YGOM Takes Sonoma and Napa (Day 3)

Hey wine friends! All good things must come to an end. Today, I conclude the recap of my wine adventures in Sonoma and Napa. Day 3 was really fun. My friend joined us and introduced us to some really great wineries. I’ll share two of them below and I’ll also note which wineries I wasn’t too fond of on my trip as well. Like I say on my “About Page,” I keep it real around these vines, so it wouldn’t be fair just to talk about the good things I experienced. It’s important for me to advise you on what to look out for too.

Ty’s Takeaways…

My friend took us to check out Hall Wines where one of his friends worked. I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t on my ‘must visit’ list, but I’m really glad that we stopped by!

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Hall Wines

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: Choice of four wines for $40
  • Top Reason to Visit: The gorgeous views and green space out back.
  • YGOM Favorite: 2013 HALL “Coeur” Cabernet Sauvignon

Hall Wines has to be the most modern, upscale looking tasting room that I’ve ever seen. Sadly, the pictures I took don’t do it any justice! Seriously, the decor in this place is so jazzy. Even the bathrooms make you feel like you’re in a fancy club. And that’s just on the interior. The exterior is on a whole other level! There’s a private upstairs patio with couches for lounging. Downstairs, there are tables and chairs where you can drink and eat. Then there is a huge lawn and smaller areas to play games. All of this faces vineyards and beautiful mountains. If Imagery Estate Winery had the best wine, then Hall Wines had thee best looking grounds and tasting room. I definitely see myself going back with friends and sitting outside to enjoy the views.

I must say that this lavish looking tasting room has lavish tasting prices to match all of its fabulousness. Soooo……yeah, it’s $40 for four wines. Most tastings, average $10-25, so $40 can seem a bit much. But, this isn’t your Sutter Homes wine friends! You’re getting higher quality wines here. Even though I did not pay for my tasting here (thank ya kindly), I keep thinking would I in the future, considering that their menu is VERY red heavy and the answer is YES! The overall atmosphere alone would bring me back just to have one glass of their amazing cab, even if I had to scrounge up some pennies. Hall Wines is definitely worth visiting!

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You can’t visit Napa without stopping by Domaine Chandon!! At least that’s what I was told ;)

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Domaine Chandon

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: Fights of three sparkling wines range from $20-$25
  • Top Reason to Visit: Very fun and upbeat atmosphere + great customer service!
  • YGOM Favorite: The FOOD!!

Domaine Chandon! The champagne sparkling wine hot spot in Napa Valley. I crossed out Champagne, because in order for wine to be classified as Champagne, it must be made in the Champagne region of France. Domaine Chandon is made in Napa Valley, so it’s considered sparkling wine.

In 1973, Domaine Chandon became the first French-owned sparkling wine venture in the United States. The famous Champagne producer Moët & Chandon and acclaimed cognac maker Hennessy combined forces with the mission of producing world-class sparkling wine in Napa Valley.

Chandon was our last stop on Day 3. We got there an hour before closing and the place was packed. It’s definitely one of the more happening tasting rooms in the Valley. I have to be honest, I’m not a big Champagne or sparkling wine fan, mainly because they’re extremely dry. This is the only wine that has to be a little sweet in order for me to drink it. With that being said, I was not too fond of the wines. I think there was a sparkling Rosè that I liked, but I can’t remember the name.

Anyways, we still had a good time. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The crowd at Chandon was younger and for some reason it felt like a day party. There is plenty of outdoor seating on their patio and lawn. My favorite part was the food! So good! I would go back just for the food alone lol. Best tasting room food on my trip! Even though, I realize more than ever that I’m not a sparkling wine girl, I’d still go back just for the experience. Just hands-down a fun place to be.

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The Wineries That Didn’t Make The Cut…

As I mentioned on my Day 1 recap, we visited a total of 1o wineries during my trip. I’ve only reviewed seven because I was unamused with the other three. Here’s a list (and a couple reasons why I wasn’t a fan):

  • Kunde Winery – I wasn’t impressed with Kunde’s wine selection. They offered the standard Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, and Zinfandel. #boring
    They didn’t offer anything unique to set them a part from the other wineries that I had already visited.
  • V. Sattui Winery – V. Sattui is a very popular winery. Their grounds are pretty nice. They have multiple lawn areas for picnics. I noticed a lot (like A LOT) of families with small children. Why?!? I really don’t understand why people bring children to a grown-up activity. *scratches head* Then to make matters worse, the customer service was horrible. We had the most unattentive server. She didn’t explain any of the wines to us. All she did was ask ‘what do you want next?’ ‘Well, I’d like you to explain to me what I’m drinking.’ How bout that?? I’m a wine geek, so if you can’t explain the wine to your customers, then you’re doing them and your winery a disservice.
  • Charles Krug – Great customer service, but again with the usual suspects: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, and Zinfandel. *eye roll* My palate just wasn’t impressed.

