CA Wine That’s Worth the Flight – Ferrari Carano

‘Dead Palate’ is a real issue many wine drinkers face after simply tasting too many different wines in a short amount of time. After spending a week in wine country, I hate to admit this, but many of the wines were starting to taste the same and lacked personality. It was a delightful surprise to discover that the wines at Ferrari Carano truly stood apart from the rest I had tried in CA thus far.

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This Italian inspired mansion in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma is quite the sight to behold on your way down their Tuscan driveway. The entrance to the wine shop and tasting rooms is actually on the left side of the mansion. Here, witness a view of the grape vines that will have you scrambling for the perfect selfie.

Unlike many vineyards in Sonoma, Ferrari-Carano has many affordable tasting options. The upstairs tasting bar (Villa Fiore Bar) is only $10 for a flight of 5 wines that you can choose from a lengthy menu.

The outdoor patio tasting is where you can relax and drink your favorite bottle or sample a seasonal wine flight which can be on the more expensive side.

Finally, in the wine cellar there’s a private wine bar and a public bar which hosts the higher end wines. Enjoy a flight of four wines for $25 dollars or book a private tasting in the Enotrica wine room.

Ferrari-Carano produces a wide variety of grapes which makes it great for a crowd. My brother and I did the Villa Fiore Bar, each of us chose different wines. Of the ten we tried, the Pinot Noir made a major impression. The 2015 Anderson Valley ‘Lazy Day’ Pinot was an amazing quality for an affordable price. This borderline medium bodied wine was smooth, bright with a cranberry and raspberry bite that slowly evolved into rich blackberry and oaked cherry finish. It was unlike any pinot that I had tasted before and it was only $24 a bottle!

Your trip to Sonoma would not be complete without relaxing in the warm breeze with a glass of Ferrari-Carano. I promise you will find your new favorite CA wine after one visit. Wine Up Wineos!

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Plan Your Visit to Matanza Creek Winery

Kristen here! I’m not overly proud of the fact that I tried to fit all on Sonoma County into a single day, but I feel that it is my duty to tell you about one of the wineries in this region that really blew my mind.

Matanza Creek Winery

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Start the morning with one of the most visually stunning vineyards in Sonoma. When I heard that Matanza Creek was not only a thriving vineyard but also a fresh lavender producer, I just HAD to see how the two industries commingled in a single estate. The love child I saw did not disappoint.

The Estate is massive with rolling hills of beautiful purple lavender plants (if you visit in the spring/early summer). The aromas were far from overpowering and instead attributed the ‘freshest’ air I had breathed all trip. As you wander past the gardens, the next stop is a high end promenade area filled with lanterns, corn hole, bocce ball courts, wine bottle ring toss, wooden tables, and manicured lawn area for an old fashioned picnic.

Impressed? That’s only the beginning. Travel up the stairs to the luxurious patio for a cheese and local wine tasting that will change the way you view the words ‘Food Pairing.’

Kristen’s wine tasting speed notes: (first the wine then what it was paired with)

Glass one: 2014 Helena Bench Sav Blanc – ‘Foggy morning’  3-4 week old soft cheese with Yuzu fruit jelly

The Sav Blanc was mineral, rocky, almost volcanic with white peach notes. Acidity that cut through the creamy and rich cheese and balanced the sweet ‘pop’ of the yuzu jelly. 

Glass two: 2013 Journey Chardonnay – ‘Mt tam’ triple cream brie with orange glazed Marcona almond

The Chard was surprisingly crisp with green apple subtleties but still full thanks to the malolatic fermentation and french oak aging process.  Hints of pineapple mix with the orange almond and brie mimic a deconstructed tropical mixed. 

Glass three: 2013 Malbec, Cabernet Savignon, Cabernet Franc Blend – ‘Midnight Moon’ Sheep milk gouda with dried cherry jam

This blend was medium to heavy in body, bright in cranberry and pomegranate flavor that stood up equally to the dense gouda cheese. Cherry jam on top gives wine a whole new layer of depth, that caramelized the cheese. 

Glass four: 2012  Estate Merlot Bennett Valley, Jackson Park – aged dried Jack with cocoa rind with fig and onion marmalade

Rich merlot reconstitues dried cheese yet cocoa enhances the mocha from the merlot. Red onions and figs from the jam give pairing a holiday feel of brandied chocolate fruits for xmas. 

