California wine country and children

Sonoma Square

Sonoma Square

Wine country and children? When you think of visiting California wine country, you think of a weekend away from children, work, life. Taking your children to wine country is not a thought most people would consider. My friends it can be done! And it can be an amazing family vacation spot as well.

We have spent the past three summers taking our children (8 and 3 1/2) to Sonoma, CA. We make this vacation the best of both worlds. My girls adore visiting Sonoma and look forward to this tradition. Many people are shocked that I bring my children to Napa/Sonoma (“don’t they get bored?”). I always think, why not? In Europe families go everywhere together, even through wine villages/vineyards. Why, as American’s, shouldn’t we have the same laid back mentality? I love spending time with them. Why not make it a family holiday doing things we all enjoy?

In Sonoma Valley alone, there are more than 370 wineries. Of course, even without children, it would a challenge to visit every winery. We make decisions to visit Sonoma and Napa wineries carefully when traveling with our children. Below is a list of kid-friendly wineries, restaurants and places to visit with your kids. I am sure there are MANY more, but these are tried from yours truly.

Places to stay:

There are loads of hotels in the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions, many which offer amenities for little ones. However with our children, we rent a house. For the past three years, we have rented the same home outside Sonoma Valley. It comes with a pool, bocce ball court, Ping-Pong table, trampoline and loads of bikes and other kid-friendly gadgets. The home is not fancy by any means, but it suits us perfectly. We spend many hours in the pool and playing games.

Another plus with renting a home, is that you can make your own meals. Taking a family of 4 out to dinner in Sonoma or Napa is very expensive. With a home, you can make a lunch/dinner, drink a bottle of wine, let the kids run around and everyone is happy!

Loma Vista and swimming

Loma Vista and swimming

Being silly on Vacation

Being silly on Vacation

The website that I recommend is VRBO.com. Check out homes in the areas of Sonoma, Healdsburg, Calistoga, and Napa (including St. Helena, Yountville, Oakville). Santa Rosa isn’t that far either and would have good deals.

* On a personal side note: The nice thing about staying in Sonoma, is the family feel of the town. They have a Plaza with many shops, restaurants, Tuesday farmers market, a huge play area for kids, a Whole Foods, toy shops, Train Town, etc. And on the plus side, within the plaza square (where the park is), you are allowed to have beer and wine. How perfect!

Kid Friendly Wineries

This is where I have to admit, I am biased. A few are my most favorite wineries ( I have blogged about in the past).. but what I love about them, besides amazing wines, is they are accommodating with children. I know there are wineries where you don’t bring kids, period (i.e. Napa wineries-  Opus One, Silver Oak and Cakebread are a few that come to mind). I totally respect those that would prefer to keep the riff-raff of children out (and visit them when I am kid-less).

Here is a small list of wineries we have explored which welcome children.

Sonoma Valley region:

Ledsonhttp://www.ledson.com/

Talk about a little girls dream. This winery has a Cinderella-looking castle atmosphere (if Cinderella drank good wine). They have a little deli/picnic area and patience for the little ones. Wines are pretty remarkable as well! My husband enjoys their oaked Chardonnay! I prefer the Bellisimo.

Larson Family Winery: http://www.larsonfamilywinery.com/

Now, the complete opposite feel from Ledson, but extremely family oriented (hence family in the name). Larson winery is on a farm, with plenty of animals. And what kid doesn’t like animals? They also have games and a few bikes for kids to ride as well. This winery has the family-feeling thing down pat, pretty smart. Their wine isn’t my favorite, but a very enjoyable experience (try the Three-Lab Cab… it’s pretty delicious).

Bump: http://www.bumpwine.com/

Bump Winery

Bump Winery

Although it’s a brand new winery and tasting room, the wine maker has been around for ages – making wines at some big known wineries in Sonoma. His tasting room isn’t made for little kids (lots of homemade pottery around), but he has small children himself.. so he is very friendly with those that want to stop by with kids. His wines are simple, but balanced eloquently. A couple of his wines could be on my top 10 favorite Sonoma wines list! Try the Fortune (a white Rhone blend) and Zinfandel when you pop in. Both are divine!

