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Posts Tagged ‘Healdsburg’

Quivira Winery: Visiting a Sister (Winery)

November 13, 2009 1 comment

As my wife and I are Tandem Wine Club Members  La Follette Club Members — and as Quivira Winery and Tandem La Follettee are related (“sister wineries”) — we decided to swing by Quivira Winery after our visit to Michel-Schlumberger — an easy five-minute drive away.  As some background, my wife and I were introduced to Tandem Wines in July 2008 at a restaurant known then as The General’s Daughter located in Sonoma — the restaurant has since been sold and reopened under the new name “Estate” and is now more of an Italian restaurant.   Getting back to my short story, the sommelier recommended that we try Tandem’s 2005 Peloton as she told us, “the interesting thing about Peloton is the blend changes each year yet it consistently is a good tasting quality wine” — I totally agree.  I have found that I have enjoyed the blend from 2003 through 2005 with the 2005 Peloton being my favorite.  The photo below is Tandem’s 2007 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir which is a wine I wrote about earlier and illustrates Tandem’s label should you be unfamiliar their wine.

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Tandem: 2007 Pinot Noir (Manchester Ridge Vineyard)

I assume you are wondering how the visit to Quivira Winery is relevant to a Tandem Wine club member.  In January 2009 Greg La Follette (Tandem) agreed to take on a new majority partner, Wine Creek, founded and owned by Pete Kight.  Pete Kight is also the owner of Quivira Winery thus establishing the relationship between the two.  Jennifer Rolander, Direct Sales Manager for both Quivira and Tandem, was so kind as to arrange a quick last-minute tasting for my wife and I.  In our haste I forgot to take any photos, however the Quivira wines we tasted were delightful and the staff in the tasting room were great.  Jennifer poured a variety of wines for us, including the highly rated 2006 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) along with the 2007 Grenache  (Dry Creek Valley) and a Sauvignon Blanc — we enjoyed all of the wines.    On our visit, we were fortunate enough to meet Pete Kight and he did reaffirm that Greg La Follette, who heads up Tandem’s wine-making and viticulture, is now able to focus on his passion:  crafting fantastic wines without having to worry about all the business trappings.

This was a quick visit but I am glad we took the time to introduced ourselves to Quivira wines.  The winery is in beautiful Dry Creek Valley and should be visited if you are in the area.

I have to further acknowledge the outstanding customer service as provided by Jennifer Rolander.  Not only did she arrange her schedule to accommodate our visit she has since worked with me to reduce the shipping costs I incur by consolidating wine club shipments.  This may not seem to be a big deal but the cost savings to me will be significant — such that I can spend the money on what I enjoy — wine!  Most wineries I have spoken to have not been willing to even entertain the idea.  Cheers to delicious wine and great customer service!   These days, extra efforts towards customers is that special touch that sets a winery apart from the herd and Quivira / Tandem does an outstanding job due to Jennifer’s special touch.  Should you desire to follow Quivira on twitter they are @Quivirawinery.

Recommendation:  If you are in the Healdsburg area you should visit Quivira winery as they craft quality wines you will enjoy.  Make sure you make an appointment if you would like to take the tour and, as always, I suggest you take the tour if you have the time.  No appointment is necessary for the tasting room with a $5 tasting fee that is waived if you buy a bottle.

 Quivira Vineyards and Winery:  4900 West Dry Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

Michel-Schlumberger Winery: Gem in Dry Creek Valley

October 31, 2009 2 comments

From the Gary Farrell Winery we had some time before our next appointment so we drove into Healdsburg, had lunch at El Farolito (Mexican food) and then walked across the street for ice cream at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe.  Healdsburg itself is fantastic as there are plenty of great restaurants, fantastic shopping, wine tasting opportunities and of course, one of my favorites — yummy desserts.

After lunch we drove to Michel-Schlumberger Winery, located in Dry Creek Valley, for our 2 pm appointment for our “Estate Tour and Tasting”.   A “Wine and Cheese Pairing” is available Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we visited on a Tuesday so this was unavailable).  In addition, a “Vertical Tasting of Reserve Cabernet” is also an option — looking back I wished we had gone with the vertical tasting as it would have been interesting to taste the differences in the 1998, 2000 and the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon side-by-side.

Twitter Info:  Michel-Schlumberger has an active presence on twitter so if you are into that you can follow them at @M_Schlumberger along with Jim Morris who is the Director of Retail and Direct to Consumer operations for the winery and is known as @Sonomawineguy.

We began the tour walking a short distance up the hill — the view from that vantage point is quite impressive.  As you look around, you see vines on the sloped hill, the picturesque lake and the vine-covered valley below — a truly beautiful setting.  The 30 minute tour continued stepping through the entire process from the vineyard to the bottle and then ultimately, to the tasting.

Michel-Schlumberger Lake View

Michel-Schlumberger: Lake View

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Tour was informative in a beautiful setting

Our tasting experience allowed us to enjoy the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in the beautiful mission styled main building.  As we walked in, it was if we were special guests entering a friend’s home  — you could see the painstaking efforts made to ensure that we felt like honored guests.  Nice touch indeed! Enjoyed the winery, however the wines were not to my liking — not all wines are for everyone.

