Showing posts with label sonoma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sonoma. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Wine Country During a Pandemic (aka let's help each other)



There is little doubt that the first half of 2020 has been anything less than unexpected from what most would consider a 'normal' daily life.  The global pandemic has affected every person in some way, and most people significantly enough to alter their lifestyle, even if temporarily.  Work, school, daycare and financial hardships have reached into most homes, creating a fear of uncertainty and anxiety for many.  But all is not lost.  Whether it is a false sense of security, the need to return to an accustomed lifestyle or a belief that the worst of this virus is over, people are starting to venture out of their homes and travel.  


There is no doubt that a large number of the world's population are still cautious and some, even frightened, about the health of the world and those around us.  It's difficult to control the actions of those around us, but by using common sense and social distancing, we can begin to appreciate the lives we are customary of enjoying.  I, for one, have chosen to travel.


It has been much too long since we visited California's amazing wine country.  My wife and I feel very blessed to be able to make this trek with friends later this summer and we are going to maximize the fun, the feels and the fellowship during this long weekend.  But wine country (at least online) looks much different than it did previously.  Nearly every web site lists COVID-19 precautions and health protocols.  Some wineries are asking guests to sign health release forms upon arriving on property.  Access to many areas that were once readily available is now off limits.  And that mask?  You better be wearing one.  So how do you drink wine through a mask?   Let's discuss that later.


Now that (like it or not) we understand that times look much different than they did just six months ago, how do we navigate California's wine country?  What is new and what is required and what is the best way to plan your trip?
  • If you're headed to Napa like we are, check out the new health guidelines before you go.
  • Bring a mask or several masks.  (Nobody wants to wear a wine-stained mask).  If you don't have one, stay home.  You'll be turned around at the cellar door without one.  
  • Make reservations because they are required now.  Long gone are the days of just "popping into" a winery for a quick tasting.
  • Keep your distance and be respectful.  Re-opening to the public after being closed for months can be scary and foreign to your hosts.  Tread lightly and follow their lead.
  • If you like the wine, consider making a purchase and/or joining a wine club.  Most wineries are family owned and have suffered greatly because of the pandemic.  Show some love and you'll be rewarded with your incredible wine purchases.

Now that we have a few pointers on how to navigate your upcoming wine trip, let's discuss about what you should expect from a winery before and during your visit.
  • Communication.  Seems easy enough, right?  You would be surprised.   I have reached out to about twenty California wineries during the planning of our upcoming trip.  I am amazed at how many of them never even bother responding to an email.  We get it; the wineries and tasting rooms are starting to get busy with re-opening in its infancy.  But if we have specific needs or your web site scheduling tool doesn't work, we have to email you in order to plan our tasting experience.  The lack of communication sends a message of apathy and we could have been your newest and biggest fans.  I call this a "don't be a dick rule".  
  • Create a memorable experience.   We understand that some areas and experiences may still be closed, but wineries still have an incredible opportunity to create lifelong memories for their guests.  In lieu of a cave tour or super secret hidden gem tasting room that is inaccessible, maybe a sit-down with the vintner or a special library bottle tasting could be an extra-special treat?   Or perhaps it is connecting us with the most special wine tasting room host who would blow our socks off with his/her knowledge, personality, humor and kindness?
  • Try not to make things too sterile or uncomfortable.  We're all scared.  And we, as guests, promise to follow all of the rules and breathe the hot summer California air through our uncomfortable masks.  We ask in return that the tasting room doesn't smell of hospital disinfectants and everyone doesn't spray us down with Lysol if we clear our throat.
We are all going to get through this together.  We are going to wear our masks and pull them down when permitted (and to drink wine!).  We are going to try to get back to a "normal" lifestyle and enjoy everything that wine regions all over the world have to offer.  But most of all, we are going to embrace the ability to move freely, travel the world and drink some superb fucking wines.  Go explore!


This article does not necessarily convey my personal feelings regarding the current global pandemic.  While I encourage my readers and oenophiles to travel and enjoy wine, I also advise everyone to use common sense, be safe and exceptionally courteous to those around you.   -Jeff










Monday, July 2, 2018

2016 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese Sonoma Coast

2016 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese Sonoma Coast

I am really digging this 2016 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese and think it is drinking very well right now.  This is definitely a great Chicken Parmesan pairing now or you could hold it for 5 years to enjoy more depth and less brightness.  This wine is slightly peppery with berries and a bit of funky, wet earth on the nose.  In the mouth, this light-to-medium wine shows off some gorgeous dried cherry bits, hints of candied apples and vanilla.   There's a suggestion of cedar box towards the end and I think it would be great to taste this vintage again in 3 years to see where that goes.  This is a very flavorful wine and one that I think is best enjoyed with the aforementioned meal.  Great value!