But, let’s not end on a negative note. The positive far outweighs the few bad grapes in the group. I absolutely LOVE (borderline obsessed) Northern California wine country! I’d really like to make an annual visit out there, especially during harvest season. There are still tons of wineries that I’d like to visit. What are some of your favorite wineries in Sonoma and Napa? Or have you visited some of the same wineries I did? What did you think? I’d love to get your feedback. Hope you’ve enjoyed my recaps! Until next time…

 

YGOM Takes Sonoma and Napa (Day 2)

Hey wine friends! Hope you enjoyed the recap of my first day in wine country. Now, I’m on to day two, which was also very eventful. We spent the day in Glen Allen, which is located in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Read below where my wine adventure led to next.

Ty’s Takeaways…

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Benziger Family Winery

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: Five wines from Benziger’s Vintner’s Choice menu for $20; Additional speciality tastings, click here.
  • Winery Fun Fact: Benziger is completely ‘green’ when it comes to its winemaking process (read more below)
  • Winery Tours:Partners Vineyard Tour & Exclusive Wine TastingBiodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour
  • YGOM Favorite: 2015 Paradiso De Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Benziger Family Winery was another Instagram find. I’m so glad we got the chance to visit because this winery is simply breathtaking. I wish I’d taken more pictures along the driveway entry of the property. Definitely one of the more visually appealing wineries on my trip.

One of the cool things about Benziger is its biodynamic approach to grape growing. Instead of bagged fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides Benziger relies on composting, natural predator-prey relationships, cover crops, and the animals that live on its estate, to keep the vineyard healthy and balanced. Today, Benziger is one of a handful of certified biodynamic vineyards in the U.S. I was really impressed with Benziger’s sustainability practices. It made me wonder how many other wineries in the county were following this trend. #thethingsthatmakeyougohmmm

During our visit, we took part in the 90 minute Partners Vineyard Tour & Exclusive Wine Tasting. The Partners’ Tour is one of two tours offered at the winery. On this tour, you get to take an electric tram on a behind-the-scenes look of the biodynamic vineyards. Greg, our tour guide, was great! He was fun and very knowledgeable. I like that the Partners’ Tour is very intimate. It’s limited to eight people, which was perfect for me. I loved that the tour was interactive. There were stops along the tour that allowed us to get off the tram and walk around. Again, the views across the vineyard were gorgeous! We even got to walk into a wine cave and taste Cabernet Sauvignon that was still in the barrel! Then the tour ended with a seated exclusive wine tasting of five estate red wines. All the wines were so good. We were completely blown away by our Benziger experience.

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 Time flew by so fast that we had to rush off to our next tasting at Imagery Estate Winery!

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Imagery Estate Winery

  • Tasting Room Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 5:30 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: Five wines for $15, Seated estate tasting (five wines) for $25
  • Winery Fun Fact: Imagery is the (hipper) sister winery of Benziger’s. So, if you visit one, you should stop by the other. They’re less than 10 minutes away from each other.
  • Things to Do: Bring snacks and rent a picnic table ($50 for two hours — that’s a pretty good deal!)
  • YGOM Favorites: Sooo many!! 2014 White Burgundy; 2015 Viognier (bought a bottle), 2015 Viognier; 2013 Cinsault, 2011 Creation (blend of Teroldego, Largrein, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes)

So, I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one. Imagery Estate Winery was my favorite stop on my whole trip. Hands down, they had the most diverse wine portfolio. (Gasp! Did I just say that?) I’ll back this claim up in a minute.

At Imagery we were treated to a private seated tasting on the front patio. Our host Zazi was excellent and again super knowledgeable, which is very important to me when serving wines. We started with a Riesling and then tasted our way through four reds. Here’s where Imagery gets bonus points.

Up until now, we were tasting the same wines over and over again. (Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabs, and Zinfandel no my!) I get this is what California wine country is known for, but I was all Zinfandel-ed out at this point! It was soooo refreshing to see wines made from new varietals, such as the 2013 Cinsault (Dragonsleaf Vineyard) and the 2012 Tannat (Upper Ridge Vineyard). I’d heard of Cinsault before, but not the Tannat grape and was excited to try them both. Zazi even let us try some of their whites — Viognier (perfection), Albariño (so good!), and my new favorite White Burgundy! I can’t tell you how happy this made me! *insert happy* Finally, I had made it to the white wine promised land! I appreciate and was quite impressed with Imagery’s out-of-the-box selection of wines. Thank you, Imagery…you are the real wine MVP!

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Stay tuned! Later this week, I conclude my wine trip with a recap of our day in the Napa area.