Surprize glass five: Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Dessert wine – White chocolate and Estate Lavender truffle

Exclusive wine not for purchase on company website and not normally poured with this tasting. Sweet enough to warrant ‘dessert wine’ classification but no where near intensity of Port or Sauternes. Closer to sweet moscato but kept refreshing tang of sav blanc, gave balance to waxy white chocolate and was perfumed by the floral lavender. 

 

Finally after a relaxing patio tasting, the tasting bar inside the large main building is available along with the wine shop, lavender products room, clothing swag table, rentable conference room, and walk down the hill to the lavender barn to witness how the plant is processed into products.

*Fun Fact* there are two types of lavender, one is edible (Grosso) and one is only used for its smell in bath products (Provence)

Please if you are ever in Sonoma, you must visit this vineyard not only for grounds but the wine and food pairing truly is something out of a dream. Don’t forget the chamomile lavender hand cream on the way out!

Cheers!

Feature Image from www.matanzascreek.com

Game of Wines?

I’m sure some of our readers out there happen to be fans of the show Game of Thrones, or a least know someone who watches it faithfully each week. So to celebrate the return of America’s most watched TV phenomenon, we’re pouring HBO licensed wine each Sunday after discovering the Westeros themed bottles at Total Wine.

 

 

The show has it’s own wine brand that can be found here for purchase online. As much as I love this show, I wasn’t about the spend $49.99 on their high-end Cabernet. I purchased the GOT Red Blend and the GOT Chardonnay, which I have seen at multiple retailers. If any of our readers happen to go the extra mile and purchase the Cabernet from Napa (aka Dorne) PLEASE let us know your review!

The dragons of khaleesi must have had a hand in the smoked and hickory nose and subtle notes in the wine. It’s a light red but borders on medium body that’s bright with red delicious apple flavor with a cranberry tannin bite. It even have tones of raspberry and plum as the wine breathes.

I highly recommend either an aerator or opening this wine on Saturday night and leaving it corked on the counter for the Sunday showtime. It may need a bit of air to fully develop but easy drinking!

The GOT Chardonnay was a bit more mellow than I was expecting. It wasn’t a toasted buttery bomb that many expect from wines out of CA. It was fresh with a medium body and very light oak. It screams of pear flavor with a green apple finish that keeps it from feeling too heavy. Both wines claim to be from Dorne, but I could swear it hails from a more northern kingdom considering the acidity allowed me to turn it into a bright risotto dish for that Sunday’s episode.  The cork brandished a Lannister lion as if to rebel against the bottle’s Dornish label.

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Each bottle is decorated with the famous family emblems as seen in the opening credits of every show. I highly recommend keeping the bottles as a nerd trophy. The artwork of the show is always great. These wines will please any guest and I recommend pairing with food!

“I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Summer’s Top Five Rosés

It’s summer, which means we have to drink as much rosé as we can before the local wine stores focus their stocking on reds and fall whites.

While summer is coming to a close, our love of rosé continues to go strong. We’ve tried over a dozen fantastic rosés this summer, but have selected our top five in case you don’t have the time (or funds!) to sample our full list.

In order from enjoyed-a-try to bought-three-bottles, here are our top rosés of summer 2017!

 

5. Dune Gris de Gris (2016)

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A delightful light wine for the hottest summer days, Gris de Gris holds subtle flavors of grapefruit. Sweet with a citrus edge, this rosé is a crisp, cool, light-bodied pink wine that pairs perfectly with a sweltering day and light meal.

4. Domanie de Pellehaut Harmonie de Gascogne Blanc (2016)

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Can you tell we like grapefruit rosés? This wine holds similar grapefruit and citrus flavors to the previous wine, but with more of a fruity flavor. With light strawberry flavor, the wine has a gentle edge of sweetness on Gris de Gris. The wine also has a unique grassy nose; if you close your eyes, you can imagine yourself in the winery’s field, sipping the light wine on a warm summer day.

 

3. Phebus

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Want a little more flavor and depth to your rosé? Or are you a fan of Malbec? We have the rosé for you! This wine packs a little more body and flavor, with ripe berry flavors. And to make things better, it’s less than $10 at Total Wines!

