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De Loach Winery is always a tasting room stop we make. It’s a testament to their consistently well-made wines (The legend, Greg La Follette, was their winemaker for many years and since 2008 his protégée, Brian Maloney has been at the helm.) The tasting room itself hits all the “correct” notes, some library bottles and chachkis, but there is a bit of a coldness there. I don’t know if it’s because DeLoach is under corporate ownership (Boisset purchased the winery in 2003) or if the tasting room had a stand-offish vibe even back when it was family owned (all that wine has dulled my memory!)

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I am certainly not one who revels in the “Party Bus” experience in a tasting room (to get a taste of that, try Merryvale in Napa after 6pm.) But I always find it pleasant when the employees seem engaged and interested and/or there has been some thought put into the layout of the tasting room, an attempt to infuse some personality into the experience. Unfortunately (and it really is, because the wine is terrific) the De Loach tasting room seems to be simply “going through the motions” on every level.

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The wines are what bring us back, and if you have time and aren’t just trying to hit a “best of” list, then De Loach is definitely worth a stop. Their Pinots are exceptional, from the rich, voluptuous, 2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir to the 2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir on the other end of the spectrum with its more austere profile wrapped in yeasty smokiness. See more DeLoach wine reviews here.

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Some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had has been served under flickering fluorescent lights on chipped formica tables. Would I have preferred linens and low lights? Of course. Do I wish De Loach Winery had a tasting room personality that matched the magic they’re putting in their bottles? Sure. But sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and enjoy the moo shu in front of you.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 7 WINE QUALITY = 8.5

OVERALL RATING = 6.8

De Loach Winery
1791 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: 707-526-9111
 
Taste 5 wines for $10
Picnic basket for two $30
Vineyard designate wines by the glass $12
Wine and cheese plates, tours and special experiences available to book online.

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 De Loach Vineyards 1791 Olivet Road  Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Phone (707) 526-9111

2009 Hawk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay ($50) Well balanced, refreshing bracing acidity and apricot. Not a lot of oak or butter. Very crisp. Would be a perfect pairing with quiche. 91 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2010 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($32) The O.F.S. is a multi-vineyard blend. A buttery nose and tart green apple midpalate cuts through the malolactic creaminess. A well-made wine. 89 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2009 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Blackberry, blueberry and marzipan tart. Not completely integrated yet, needs time. 89 Pts.

2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir ($50) The first vintage of a relatively new vineyard planted in 2007. Rich baking spices and plush plum. Smooth and well-integrated now with plenty of time to evolve even more. 92 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Pinot Noir ($45) Planted at a 1200 ft. elevation in the Sonoma Mountains. This has a resinous, rosemary nose. Eucalyptus and tart red berries abound. Natural yeast adds an ethereal smokiness. 93 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Forgotten Vines Zinfandel ($36) These vines were planted in the early 1900’s prior to Prohibition (hence the name.) A strawberry soda nose carries through on a simple berry basket mid-palate. 85 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Nova Vineyard Zinfandel ($32) Made from Lake Country Zinfandel from dry farmed grapes planted in the early 1960’s. Cigar box nose, plums and dried apricots. Well balanced with a healthy does of acidity. Would be lovely with a fruit and nut cheese platter. 87 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain ($42) Spicy, eucalyptus peppermint, red cherry fading to black cherry.93 Pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Pinot Noir Masút Vineyard Redwood Valley ($45) Big black cherries. Super barnyard nose carries through on the finish. A manly, incredible pinot! 97 pts.  (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Chardonnay Golden Coast ($45) Not much nose here. Perhaps it was served too cold? Super buttery, but with a nice acidic back. 88 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($?) The butteriness of the Golden Coast Chardonnay but more filled out with oak on the back. 89 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Eucalyptus, spice, cola, black cherry, This has an amazing nose and a beautiful earthiness. Classic Russian River Valley flavor profile, the forest in a glass! 93 (Tasted 9/10)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Sonoma Stage ($60) Mushroomy, loamy nose. Super smooth. 94 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