Domaine Carneros (outside Sonoma): http://www.domainecarneros.com/

I have talked about this winery in the past – one of my favorites. They make outstanding bubbles. They have a breathtaking facility and sparkling wines to match. They may not look “kid-friendly” but are very patient with kids (they have kid, non alcoholic wine). This is a place where it’s ok to bring out the IPad/IPhone for the kids. There isn’t much running around for the kids to do. But, totally worth the stop (with or without the rug-rats).

*you will meet other families with kids there, which made my girls very happy this time around. They played contently with the others, so this time there was no need for the IPhone!*

Napa Valley region:

Salvestrin Winery: http://www.salvestrinwinery.com/

Salvestrin Winery

Noelle enjoying Salvestrin Winery

My favorite in California wine country. Not because they make the best wines (but, they are pretty stellar) or because they have the biggest Chateau.. but because of who they are. A very unpretentious, small, family vineyard – competing some very big players in the Napa wine world (Mondovi is a few wineries away). Right off highway 29,  you drive up to their 100 year old home (which they still live in), and are welcomed as though you are family. We have been going to this winery for years now, and it really does feel like home. My girls love running through the vineyard’s, playing with the Salvestrin grandkids if they are around, or just hanging out with us on the patio set up against the vineyard. It’s a place of tranquility and amazing wines. They are appointment only, but I would HIGHLY recommend going if you are in St. Helena/Napa Valley area.

Frogs Leap: http://www.frogsleap.com

How can you not take your kids to a winery whose motto is “Times fun when you are catching flies!” This is another winery with impeccable grounds. And they want you to explore them! My girls love finding the chickens, petting the fat cat and playing outdoor games. They even give kids crayons and a frog coloring book. They also recommend making reservations. But another must-see when you are traveling with your kiddos.

Oh, and the wine is delicious too!!! Check out their Zinfandel and Cab’s! The sauv blanc is also very refreshing on a hot day.

Flora Springs: http://www.florasprings.com/

Flora Springs is a little more popular and on the touristy side. But, it is a great place to take a break, get some lunch from Dean and Deluca next door and try some wines. They have a nice patio out back (I wouldn’t recommend having your kids in the tasting room area) where you can enjoy the sun and your lunch. If you are able to taste their Sangiovese… do it! it’s pretty delicious.

Sterling Vineyard: http://sterlingvineyards.com/

This is one of those big, huge places that I often don’t promote. However, if you want a fun experience for your kids.. go visit them! To reach their winery, you have to take a Gondola ride. It’s fun (except for those who may be nervous of heights). Wines are ok… you can find them in about any grocery store throughout the country.

Healdsburg Region:

J Vineyards: http://www.jwine.com/

Bottle of J Vineyards bubbles

Bottle of J Vineyards Cuvee

Another fantastic bubbles place that is kid friendly and on beautiful grounds. They may not have activities for them or places to run around. What they offer though is patience and kindness to little ones (and animal crackers and juice). You will also need to make an appointment to visit them as well. Their rose bubbles (sold out) are killer!

Field Stone Winery: http://www.fieldstonewinery.com/

Another biased winery. My daughter Ava goes to school with the granddaughter of the winemaker. Which means they are used to having their grandchildren come by, along with other children. They are very pleasant and welcoming to kids (it’s a plus they have a horse at the winery). When you visit, you must try their Merlot!

Places to eat with your kids:

(a quick, simple list)

Sonoma:

1. The Girl and the Fig

2. Sunflower Café

3. Chocolate Cow (for dessert)

4. Tuesday Farmers Market in Sonoma Square

5. Olive and Vine – in Glen Ellen

Napa Valley Region:

1. Picnic at V. Sattui Winery

2. Rutherford Grill

3. Dean and Deluca (not a sit down, pick up for a picnic)

4. Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen

5. Gotts Roadside (rated best burgers in Food and Wine Magazine)

6. Pizzeria Tre Vigne

Kids Activities:

To make this a whole family vacation, there are loads of family activities and adventures:

1. Train Town in Sonoma – great for the little engineers in your family

2. Rent bikes in Sonoma/Napa Valley and ride through the vineyards

3. Playgrounds in Sonoma Square

4. Check out some cute shops (and toy shops) in Healdsburg

5. Safari West – outside Santa Rosa – a hit for our family vacation this year. Pricey and takes most of the day but well worth it. And you can drink wine while on the 2 hour jeep safari ride.