2. Brin de Rosé 

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Simple in name and taste, this is a perfect crowd-pleaser for a sunny patio day. It’s light and gentle on the tongue in the way only a French wine can be, but with enough character to make you pour another glass (and another…and another). Not to mention, we love the bottle – it’s original shape sets it apart from traditional rosés and gives it a modern and fun non-traditional flair.

1.  La Garoche (2016)

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This is the rosé we keep coming back for again…and again…and again. The one we check is still in stock, like, weekly. Because how is no one else on to this yet? With sweet berry flavors cut by the minerally aftermath of natural tanins, this dry rosé  is perfect with anything. Especially an empty wine glass! Perfect for wine-lovers and newcomers alike, we recommend snagging a bottle before the season is up!

Photo cred:

Gris de Gris, Pellehaut, PhebusBrin de Rose, La Galoche

Love at first Sip-CA Wine Country

California Wine Country is famous for proving that America could make great wine back in the 1976 Paris tasting. California shocked the world when judges decided in a blind taste test that American wine tasted better than the French contestants. Though the entire state of CA produces wine, there are two valleys that are known the world over for their wine: Napa and Sonoma.

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I (Kristen) got to visit the American wine mecca for the first time a few weeks ago and I’ve got some tips to help you with your next wine vacation.

  1. It’s not all beautiful hotels and glittering patio set ups. First the foremost, Napa and Sonoma are farm lands. If you’re providing your own transportation, it’s a lot of driving though endless fields with more cow sightings than people. Be prepared for winding roads, little to no street signs, and lots of food stalls selling fresh produce on the side of the road.My Tip: GPS is your best friend so bring a car charger and make sure you have a good phone provider if you are using your phone.

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  2. Contrary to popular belief, don’t go hard or you will go home. Most tasting flights are at least 4 wines and drinking them quickly on top of the hot weather will get you tipsy fast. So bring water and try to pick wineries that serve food that way you can get to more than one winery a day.Pro Tip: you don’t have to finish all of the wine samples. Bring friends to help you finish. Though its frowned upon, some places will let you share a tasting if you ask.

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  3. Okay so its a HUGE place, with lots to see in both valleys. Where do you start? Do some research! Look into the most popular wineries in the area and don’t forget to leave room in your schedule for when a local gives you a good recommendation. We started at 9am and finished most days at 6 – 8pm.Hotel tip: Get a hotel in the middle of one of the valleys. We got one slightly south in Sonoma valley. It takes about an hour to two hours to get to the top of the valley for exploring.

So where did I go?

Napa:

We started in Yountville for a walking tour of the town. It’s an adorable town toward the bottom of the valley. The little town looks modern with new architecture, unique shopping plazas, and outdoor art displays.

What’s the best part? It’s a culinary paradise with gourmet shops and restaurants everywhere. My favorite was the fabulous desserts from Kollar chocolates with their chocolate sushi and the rose wine macaroons from Bouchon Bakery.  Yountville also happens to be the home of Bell Wine Cellars. Click here for my article about Bell Wine Cellars.

Next we moved on to Domaine Chandon which was literally 2 driveways away for a flight of California made bubbles. The property is beautiful and great views from their picnic area that is perched on top of a hill. The valley below is breathtaking, and here you have two options: purchase a flight to taste or purchase a bottle and drink it on the hill with family and friends. Both options are fabulous and don’t forget the glittering gift shop on the way out.

Haven you ever had an Italian California BBQ? The V.Sattui winery is an Italian winery with a rather large property covering in flowers, fountains, and the smell of brick oven pizza. Wait, why pizza? Because on Saturdays they do an outdoor BBQ that would put your fourth of July party to shame. It’s got pizzas, salmon fillets, fresh mozzarella salads made to order, ribs, short ribs, steak tips, and so many varieties of vegetables to put on the side. Beware because the place will be packed with peoplem, but the food is great and worth the wait. Don’t want to wait? Check out their authentic deli, pastry shop, gift shop, and oh yea the massive wine bar.

Last but not least, if you really want to be dazzled visit the Tuscan inspired castle in Calistoga. Click here to read my review of the castle.  It’s worth the entrance fee I promise.