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Virginia Marie Lambrix has stellar wine making bona fides (U.C. Davis, Lynmar, DeLoach) and it shows, in her elegant, yet reasonably priced ($20-45) wines. This sophistication with a nod to the mysteries of the natural world that conspire to create such an ethereal beverage are reflected in the tasting room. The tasting counter is housed in half of a spacious renovated barn style room filled with natural light. The back section gives way to charcoal colored walls, dark wood, fireplace and  a feminine take on leather club chairs. As someone who never would have been invited into the always alluring British men’s clubs of a century ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, Ms. Lambrix, who has managed to excel in the “men’s club” of wine, made this “club” for the ladies.

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A porcelain phrenology head emblazoned with butterflies, antique chemistry bottles and scented candles bearing the detailed, evocative etchings that grace every well-crafted bottle of wine peek out from mantle and shelf. In fact, the various label designs are so beautiful, one would be tempted to take a couple bottles home for the stunning visuals alone. Luckily, what’s inside matches, if not bests, its packaging. Every wine, from the Gewürtztraminer to the multiple expressions of Pinot Noir are excellent. Two particular standouts were the 2010 Boudreaux Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45)  full of tart red fruits, spice and rubber with a zingy acidity that does nothing to take away from the full, voluptuous mouthfeel, this is, in a strange way, a pinot that drinks like a Montrachet.

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The real revelation was the 2011 Late Late Harvest Desert Wine ($30.) More often than not I find desert wines to be a bit of a mediocre afterthought, even at some of my favorite wineries. This was an exception, however. The honeysuckle and orange blossom nose leave you wondering whether you want to drink or dab it behind your ears (my advice, do both!) The nectarine and cream honey is balanced beautifully by a vivid acidity and a wet quartz gravitas on the back. This wine demands a hard cheese and Marcona almonds, and who am I to deny it?

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The property is just as pedigreed as its current namesake. It was formerly Belvedere and most recently, C. Donatiello. But Ms. Lambrix has made it into something that amplifies her refined aesthetic.

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The gardens and picnic area continue the exacting attention to detail and design. The interplay of mosses and stone, water and reeds. This is a spot created to envelope you in something quiet and magical, and that it does.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 8.5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9 WINE QUALITY = 8

OVERALL RATING = 8.5

V.M.L. Winery
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA. 95448
Phone: 707-431-4404
Fax: 707-431-4402
 
Open 11-5 Daily
Wine Flights $10 (waived with wine purchase)
Cheese and Wine Pairing $25 ($10 waived with wine purchase)

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Nothing like planning a trip to God’s Country to get my heart beating a little faster (in anticipation of all that resveratrol, no doubt.) Problem is, even vets can forget the basics when planning an exciting wine country jaunt. So I decided to write it down, for both of us.

• OFF-AIRPORT RENTAL CARS – If you weren’t able to fly into my favorite airport of all time and are forced to get to Sonoma via SFO (San Francisco International Airport) you can save yourself a bundle of cash by renting your car from one of the off-airport rental agencies. All the rental car agencies are accessed via a multi-stop tram ride from the main terminal. Once you get to the rental car building, if you’re going with one of the “bigs” (Hertz, Avis, etc.) you’re set. But, if you’re willing to add an extra half hour or so, you can save big and take a second shuttle to one of the off-airport rental agencies.