6. Sonoma Farmers Market

7. Stay at your rental home and swim

8. Loads of parks all over wine country

9. The Sonoma Overlook Trail (probably best for kids over 10).

10. Calistoga Hot Springs

11. Ride horses at Bodega Bay (and pick up some salt water taffy).

It’s very possible to make California Wine Country the most perfect family vacation. Its about spending time together (and having good wine). Just keep in mind that 1 or 2 wineries with small children is about all they can handle ( I have pushed it to three though). If they still take naps, visit one before and one after. Let them also have a say in what they want to do for the day. There is nothing worse then dragging cranky, tired, crying children to a winery. You will be miserable and not enjoy the wines.

If you rent a house, I would highly recommend one with a pool. It will make your vacation so much more pleasurable, especially in the summer heat. Also, plan on making a few dinners in the house, so you can enjoy the meal, wine and your family – without having to rush out of a restaurant with overly tired children.

And above all, it’s ok to  let them play on the phone/Ipad/Ipod, etc. while you are enjoying a winery. It’s not bad parenting, it’s letting yourself enjoy a little peace and quiet while focusing on the wine you are tasting. It will not rot their brains. Trust me, you will have a lot of family time and activities together. Remember this is about you, them and wine….

Cheers to you and your family!

*feel free to leave anymore family-friendly wineries/restaurants you know of in the Napa Valley/Sonoma area. This was just a small list!

Lunch in Petaluma

Lunch in Petaluma

Treats at Chocolate Chow in Sonoma

Treats at Chocolate Chow in Sonoma

Mom's are also good to bring on Vacations

Mom’s are also good to bring on Vacations

Ava on a Safari Jeep ride!

Ava on a Safari Jeep ride!

Sometimes you need a night out.. without the kids

Sometimes you need a night out.. without the kids

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Wines with a V

I am typically a red wine drinker. Since this past summer though, I have been drinking a lot more whites. Even in this cold, drizzly Seattle weather, sometimes a crisp white wine just sounds tasty. Lately, I have been gravitating towards wines that start with V… Strange huh? Does a wine that begins with V ring a bell for you?

The white wines most wine novices typically gravitate towards are Chardonnay’s, Sauvignon Blanc’s and Pinot Gris/Grigio’s. But not me. Because of you, my friends, I am a risk taker who is down with the V’s. Which means you should check them out next time you are at your local wine merchant. These wines will say to your guests, host or friends that you are adventurous, daring and wine knowledgeable…. (Trust me; they will be impressed with your picks)

These are my 4 varietal, go -to favorites lately

 

Verdejo (Verdelho) – Ola! This is bright and fairly medium bodied Spanish (and Portuguese) white wine (although, I have an Australian Verdejo last night from Mollydooker and it was a lot of fun). Being this is typically a Spanish wine, it pairs well with most fish/seafood dishes, pastas (esp. with pesto) and vegetarian dishes. This is also a wine that will go nicely with an Indian dinner or something with a lot of spice. It has a well balanced flavor with many foods!

Vermentino – I have been on a Vermentino kick lately. This is another medium bodied wine that often has hints of mineral and citrus (lemon and pear in my opinion). Vermentino is typically from Sardinia and Liguria, but can often be found grown along the Mediterranean coast. Simple fish dishes are what I would pair this with. I love the flavor of Vermentino, so I wouldn’t have it with a dish that would take away from its simple, yet elegant flavor. A nice tossed salad would also pair nicely with this wine

Vinho Verde– This fun Portuguese, semi-sparkling white wine is inexpensive and goes well with spicy foods. This wine, in general, does not have a whole lot of flavor, but I feel it blends nicely with spicy foods (I had one with empanadas and it tasted brilliantly together). It would also be a fantastic wine to drink with fish tacos, seafood stews and crab cakes. You usually can find this wine under $10. What a steal!