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Stay tuned for my review on sonoma!

 

Tuscany Meets Napa: Castello Di Amorosa

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Resting near the top of Napa Valley is a Tuscan-inspired castle called Castello Di Amorosa (Castle of Love) in Calistoga, CA.

The castle – built only using materials available over 700 years ago for authenticity – is surrounded by gorgeous property with 30 acres just for grapes. If that’s not impressive enough, the wines are only sold at the winery or on the online website.

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The castle maintains a medieval vibe with rooms including a drinking well, church, stable, and torture chamber, as well as outdoor features such as a moat, drawbridge, and five towers.

 

 

There are different options for admission.

You can book a tour which gets you into the private rooms and entire secret floors for $40 dollars a person and includes a tasting in the barrel room. General admission is $25 which lets you walk around the open grounds like the great hall, chapel, stables, and many courtyards with a tasting of 5 wines in the main tasting hall.

I did not pay the extra to grab a tour because the grounds I saw were stunning enough but by all mean go for it if you get the chance to visit. The other options go up from $40 which are their food and wine private tasting, cheese and wine tasting, or their deluxe tour.

 

 

But what about the wine?

They produce over 30 wines a year including pinot bianco, pinot grigio, sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and many other tuscan native grapes.

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My tasting menu alone let me choose from over 24 wines and one non-alcoholic grape juice made from muscat grapes which was delicious.

My favorites?

  1. The Gioia- a sangiovese rose that was rich in berry flavor yet bright and lighter on the palate than I expected. ‘Summer porch pounder’ would be a great use for this lovely pink drink.
  2. The Dolcino – slightly sweet Gewurztraminer that was also a perfect summer wine. It had just a hint of sweetness that made it quench my thirst in the warm castle cellar. Put it on ice and pair with the sunshine.
  3. Now best for last: La Fantasia, a dark slightly sparkling rose wine that was juicy and fruity. It tasted exactly like the sweet sparklings I drank in Italy years prior.  It was refreshing and perfect for any sweet wine lover with a bottle price of $30.

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The wines range from $23 to $98 per bottle. That may not scare some of you, but after a week in wine country it adds up fast. Luckily, there’s a discount on 12 bottles.

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If you ever want to feel royal and drink great wine at the same time, I highly recommend giving at least most of your day to exploring this work of art.

Ciao Bella!

Prestige in Napa – Bell Wine Cellars

Making their home in the beautiful town of Yountville, Bell Wine Cellars has been producing wine since 1991 specializing in grapes like Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, Sav Blanc and Syrah.

The vineyards in Yountville are currently growing Chardonnay and Merlot. The winemaker Anthony Bell grows the other varietals across the other appellations in Napa.

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I was first introduced to this winery while I was at work sampling new wines that we were debating purchasing for the shop. The Syrah blew me away with its chocolate/mocha notes and dense mouthfeel. I loved all the different layers of flavor.

When I heard that our wine vendor was willing to book a tasting in CA for me, I jumped at the chance to see where my favorite Syrah was being produced.

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We pulled in to the cobblestone drive and were instantly greeted in drive way by one of the staff members. She checked us in and gave us a warm welcome. To my surprise, seconds behind our greeter was our new hostess carrying two glasses of California bubbles and a warm smile. Sandra Bell is the wife of winemaker Anthony Bell and she was a wealth of information about the winery. While sipping on our bubbly, Sandra took us around the winery we saw the fermentation tanks, wine barrel/aging rooms, grape picking equipment, and their beautiful vineyards.

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I was shocked to see that rows of vines had been ripped out due to an unexplained illness affecting the plants. When I inquired about it, Sandra mentioned that the valley has been fighting this issue for four years but they haven’t been able to identify whether it’s a plant illness or some kind of pest that is causing the vines to die.

Warning: there may be a shortage in CA wines in the future until this problem can be solved so stock up now!

After the vineyard tour, we started a wine tasting at the indoor tasting bar. Bell Wine Cellars offers a multitude of different tasting options including a current release tasting, a grape to glass tour, wine and cheese pairings, blending seminars, and sensory tastings. To be honest, I have no idea what tasting we did. But I know what we drank!