YGOM Takes Sonoma and Napa (Day 1)

Northern California wine country — Oh, how I miss thee!

I can’t believe it’s been a week since my Sonoma/Napa Labor Day Weekend trip! I had soooo much fun. I’d have to say it was my best wine tasting experience yet. This trip wasn’t just about visiting tasting rooms. I also got a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at many of the wineries I visited too. I saw a different side of the winemaking business, that only strengthened my love for the industry and made me want to learn more! A California native, I can’t believe it took me this long to make it to the wine mecca of my home state. A week later and all I can think of is going back next month year.

I visited 10 wineries over three days, so I’m going to break up my trip into three blog posts. Check out the recap of my first day below.

Ty’s Takeaway’s…

My wine adventure began the Friday of the Labor Day Weekend. My friend and I spent the day in Healdsburg checking out some of the local wineries. Healdsburg is a small town in Northern Sonoma County. It actually sits at the juncture of three prime winegrowing regions — the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley wine appellations. The streets are lined with tasting rooms. Now, that’s my kind of town ;) Our first stop, Selby Winery Tasting Room, happened to be an Instagram find.

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Selby Winery

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: $5 (six wines); Reserve Tasting for $10 (5 wines)
  • Top Selling Wine: Chardonnay
  • Winery Fun Fact: Since 1998, 75 Selby vintages have been served at the White House. Michelle Obama is a big fan of their Sauvignon Blanc.
  • YGOM Favorite(s): 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley (Just like Mich); 2014 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

One of the things that initially made me want to put Selby on my ‘must visit’ list was that it’s owned by a woman. Yes, and she’s the winemaker too. Susie Selby is pretty awesome! She has a BA in economics from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from George Washington University. She’s always shared a love of wine with her father. Their first vintage was in 1993 and produced 150 cases of Chardonnay. After her father passed away in 1997, she decided to leave corporate America to pursue a full-time career in the wine industry. She pretty much used her business/marketing background to work her way up in the wine industry and eventually open her own tasting room. That in itself is inspiring for any woman like myself who trying to find her way in this wine industry. Today, the Selby Winery Tasting Room is the oldest tasting room in Healdsburg.

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Next, we were off to visit my friend Clay Mauritson at Mauritson Wines.

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Mauritson Wines

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Wine Tastings: $20 (four wines); Private tours and tastings for $40
  • Winery Bestseller:  Zinfandel (Take your pick, there are eight!!)
  • Winery Fun Fact: Rockpile Wines are produced cross 10 vineyards. All named with different geographic descriptors. (ex. Jack’s Cabin)
  • YGOM Favorite: 2015 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley (This should be the poster child for all Sauv Blancs!)

I was really excited to stop by Mauritson Wines on my trip. Earlier this year, I had met the owner Clay at a ‘Taste of Sonoma’ wine event in Houston. I really enjoyed his wines (especially the Sauvignon Blanc) and talking with him about his winery. I couldn’t wait to see it in-person!

With it being the beginning of harvest season, things were a little hectic for Clay, but he still made time to host us, which we truly appreciated! I wasn’t sure what to expect upon our arrival, but our experience at Mauritson completely blew our minds. Not only did we get a tour of the facility, but we also got an up close look at the winemaking person. For a wine geek like me, I was in complete awww. This was above and beyond my normal winery visits, which had basically been limited to the tasting rooms. For the first time, I was able to see where all the magic happened. *insert happy dance*

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Clay’s passion for winemaking was evident throughout our entire tour. According to him, wine is about the evolution. There’s a certain art and chemistry involved in the process that I’m so thankful I was able to see firsthand. I have a whole new appreciation for wine now that I’ve seen how it’s made. I couldn’t have asked for a better visit!

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Can’t wait to return to Mauritson Wines!

Our final stop for the day was at Bella Winery.

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Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves

  • Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Wine Tasting: $10 (five wines)

Prior to my trip, my friend made it known that we should stop by Bella. It was was her favorite winery in the area. I was curious to see what all the hype was about. Luckily, during Labor Day weekend, they were hosting tastings in their wine cave, so that peaked my interest. After ah-mazing experiences at Selby and Mauritson, Bella had tough acts to follow.

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Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with Bella. Maybe it was because they offered mostly red wines on their tasting menu and as we all should know by now I’m really into white wines right now. Nothing really stood out to me, but I know that Bella is a popular winery in the area. It just didn’t do it for me. *shrug*

Anyways, my first day was a great kick off to my Labor Day Weekend in wine country. If you’re planning a trip, I’d definitely try to visit around harvest season (late August – October). It’s an experience that every wine enthusiast should take part in. Stay tuned for more of wine adventures as I blog about Day 2 next.