I was actually referred to our off-airport rental agency by an agent at Hertz when I was booking a busy holiday weekend. They recently purchased a company called Advantage that carries Hertz cars (maybe they’re a little older? Ours only had 11,000 miles on it) but at half the price ($173 for aChevy Malibu with free GPS for a busy holiday week versus double that at Hertz.) That brings me to my next must…

• GPS…AND DIRECTIONS – GPS is an absolute necessity on the windy, not always well-marked roads of wine country. Maps are annoying and often useless. Rent or bring your own GPS. And whatever you do, DO NOT depend on the GPS on your cell phone or Waze, or any cell-dependent service that does yeoman service in the big city. Cell service is notoriously spotty in Sonoma and will inevitably leave you hanging at some inopportune time. Once you’ve achieved GPS, you should STILL get directions. GPS is excellent at getting you to the right general area, but more often than not, you need to know that you “cross three cattle guards then take a right at the wagon wheel” to actually get where you’re going.

• ADDRESSES – Another reason to ask for directions and confirmations is that many wineries, especially smaller ones that don’t have formal tasting rooms, often have multiple addresses. One might be the actual vineyard, one the winemaker’s private home and another the space they use for tasting, sometimes a barn, storage facility or space in an office park. Call or e-mail ahead and make sure you’ve got the correct information. I remember years ago scheduling a tasting at Merry Edwards before she opened her tasting room. The Mister and I followed our trusty GPS to the address we’d found online and were quite confused when we found ourselves on a leafy suburban cul-de-sac, no vines in sight. But when we “arrived” we did see Merry Edwards…unloading groceries from her car. We’d gone to her house!  Not only embarrassing, but made us late for a private tasting with their gracious tasting room host, Ron. You don’t want to be late for Ron, trust me.

• TRAVEL TIMES – Just as your “citified” cell phone GPS will do you no good in Sonoma, neither will your big city/suburban notions about travel time. “10 miles away” in Los Angeles is a completely different animal in wine country when you’re talking about twisting one-lane roads, being stuck behind a bike tour or a combine, and the inevitability (even with the GPS and spot on directions) of getting lost. Pre-program your GPS to see what the estimated travel time is from point A to point B and then add at least 50%.

• DRINKING AND DRIVING – Obviously, if you’re visiting tasting rooms there’s going to be at least one person in your vehicle who has been drinking. The legal limit in California is %.08 BAC. You obviously don’t want anyone to get hurt or arrested. There are ways to keep that from happening. The most effective are hiring a car service (any hotel can arrange this for you, or you can look online) or designating a driver. If the person who is driving is going to have a few sips, these are my suggestions —

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Lucy at Hartford Family, know “when to say when” Lucy!

– A standard pour at a tasting room is going to be about 1 ounce. A standard glass of wine is about 5 to 8 ounces. Depending on your sex, height and weight, you’re able to metabolize between half a glass to two glasses in an hour. Here’s a blood alcohol calculator that isn’t intended as gospel or binding legal advice, but at least gives you a good idea so you can be conscious of where you stand and then make sure you stay well below your limit.

– Swirling and spitting is completely acceptable (of course ask for a bucket or cup, spitting onto the floor is considered gauche even in laid back Sonoma!)

– Drink LOTS of water. Stash big bottles in the car and sip as you go.

– And my personal favorite, share a tasting. Just because the tasting sheet specifies a price “per person” or “per tasting” doesn’t mean that everyone in your party has to do their own. The Mister and I share tastings all the time and no one ever bats an eyelash. Then, if you find yourself dying to have more, buy a bottle (or a few!) Most places will comp your tasting fee when you make a bottle purchase, and it will give you something to look forward to when you get home, and something to sip on as you plot your next adventure in God’s Country!

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I had the good fortune to come across Made Local Marketplace on a morning stroll in Santa Rosa. I was drawn in by a mannequin bedecked in hula hoops (who hasn’t had THAT experience once or twice? I’m hearing the voice of Stefon in my head…”There were plushies, mwarfs…) No, it wasn’t “New York’s Hottest Club.” but it was an eclectic collection of local handmade gifts, jewelry, books, clothing, food and beauty items.

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I’ve found over the years that the more wine country becomes a brand, the harder it is to find the places that made it a brand in the first place.

IMG_2566That’s what I loved about Made Local Marketplace. Every lovingly crafted item is made by an honest-to-God local artisan, their shop display has a photo and bio attached and none of it is mass produced junk.