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We started with their 2015 estate Chardonnay which to me was medium bodied, with a crisp bite of acidity to start which transformed into a light caramel toast flavor at the end. I’m not normally a chardonnay person but it was a beautiful representation of California chardonnay tradition.

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Next was their Reserve Estate Merlot which was Anthony Bell’s best of that year. It was also medium-heavy body but it was a smooth criminal with hints of vanilla and chocolate after the ripe berry notes. It even had a slight bite after the swallow.

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Bell specializes in Cabernet and cloning of grapes. We tried the Cabernet Reserve which for the record is not available in MA. Their 2014 was a sunny and warm vintage which resulted in a not your average cabernet blend that was bright with berries yet layered with deeper notes of mocha and almost jammy touches. If you claim not to be a Cabernet person I would suggest ordering this bottle online or joining the wine club to taste it.

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Finally we ended with my favorite grape, the 2014 Syrah which is grown 4 hours away from their location in Yountville. This bottle was a step above the one I had tried previously at the shop. They used grapes specifically from Block 6 in the vineyards, and it was incredible. It was balanced, lighter tannins than I was expecting, bold yet controlled deep purple fruit flavor with little hints of cocoa. Straight up YUM.

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After the tasting, I got one more look around the property. It was cozy in the main tasting room with fire spires for warmth, private tasting rooms to the right, and outside were two bocce ball courts for fun in the sun.

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For lack of better words, it was probably the most high class winery I had ever been to. You see the how much care and hands on treatment goes into every bottle of wine. The barrel room alone holds millions of dollars of product yet the staff were so humble and happy to answer any of our questions no matter how dumb they may have sounded. Their wines range from $30 – $100 plus a bottle. However, it is money well spent.

Be sure to visit this winery on your way through the valley or see if their wines are sold near you!

Cheers!

Wine bottle photos from bellwine.com

Pura: Our Bottled Sangria of the Season

Nothing beats creating your own sangria recipe based off your favorite summer flavors, but sometimes you need to grab a bottle of sangria on the go.  Not everyone has the time to let a sangria pitcher sit overnight, or maybe you want to try someone else’s take on the season’s favorite wine cocktail.

This summer, our current fave is Pura, an all-organic, Spanish import, bottled sangria bursting with flavor inside the bottle – and color on the outside!

It’s a fruity, zesty sangria overflowing with prominent orange and blackberry flavors. It’s made with 100% Monastrell grapes – or, as the French call it, Mourvèdre. The finished product is juicy and light on the palate: the perfect wine for summer sipping.

We’d be remiss not to mention the gorgeous bottle. The split color, polka-dots, and the orange-headed lady – a clear fruit enthusiast,  sets the  wine scene before you open it.   Bottles are often deceiving, but this one is right on the mark!

It’s versatile, too, depending on the weather or your mood. We love this sangria straight from the bottle, or on the rocks during a hot afternoon. Want more bite? Try adding in a nip or two of citrus vodka or orange brandy; you won’t be disappointed. If you happen to create an amazing PURA sangria cocktail, try submitting your invention to their mixology page where you can literally win prizes for your summer drinking habits.

If you see this sangria at your local wine outlet, snag it while you can. We hope you enjoy sipping this drink during the hottest days of summer!

Cava’s Little Sister, Summer White!

Just when you think Spain can’t get anymore ingenious after inventing sangria, they share yet another one of their long standing traditions: vi d’agulla from Avinyó

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In Catalan, the name means ‘prickly wine.’ But despite it’s Spanish origins, this label reads ‘Petillant,’ which is a French wine designation meaning ‘slightly sparking.’

Avinyó’s Petillant white wine is produced in Catalonia Spain, with 80% Petit Grain Muscat and 20% Macabeu grapes. After being fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is given its light bubbles from the Charmat Method (tank method)  in a secondary tank.

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Why is it Catalonia’s summer drink of choice? Probably because it’s everything you need from a summer white. Crisp, lightly acidic, blooming with lychee and green apple flavors, floral, with tiny almost metallic bubbles that are a match made in heaven for summer seafood pairings – as if the tiny silver fishes on the label didn’t give it away.

If you happen to come across any petillant or vi d’agulla wines in your travels this summer PLEASE take the opportunity to taste them ice cold with all your summer food choices.

¡Salud!