Viognier- This is a French (WA, CA, OR, and Australia as well) dry, florally, full bodied white wine. Now, my issue with Viognier is that the floral nose and taste can be overpowering (I prefer subtle wines). However, if you find the right balanced Viognier, it is heaven in your mouth. You do have to play around with them to find your perfect Viognier though. Once you find that perfect wine, it will go nicely with Asian dishes, Chicken, dishes with cream sauces, lobster and pork. Viognier is one of those wines that will blend nicely with a variety of cheeses…

Alright, just one more V wine…

Valpolicella – This is not a white wine, but I wanted to add in as a favorite red wine of mine. Valpolicella is an Italian, light-bodied dry red wine from the Veneto region. Like with Viognier, I have had some bad Valpolicella that tasted thin and had the flavor of dried cherries and stale licorice. I am REALLY picky about my Valpolicella. Finding the right one can take work, but again high risk means high rewards. Once you find the right Valpolicella (look for Valpolicella Classico Superiore) it will be smooth, well rounded. This wine is great to start your dinner party off with. Pairs well with Italia dishes (pizza, pasta, etc), Risotto, grilled/roasted chicken and sausage.

Go ahead and show off your adventurous wine side to your friends. Bringing one of these V wines to your next party will impress your other wine novice friends. And it’s just nice to break out of the norm.

Put down that Chardonnay and pick up a Vermentino!

Cheers and Happy February friends….

 

Washington girl in Napa Valley

“So, you are from Seattle.. what do you think of Washington wine?”

I was asked this question about 3 times from 3 different wineries in Napa Valley this past weekend.

” I enjoy Washington wine, as well as Napa wines, Italian wines, Spanish wines, etc.” It seemed like an odd question to be asked so many times. Talking about this with my mom, we came to the conclusion that Napa, California in general, may be getting annoyed of Washington, since we make some outstanding wines. We are giving California a run for their money. They may feel threatened, since Washington wine country is becoming more known throughout the world. For the longest time, California had their niche in the US wine market. But we are closing in on Napa Valley and producing high quality vino!

With that said, it seems funny that this Washington girl would head over to California for wine, since we have some amazing wines in this state (which was solidified by the worried questions of the Napa Valley wine salesman). But, there are times when one needs to leave town for the weekend and find sun. And that is what I did. My mom and I hopped on a plane and met up with some friends in the heart of California wine country.

 I attempted to go on a budget this time, which is extremely hard to do in Napa (those who have been are nodding their heads in agreement). There have been occasions where I have become carried away in the amount of wineries I visited in one day, as well as the need to bring many bottles home. This time, my finances were low and I had to stay on a budget. Times are tough at the moment and many people are not throwing down $100 on a Napa Cabernet right now. People want to spend $20 a bottle of wine. Napa is feeling the pressure and have dropped their prices, slightly. Still,  it is very rare to find a winery that sells a bottle of wine under $20… at least the one’s I visited.

Most wineries in Napa charge a tasting fee. It can range between $15-$50. You are able to taste 3-5 wines and some places the waive the fee if you purchase a bottle of wine. I (somewhat) planned my visits this time, so every last cent I was not just on tasting fee’s. We were able to hit a few new wineries this time, which is difficult since I have  loyalties to certain wineries. My repeats  this trip were, Cakebread Cellars, Salvestrin and Flora Springs (check previous blog Washington vs. California wines). The three new wineries I explored were Frogs Leap, Chimney Rock and Domaine Chandon.

Here are some updates on the new wineries I visited!

Frogs Leap winery, Oakville

www.frogsleap.com

Tasting fee: $25

Frogs Leap has sentimental meaning to me, since as a child I remember my parents enjoying Frogs Leap wines. I have heard many wonderful things about the winery itself, in person I was stunned. What gorgeous grounds! And on top of that, family friendly. I saw kids running through the vineyards, tweens playing bocci ball and adults basking in the sun relaxing in Adirondack chairs. We lounged on the deck, enjoying the 5 tastings poured right at our table – along with a small cheese platter. The three outstanding wines in my book were the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Petite Sirah.  But all of the wines were superb and reliable… and the winery itself is a must see. Even if you have your children in tow.