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Beautiful room setup for our tasting

Recommendation:  Make efforts to visit the winery — the view plus the enjoyable wine makes it worth the effort. Michel-Schlumberger:  4155 Wine Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

Gary Farrell Winery: The Wow Factor!

October 29, 2009 3 comments

Wow!  What an experience!  Prior to our visit, I had heard that the tasting room at Gary Farrell Winery offers one of the best views overlooking the Russian River Valley and it did live up to its reputation.  The winding drive up to the winery set the tone as my wife and I kept commenting on the beauty that surrounded us as we made the drive up to the top of the hill to the winery.  Our 10 am appointment gave us 30 minutes before the winery opened to the general public allowing us to have the place relatively to ourselves for a brief time  — an advantage to making an appointment in advance.   As we like the slower pace we opted for the tour, tasting and cheese pairing and I urge you to do the same as it makes for a fantastic experience.

Gary Farrell: View off patio deck

Gary Farrell: View over-looking the Russian River Valley

Scott Monroe took care of us beginning the tour with the stunning view you see above.  This overlook of the Russian River Valley is fantastic and this photo does not even come close to capturing the beauty.  Scott described the wine making process beginning with the important long-term relationships the winery has with various vineyards for its supply of quality grapes — with only one exception, the fruit originates from Sonoma County — most of it coming from the Russian River Valley.  One particular relationship that caught my attention is the one with Rochioli Vineyard as this vineyard is known to produce exceptional fruit year in and year out — supplying both  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Scott detailed the process and concluded the tour talking about Susan Reed who spent 3 years working with Gary Farrell and then in August 2006 took over the reigns as winemaker at the winery.

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Winery Tour: Scott Monroe explains the wine-making process

The wine tasting and cheese pairing experience was both relaxing and enjoyable and the view — have I mentioned the view?  The view from the tasting room really is breathtaking, so much so I forget to take a photo for you to enjoy.  The relaxed atmosphere made the experience one both my wife and I will always remember.  We tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, a Proprietary red blend and Zinfandel.  Of the 9 wines we tasted, I noted 4 as being very enjoyable including the 2007 Bradford Mountain (Dry Creek Valley)  Zinfandel.

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Wine and Cheese tasting setup

We joined the Gary Farrell Grand Crew Club as we were so impressed with the wines we tasted.  We just recently took our first delivery which consisted of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and once I open them, I will share the tasting experience in a future write-up.

On a side note, when you visit the Gary Farrell Winery you are a short drive (about 10 minutes) away from the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant, a Michelin rated one-star restaurant that is just fantastic — my suggestion is go there for dinner if you can.  The link will take you to my earlier post about our experience there — a truly memorable dining pleasure.  I only mention this as the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant is in my top 2 favorite restaurants in the Sonoma / Napa area.

The tour, tasting and cheese pairing is at a cost of $25 — do it!  You will enjoy it!  You can opt for tastings only with a tasting fee of $10 and $15 depending on the wine flight you choose.

Recommendation:  Make time to visit the Gary Farrell winery as you will enjoy both the outstanding wines and the exceptional view overlooking the Russian River Valley.

Gary Farrell Wines; 10701 Westside Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

 

Whetstone Wine Cellars: Visit to Phoenix Ranch

October 23, 2009 2 comments

Throughout my experiences in enjoying wines, Sommeliers have in many instances suggested wines that I otherwise would have never tried or experienced.  Such was the case at dinner at John Ash & Company whereby the Sommelier suggested trying a wine from Whetstone Wine Cellars.  He told us of Jamey Whetstone’s beginnings in the wine industry and his development as a “Rock Star” in the wine industry and the quality wines he crafts.  Jamey began at Turley Wine Cellars in the summer of 1998 and the evolution for him continues as he is the founder of the Whetstone Wine Cellars label, is co-founder of Manifesto! Wines and is a consulting winemaker for JT Wines.  That initial taste made me a believer in Whetstone’s quality and I have enjoyed Whetstone wines ever since.  A particular favorite wine of mine is the Phoenix Ranch Syrah and Jamey and Michelle Whetstone were gracious enough to invite us to a private picnic lunch at Phoenix Ranch.  Located in the southern part of Napa Valley, Phoenix Ranch experiences the perfect climate for the quality Syrah fruit this vineyard consistently produces.

Phoenix Ranch (Napa)

Phoenix Ranch (Napa)

Michelle had set up a spread of sandwiches and Whetstone wines for us to enjoy and as we did so we enjoyed the beautiful view of the scenic Phoenix Ranch Vineyard — what a memorable experience in such a beautiful setting.  I had only tasted the Whetstone Pinot Noir and Syrah and noticed that Michelle had included the Russian River Viognier for us to try.  My wife and I had previously made the mistake of limiting ourselves to the reds and the Viognier made us aware of the quality whites Whetstone also produces.    It was a pleasure spending time with both Jamey and Michelle  — they both demonstrated their passion reflected in the wines they represent.

Michelle & Jamey Whetstone

Michelle & Jamey Whetstone

If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying Whetstone Wines I highly suggest you take an opportunity and do so — you will be impressed.

Whetstone Wine Tasting Room — follow the link for information.  It is a fun experience!

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

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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.

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View from "Villa Fiore"

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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