the eye.  Then as you look forward you see the view of Lake Conroe and the large outside patio that is ideal for having a casual drink while enjoying the Lake — an inviting setting that welcomes you to stay and enjoy yourself.  As you walk further into the dining room and look to the right you will see the open kitchen which may be viewed from almost anywhere in the  restaurant.  We were seated to the far left room that is a somewhat separated from the main dining area and from there we could view the happenings in the kitchen.  Overall, the entire staff works hard to ensure you have an enjoyable experience and they succeeded in doing so for us.

Our entire group decided to go with the Pre Fix menu, complete with a starter, the main course, dessert and 1/2 bottle of wine priced at a very reasonable $65. Portions were sized as you would expect and the food presentations were impressive.

For the starter, I had the “Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison” which was perfectly prepared. The fine bean and caper relish that accompanied it balanced out the dish. The Parmesan Wafer was an unexpected treat that just rounded out a fantastic starter. Starting out like this, I knew that this experience was going to be one I would remember for a very long time.

Starter:  Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison

Starter: Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison

My wife started off with the Globe Artichoke with hazelnut crusted goats cheese surrounded by an artichoke and olive oil dressing.  You cannot go wrong by selecting either of these starters as they both are delicious.

Starter: Globe Artichoke

Starter: Globe Artichoke

As an added note, the 1/2 bottle of wine selection was either “Murphy Goode, 2006 Fume Blanc Sonoma California or the Jean Luc Colombo, 2005 Rouge Rhone Valley (France). I selected the 2006 Fume Blanc which paired very well with my food selections as it was crisp and with a light citrus taste.  The Fume Blanc is considered to be Murphy Goode’s “Flagship wine” and is made from fruit sourced out of the Alexander Valley (located in the northern part of Sonoma County, CA) and is a combination of Sauvignon Blanc along with a small amount of Sauvignon Musque.

For the main course I selected the “Butter Poached Breast of Chicken” which was exceptional. The hints of the aged parmesan along with the shiitake mushrooms that enhanced the asparagus risotto convinced me that Chef Albert Roux’s reputation is fully represented in this new venture.

Main Course:  Butter Poached Breast of Chicken

Main Course: Butter Poached Breast of Chicken

Chef Roux has an impressive reputation as does the executive chef, Matthew Gray and the food we enjoyed reaffirmed that to us.

For dessert, I went with the homemade ice cream:  a scoop of white chocolate and a scoop of marzipan infused ice cream — I was offered more choices however I limited myself to selecting just two items.  Everyone else choose to have the selection of french and domestic cheeses that were offered. Honestly, we were surprised at the large variety of cheeses offered and I was happy to have been able to choose from 4 different ice cream flavors and 4 different flavors of sorbet.  Be it the cheese or the ice cream, we all enjoyed the dessert which topped off an exceptional meal making it an memorable dining experience.


Marzipan infused ice cream / White chocolate ice cream


Selected cheeses

Overall, a fantastic experience and a place I highly recommend!

Chez Roux Restaurant:  La Torretta Del Lago Resort & Spa; 600 La Torretta Blvd; Montgomery, Texas 77356


Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves is located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley and the drive along West Dry Creek road offers beautiful views of various vineyards along with plenty of opportunities to visit numerous wineries, so many it becomes overwhelming.  We decided to go to Bella as we had tried a bottle of their Zinfandel — which we enjoyed  —  and thought it would be a great idea to experience the “caves” and enjoy the other wines Bella had to offer.  As we turned into the entrance to Bella we knew this would be a memorable visit as the entrance to the wine cave was right below one of their vineyards (Lily Hill) — visually it is very impressive.  Being the geeky person I am, I had to ask about the cave details and we were told the cave took 1 1/2 years to complete as excavation began in June 2002 and was completed in December 2003.  The cave has about 5200 square feet of barrel storage space and another 1500 feet used in entertaining guests (tasting area, music room and dining room).


View towards Lily Hill Vineyard and Wine Cave


Entrance to Wine Cave and tasting room


Wine Cave entrance: View towards tasting area

The cave and tasting room is located tucked just beneath the Lily Hill Vineyard which produces great old vine Zinfandels (over 85 year old vines).

As we visited mid-week, the Cave Tour was not available but we did enjoy great wine tastings.  We tasted the 2005 Big River Ranch Zinfandel, the 2006 Sonoma County Syrah, the 2006 Lily Hill Petite Sirah and the 2007 Late Harvest Zinfandel.  We had a great time and enjoyed the wines and I think we appreciate the wines even more now.

Lily Hill

Lily Hill Vineyard: Photo to give you an idea of one of the vines

Tasting Fee: $5 (No reservation required)

Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if you want to enjoy the Cave Tour and/or Tour of the Vineyard both of which I highly recommend — I wish we had done it!  We will next visit, for sure.

Recommendation:  Highly recommend you visit!

Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves:  9711 West Dry Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

St. Supery Winery: Tour and tasting creates great memories

September 14, 2009 2 comments

St Supery Winery

Follow on Twitter:  @stsupery (Keep up to date with special offerings and great information)

St Supery’s Chardonney was our first experience with St Supery wines and that taste brought us back to drinking Chardonney.  Figuring if St. Supery could do such an outstanding job with Chardonney, we would enjoy their other wines so we joined the wine club based upon that experience.  Members of the wine club are offered a free private tour and barrel tasting so we included a visit to St. Supery on our trip and it turned out to be a great decision indeed!