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I was lucky enough to chat with one of the jewelry makers, Laura Lee Brazier, who was doing a co-op cashier shift over a smooth cup of Bella Rosa Coffee (the locally roasted brew.) She moved here from Michigan recently and immediately found a community in the artists at Made Local that wouldn’t have been possible if she’d stayed exclusively on Etsy.IMG_2548

Interestingly enough, of all the beautiful jewelry on display, the one pair of earrings that kept drawing me back (and eventually ended up on my head) were a pair of hers, a random occurrence since she didn’t have her bio card on display.

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Made Local is attempting something bold. Not only building an entire retail business out of small creators, but in a location a bit off the main square and without any mass market boutique filler. The back of the store is a gallery space that features exhibits by, you guessed it, local artists.

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Is it so wrong that in my wildest dreams I’m half as cool as bird girl?

With so many unique micro-shops in one  it was tough to choose favorites, but in addition to the earrings, and the coffee, I am now completely addicted to Three Sisters Apothecary soaps.IMG_2546

Not only do they have a great look, hand cut and striated like colored marble, but many of the scents are an instant olfactory  trip back to God’s Country when I’m far away.  The Gravenstein Apple Clove is August harvest season in Sebastapol and the Eucalyptus Peppermint is like that first whiff of a Dutton-Goldfield McDougall Vineyard pinot, all cool north coast breezes and elegance.

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The Perk’s Pollinators Citrus Cooks Balm is not only yummy smelling but ingenious as well. The beeswax keeps your hands moisturized through food preparation and the attendant continuous washing. (My uncle is a beekeeper and I have found that beeswax is the only moisturizing ingredient with real staying power. Keep it up bees! Don’t disappear on us!) The citrus aroma helps tackle kitchen odors on your hands, but isn’t so strong that it adds off flavors or scents to your food. They also do one for gardeners, different scent, same idea.

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For the Anna Karenina or Huggy Bear fan in your life, either way, fab-u-lous!

Made Local Marketplace is a real gem, the kind of place you can get lost for far longer than you expected (so plug that meter!)

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It’s an always changing cornucopia, and a beautiful example of the true Sonoma spirit of creativity and community. I hope you’ll give it a visit when you’re in Santa Rosa.

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Made Local Marketplace
531 5th Street
Santa Rosa, Ca 
(on 5th between Mendocino and the mall)
707-583-7667
M-F 9am-6pm, Sat. 11-5
madelocalmarketplace.com

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Chalk Hill Winery 10300 Chalk Hill Road Healdsburg, CA 95448. Phone (707) 657-4837

2007 Chalk Hill Sauvingnon Blanc ($28) Chalky, minerally, rich for a sauvignon blanc. No Green-ness whatsoever. Tasted blind I might mistake this for an un-oaked chardonnay. 93 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2007 Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($45) Buttery, just short of flabby, this is missing some necessary structure, but it does go down quite smooth. 87 pts. (Tasted (3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Pinot Gris North Slope ($40) Tropical typicity. Nice mineral backbone. 89 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2005 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) Carmel nose. Ready to drink. Very smooth, no green-nes to it. Lots of fruit. Not a woody or leathery cab, primarily fruit driven. 88 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Merlot ($50) Green, young, needs some time. You can taste the rich mocha underneath all the green veggies that will probably be revealed in 1-2 years (2011-12) This is a massive wine. 90 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk hill Botrytised Semillon ($80/375 ml) A desert wine without much to offer but an over-the-top cloying sweetness, no real  complexity here. 86 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

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New social wine app

 

There’s a new social wine app called “Delectable” where you can save and share your wine screenshots and notes and keep in touch with your social network of wine lovers as well as famous and infamous vino luminaries. Are they taking a run at Cellar Tracker? Is it Facebook for winos? Will “Delect” be the new “Tweet?” What say you?

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