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Posts Tagged ‘sonoma wine country’

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New Year’s resolutions tend towards the simple. Rarely do people stuff their January 1st intentions with closets full of Birkin bags, Lamborghinis or vows to best Kobayashi in competitive eating endeavors. The vast majority (and easiest to keep) are the basics, eat a little less, spend time and money more wisely. An extra hour on the treadmill, ten more bucks a week to the 401k. Make time to slip out early as to not miss that dance recital or Pop Warner game.

In this spirit of simplicity, one of my resolutions is to include more “weekday/weeknight” recipes and tips. Ideas that can be integrated into the routine to compliment the more fanciful entries about Sonoma travel and tastings. Of course, there will always be the whimsey…So in the spirit of both simplicity and fancy, let’s talk about Arista Winery…

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Tiny waterfalls, mossy rock formations and stunning Japanese Maples placed with a minimalist’s eye combine to create this serene, Zen retreat overlooking valley vistas. You can rest your weary mind and even picnic here (customers only, please.) It’s a beautiful spot to slowly exhale…That is, once you’ve inhaled the gorgeous aromas of their impressive slate of reds that echo the elegant simplicity of the physical plant.

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Belly up to the small and often crowded tasting bar in a spartan converted farmhouse and enjoy the warm, laid-back hospitality of the McWilliams family who are often on hand to pour and talk about their wines, and always eager to point visitors in the direction of local tasting rooms with similar concepts (the fine folks at Arista are responsible for hipping me to Benovia, C. Donatiello and V.M.L. in the past, as well as others yet unvisited that are at the top of my wish list since they’re batting .1000 in their advice!)

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While the entire tasting is really fantastic, standouts included the 2010 Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge ($52) The Mendocino Ridge is more than 1500 feet above sea level, so the grapes grow above the fog line, offering constant sun exposure, yet, it’s still cool enough because of the elevation that they get the slow, gentle ripening that yields exceptional pinot noir. The Perli opens with a full nose of farmyard and Bartlett pear, a medium body full of raspberry, licorice and wet concrete dusted with white pepper and a whisper of French oak. This is drinking beautifully now, but hints at an even more auspicious future given a few years of cellar time. It would be an amazing pairing for salmon in a potato crust.

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Having long been a fan of Arista’s pinots, I sometimes forget that they do a wonderful “pinot take” on what I consider a difficult to love varietal, zinfandel…

Their 2010 Smokey Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($36) is one of those zin exceptions that, for the most part, defies my low expectations of the grape. The huge nose of black pepper, Smuckers strawberry jam and lime rind are certainly zin-ny. As is the “drink on a weeknight at your own risk” 15.9% alcohol content. But on the palate is where it diverges from its peers. The strawberry fruit is bright and fresh, not dense, jammy and cooked like many zins. And the slightly tannic cocoa powder finish gives it gravitas to balance out the mouthwatering berries.  This is a zin touched with Arista’s zen. A lucky wine indeed!

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

INTERIOR = 6  EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9.5  WINE QUALITY = 9

OVERALL RATING = 9.2 *

 
Arista Winery
7015 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 473-0606
 
Open Daily 11-5
Tasting Fee $10
 
*Dogs are welcome, bachelor and bachelorette parties are not. That alone gives them an extra bonus point in my book!
 
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If you are blessed (or cursed, depending on who you’re talking to) to live in San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland or Seattle, there is a little known, and completely fabulous travel option for Sonoma County. It’s the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, right in the heart of Northern Sonoma wine country. Only one airline flies in and out of STS (Alaska Airlines, go figure) and the planes are little wee things. But if you are at all able, do yourself a favor and look into this option. Not only do you fly directly into Santa Rosa (The final approach is stunning, you come in right over vineyard rows, welcome to Sonoma, indeed!) But you avoid all the madness of landing in San Francisco or Oakland, only to delay your arrival in God’s Country by having to schlep for an hour and a half on crowded city freeways (hardly an auspicious start to your wine country visit.)

The teeny airport is like something out of a bygone era (if you’re from LA and familiar with the Burbank Airport, this joint makes it look like O’Hare) but equipped with all the mod cons. All the major car rental agencies have desks with cars on site, there’s taxi and bus service. And, lest you forget you’re in California, a sushi bar. Yes, the onsite restaurant is the Sky Lounge Steakhouse and Sushi Bar.

Charles M. Schultz (if the name is ringing a bell, but you can’t place it) spent his later career in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, and is the creator of the Peanuts cartoons. Snoopy is the airport’s mascot (Red Baron that he is!)

Perhaps the best thing about this airport, and there are so many, it’s hard to pick one, is that Alaska Airlines allows you to CHECK A CASE OF WINE AS LUGGAGE FREE OF CHARGE! Yes, free! Just make sure you purchase proper packaging at one of your winery visits or a local shipping store.

So enjoy your flight, and rest easy in the knowledge that within a half hour of landing, you will be sipping Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, enjoying a farm fresh lunch in quaint Healdsburg (20 mins by car) or perhaps visiting the Schultz Museum to visit the namesake of this fantastical transportation hub and well-kept secret!

http://www.sonomacountyairport.org

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