St Supery:  Doorway to a fun experience

St Supery: Doorway to a fun experience

St Supery

Atkinson House

Just walking towards the entrance of the visitor’s center, your senses will be overwhelmed with art, beauty and a sense that St Supery’s goal is to present you with great wines and a sensory education.  The demonstration vineyard along with the smell-a-vision hands-on display allows you to see and touch grapes and then experience the smells typically associated with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Upon our arrival, (2:30 PM appointment on Tuesday, July 29, 2008) we were welcomed with our names displayed on the visitor’s board and Denise Leuschner welcomed us as if we were old friends.  A very nice personal touch carried out throughout the entire experience.

We toured the winery and the barrel tasting was especially enjoyable as wine was pulled from 3 barrels, each with 100% of the noted varietal, with separate tastings from each.  We then sampled the 3 wines blended together in unequal portions taken from each barrel.  It was very interesting how the blends completely changed the character and taste of the wine.  This simple demonstration illustrated what goes on behind the scenes in crafting a fine wine when blending is required and it furthered our appreciation of those who craft great wines.  Crafting a great wine truly is an art.

The demonstration vineyard allowed us to see various trellising systems and taste 6 grape varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Merlot, Carbernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Anyone desiring to learn about wines and all the effort needed to craft fine wines, like the ones produced by St Supery, should visit.  This really was a great experience.

St Supery Demonstration Vineyard

St Supery Demonstration Vineyard

St Supery Demonstration Vineyard

St. Supery Demonstration Vineyard

Tasting room

Tasting room

Next stop, the tasting room!  Joe took care of us and the tasting room was a-buzz!  We enjoyed many selections and ultimately settled on the 2006 Moscato, the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2000 Dollarhide Limited Cabernet Sauvignon (Joe pulled this library wine out special for us as Club members) and the 2005 Cabernet Franc.  Simply stated, St. Supery crafts some great wines.

We continue to enjoy wines produced by St. Supery and sometimes even pair them with some fantastic recipes posted by St. Supery on their website.  St. Supery has it right as they fully understand a great experience at the winery can and will likely translate into a long-term customer relationship — something especially important during these economic hard times.

Recommendation:  Great Winery to Visit! You will truly enjoy the experience.

Location:  St. Supery Winery; 8440 St. Helena Highway; Rutherford, CA 94573

Del Dotto Caves — learned about “toast”

September 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Del Dotto Caves.  The second day of our winery tours began on Tuesday morning — July 29, 2008 — at 11 am with The Del Dotto Cave tour and Barrel tasting which is a tour I recommend to anyone visiting the Napa area.  The tour is fun, enjoyable, you can learn a lot if you so desire and tastings out of the barrel seem to just flow and flow.  We were told that the caves were dug — extending about 350 feet — by Chinese laborers back in 1885.  We also learned how the “toast” level of the wine barrel also can significantly influence tastes of the ultimate wine crafted.  We tasted the same type wine, aged in barrels with different toast levels and could taste significant differences.

Display of barrels with different toast levels

Display of barrels with different toast levels

Cave entrance

Cave entrance

We tasted out of 12 different barrels, or thereabouts as I lost count for some reason or another.  At that time, Del Dotto was focusing almost exclusively on red wines, of which we ordered 2 cases representing 6 different wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and a blend or two) tasted from the barrels.  We also added a bottle of the Zinfandel Port along with 2 bottles of the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc they offered.  We still are enjoying the wines and pull them out especially when entertaining.

RecommendationMake time to visit!  Unique opportunity that is both fun and educational.   Appointment is required so don’t forget to make arrangements before shøwing up.

Location:  1055 Atlas Peak Road;  Napa, CA    Phone:  707.963.2134

Cost: $40 per person :  Wine Cave Tour Fee is not waived even if wine is purchased.

Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun”) Winery: Enjoy the experience

September 7, 2009 1 comment

Our next stop was Gundlach Bundschu which is the 2nd winery visit for the day: Monday: July 28, 2008

Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun”) is on twitter so follow @gunbunwine for tweets. GunBun is the oldest family-owned and operated winery in California as Jacob Gundlach christened the estate vineyard Rhinefarm in 1858.

We heard that Gundlach Bundschu Winery, “GunBun” for short, had a great picnic area so we picked up some lunch at “The Cheesemaker’s Daughter” (great place) in Sonoma and from there, made the short drive to GunBun. Making our way to the picnic area, we stopped to enjoy our lunch and the peaceful view we were treated with. Much like the view, the wines we tasted in the tasting room were amazing. We did not make an appointment for a tour so we headed back to the tasting room after finishing lunch. The tasting room experience was very casual and lived up to its reputation as being a fun place with a passion for their wine. In all honesty, we went in not knowing anything about the wines and left very impressed. So impressed that we bought a half-case of wine as we found them to be amazing. We made arrangements to have GunBun ship the wine to us in October as it is just too hot in July to ship to Texas. We bought 2 bottles of each of the following: 2005 Pinot Noir, Rhinefarm Vineyard; 2005 Zinfandel, Rhinefarm Vineyard; 2005 Melot, Vineyard 51, Alexander Valley.

I still remember having trouble with saying “Gundlach Bundschu” and I wanted to leave at least knowing how to say it as properly as a Texan can. Then on the tasting brochure we were shown four pictures in a line : a gun, a lock, a bun and a shoe so put em all together and you have it! Gunlock Bunshoe. I stuck with “GunBun” as it is much easier for me 🙂

View from Picnic area

This is a great winery to visit and I highly recommend making your way there if you to have the chance as it will compliment your experience.

Recommendation: You Gotta Visit !

Winerey location: 200 Denmark Street; Sonoma, CA 95476