Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wine Country II

Each trip we make to wine country, we attempt to find some new (to us) small wineries, our last trip in February being no exception. On this particular day, we made the trip from Calistoga to the Healdsburg area in the Sonoma Valley.

While researching the area on WineCountry. com, we saw an area south of Healdsburg on Limerick Lane that looked interesting. We had made an appointment, and our first stop was new to us, Deux Amis Winery at 620 Limerick Lane. Duex Amis is French for "two friends," Phyllis Zouzounis and Jim Penpraze who together started the winery. At this visit, they showed 2 zins, a petit sirah. and a pinot noir. We rated the wines from very good to excellent and they were in the moderate price range. The tasting took place in their working winery, a nice change from the glitz of many tasting rooms. Jim was a very congenial host, and we felt the winery was a surprising find. Make an appointment and visit. In the picture above is Jim Penpraze of Deux Amis Winery and Jean.

Just across the road and up a lane was Christopher Creek Winery sitting high atop a hill, another new one to us. The tasting room was attached to the end of the winery. They were tasting the usual array of wines for the area, zinfandel, cab, and syrah. Of those tasted, we felt the zin stood above the others, but then we love zins. No appointment needed, so make sure you visit.

When visiting a tasting room, we always ask, "Where would you suggest we visit?" This question was posed to Jim Penpraze at Deux Amis and his answer was, "Merriam Winery, just down the road." We headed back down the road and made a left turn on Los Amigos Road, looking for 11650. We found it with no problem which is something unusual for us. 

We walked in and were greeted by Carey Arnold in the tasting room. A delightful young lady with lots of enthusiasm and information. On this particular day, they were tasting two chardonnay's, a merlot and a cab. Their 2008 chardonnay from 100% stainless steel showed all the characteristics you would expect, citrus, green apple, etc., and at a very reasonable closeout price. However, the find of the whole trip was their 2005 Russian River Valley Merlot! It showed fruit and a very long smooth finish . . . what I refer to as a cab drinkers merlot. We are anticipating the arrival of our case. The picture above is the tasting room at Merriam Winery with Jean, Lee, and Carey Arnold.

From there we drove back into Healdsburg and selected the Center Street Cafe & Deli on the square to have lunch. Jean is an expert when it comes to chocolate shakes and she says they have the best. 

Another suggestion we had was to visit the Williamson Wines tasting room in downtown Healdsburg. They were tasting an array of their wines but with a twist . . . each wine was accompanied by a little pairing of food to enhance the flavors, a very nice touch. An explanation of each taste was given and what we could expect to experience. A definite stop on your trip. If I remember correctly, there was no tasting fee, a bonus to a great experience.

The next afternoon stop was at Wilson Winery at 1960 Dry Creek Road, a perennial favorite of ours. They are zinfandel specialists. They were tasting two cabs, but we cut to the chase and had the zins. They have won many accolades and gold medals for their zins. This is a definite "must stop" in our humble opinion and definitely on our agenda each trip. We brought home their 2007 Reserve Carl's zin which had just scored highly.

Just down the road a ways is Mauritson Winery at 2859 Dry Creek Road. They do make other wines, but in our opinion, their contributions to the wine world are their zinfandels. Most of their zins come from the Rockpile Vineyard and one of the enjoyable things about this stop, they gave us a flight tasting of the Rockpile zins so you can taste the differences. A very busy tasting room but a must stop. This is one of the few wine clubs the we belong to and I think a separate tasting room for their club members would be a future priority. 

After six wineries, we were ready for a rest. By this time, I was about 2 quarts low on my Diet Coke. Back to Calistoga safely to live and taste another day.

Above is a vineyard along Hwy. 29 in Napa Valley between Yountville and St. Helena. The contrast between the little white flowers in the foreground, the stark leafless grape vines and the yellow mustard in the background was breathtaking.

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