2016 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Sangiovese Sonoma Coast label

ABV:  15.0%

Sonoma Coast, California

Suggested retail price:  $25.00

Drink The Bottles score:  89/100


Sunday, July 1, 2018

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay

This post is a couple of weeks overdue, but the timing is right considering the scorching heat that most of the US is experiencing right now.  Many people feel that heavier red wines are cumbersome when the heat index is hovering around triple digits and while I am not one of those people, I think some white wines (slightly chilled) are better suited for the sweltering heat.  With that, I give you the 2016 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay.   This is Chardonnay exactly - e x a c t l y - how I like it to taste.  Whether or not oak is your thing, this 100% varietal has just enough that isn't overpowering, but it definitely helps bring the flavors together.  This wine has a really welcoming light gold color with lemon candy and warm buttered bread dominant on the nose.  Extremely creamy on the palate (again, just how I love it), lemon cake, baked cinnamon apple and baking spices combine beautifully and create a finish that clean and extremely satisfying.  This is definitely the best Chardonnay I have tasted in recent memory and it takes me back to our first California trip 9 years ago.  Frank Family Vineyards has really knocked this wine out of the park and as a side note, they have some of the most beautiful wine labels, which really adds to the conversation.  With 25,000 cases produced there is enough for everyone, so add this to your tasting line up.

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay label

ABV:  14.4%

Carneros, Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $38.00

Drink The Bottles score:  95/100


Sunday, April 29, 2018

2015 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2015 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2015 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that can be enjoyed immediately and often with its incredibly soft tannins and welcoming mouth feel.  Smooth and supple, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (87%), Merlot (6%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petite Verdot (2%) offers a solid medium purple color and slender legs in the glass.  The aromas of rapsberry, cedar and licorice aren't necessarily the stars here, but rather the supporting cast to a wine that offers the same in the mouth and adds red licorice, roasted coffee beans and soft spices to the mix.  Even with the four blended grapes, I had anticipated a much younger feeling and more acidic wine that would be bright and benefit from a few more years in the bottle.  That was certainly not the case here!  This wine is completely approachable and one that I think you will enjoy with a pot roast dinner if you're looking for a food pairing.  But, it can certainly stand on it's own merit.

2015 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Label

ABV:  14.3%

Knights Valley, Sonoma, California

Suggested retail price:  $36.00

Drink The Bottles score:  91/100

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumé Blanc

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Fumè Blanc

Dry Creek Vineyard has been a favorite of mine for several years, as they have a great selection of red and white wines and this 2016 Fumé Blanc is one of their staples.  This varietal has become more popular over the years, but still pales in comparison to a Chardonnay or Riesling.  And if you're going to put yourself out there, you better make this wine stand out and make it memorable.   That's exactly what the good people at DCV give you with their latest Fumé Blanc.  Tons of lemon and lime fruits are front and center at swirling.  A little bit of honey and pineapple are faintly familiar.  Oh, I guess this would be a great time for me to tell you that I drink most of my white wines at room temperature or just slightly cooler than that.  I hate going to someone's house where they pull a white wine out of the refrigerator and start pouring.  Refreshing?  Sure.  Flavorful?  Not as much as if the wine is warmer.....at least, in my opinion.  In the mouth this wine is bright and airy and the lemon shines through with a flavor at the end reminiscent of cut grass, which is what you would expect from a wine made with 100% with Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  Dried herbs and light brown sugar make up a very flavorful finish.  Although I didn't drink this with any food, I think fried calamari (yes, it's 2018 and I still eat fried food) would be a favorable pairing.  

ABV:  13.5%

Sonoma County, California

Suggested retail price:  $15.00

Drink The Bottles score:  89/100


2014 Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Estate Merlot

2014 Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Estate Merlot

I wish I had a dollar for every time over the years someone has asked me, "What's a good wine"?  That's such an open-ended question, especially if you don't know someone's taste preference or budget.  I could spend hours recommending good wines, but you really need some trial-and-error in your life to see what you like.  Even if you like California wines, the flavor profiles vary greatly from appellation to appellation.  Remember, it starts with the soil!  Ok, I think I've rambled on enough here, right?  So, let's talk about this 2014 Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Estate Merlot.  For those who think they don't like Merlot, it's typically because they haven't had any delicious, 100% Merlot like this one, or they have watched Sideways too many times.  This beautiful wine is a medium ruby red in color with aromas of dark cherry, chocolate and burnt cedar after intense swirling.  (And if you aren't swirling your wine, you're cheating yourself out of the full tasting experience!).  The oak aging adds some complexity to this wine which is evident by the very smooth finish with cherries, a kiss of plum and semi-sweet chocolate.  This Merlot will pair with a wide variety of pasta and roasted meat dishes.  Pick this wine up, drink it and then call Cline Cellars and thank them for making such a delicious and affordable 100% Merlot!

ABV:  14.0%

Sonoma Coast, California

Suggested retail price:  $22.00

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100

2016 Baldacci Vineyards Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon

  We love thinking about wine and what was happening in the vineyards when grapes are picked and turned into a lovely wine like this one.  Y...