 

Chimney Rock Winery, Stags Leap/Yountville

www.chimneyrock.com

Tasting fee: $20-45

What do you do if you have a 1987 bottle of Chimney Rock Cabernet in your wine collection? You visit the winery (and open that bottle soon). This was a pick of my mom’s. Chimney Rock is located in the Stags Leap district and are known for their kick butt Cab’s. But world-renowned Cab’s lead to out of this world prices. I assumed this winery would be out of my league. I just knew when I walked in, Wine Spectator would be checking palates to see if I was worthy of stepping into the building. I was prepared to be kicked out for being a novice. Alas, I was wrong. Talk about a place I assumed to be pretentious, but was the opposite. They were very willing to help a novice on her journey to learn wines. Yes, pricey wines… but I tasted an 2006, 2007 and 2008 Cab and was shocked at how different each vintage tasted. All so different, yet all so silky and sleek. Mom joined their wine club, so I am excited to enjoy bottle sometime soon (probably on a special occasion, since their wine was the cost of my childs college tuition).

Domaine Chandon, Yountville

www.chandon.com

Tasting fee: $15

If you are in your early to mid twenties, single, wear over sized sunglasses, skinny jeans and Jimmy Choo’s, this is your hang out. Chandon is very pretty and makes decent bubbles. But Napa offers other excellent sparkling wines, without the intensity to dress up in heels. This was our first stop during our Napa weekend. We purchased a glass of bubbles (you don’t have to taste, you can also purchase bubbles by the glass as well as small bites) and a Panini to share. We basked in the sun, sipped rose bubbles,  planned our next stop and jetted off. I am glad we visited, but I have no need to go back. Unless I find myself suddenly single and need to pick up on 23-year-old men in skinny jeans.

My trip was fantastic. I had great wine, bonded with my mom and was able to say good-bye to some dear friends who are moving to the UK. However, I am ready to hit the Washington wine market… I need to help keep California nervous of Washington wines. Hmmm, what shall I pop open tonight?

Cheers!

Washington vs. California wineries part 2

I am absolutely thrilled to be heading to Napa Valley in two weeks. This is a much-needed, mini-vacation with my mom (my wine inspiration). Although a bittersweet trip as well, since I will be saying goodbye to a dear friend from the bay area, who is packing up and moving to London. Talk about going out with a bang though, a final Napa Valley wine trip.

As I said in the last blog, I am a fan of local businesses and proud to support Washington wineries.  But, how can I resist a wine trip to California? The birthplace of US wines.  Visit almost any country and no doubt you can easily obtain a California wine. And they make damn good wines too. You must look past Gallo, Mondovi and Sutter Homes (I’m not putting them down, they have their place) and search for smaller (using the term lightly)wineries. There are so many wineries in California; it will take me years to get through them all, if that is even possible. There are over 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in California, which include, Napa, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Rutherford.

California wines really made their mark in the world (even though before that, many people in the were travelling to California to fill their empty wine bottles right from the barrels) in 1976 when they beat France in a famous wine competition. A huge blow to the French ego’s. Check out the movie Bottle Shock… it will tell you all about that!

 That was a beyond brief history lesson. Now, here are some of my recommendations for wineries to visit. To be honest, I have only been through Napa (about a half-dozen times). So, my recommendations are limited to that region. And if you hadn’t noticed, I am visiting again in 2 weeks, so I may discover some new favorites to tell you about.

Here we go! Take notes my friends: my top 5 favorite wineries in Napa.

1.) Plumpjack Winery, Oakville

620 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville CA 94562

www.plumpjack.com

Fun and hip. Those are the first word that pop i to my mind when I think of Plumpjack. They cater to parties and are off the beaten path. They make a killer Cab that you will want to hold on too, for probably 10 years or so. Very much worth the trip.

2.) Peju Province, Rutherford

8466 St Helena Highway, Rutherford CA 94573

www.peju.com

Who doesn’t love wine and chocolate? This is place to visit if you want beautiful scenery and grounds (fresh flowers everywhere), fabulous wine and chocolate. I don’t know what I love more, their Cabs or the chocolate sauce they make. To top this visit off, it is family owned, intimate and very friendly to visitors (even those visitors who are wine novices). Peju is a very easy stop; right off Highway 29.

3.) Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford

8300 St. Helena Highway Rutherford, CA 94573

www.cakebread.com

I heard about Cakebread through my Arizona girlfriend who is also a wine fan. She raved about them, so on my last trip to Napa, I made an appointment to taste (they are appointment only). Cakebread wines are expensive, but they make you feel like a million bucks when you visit. They tour you through their facility, which is breathtaking. It has a modern feel, but the building is a barn. I can see why they have such a loyal backing. They are known for their Cabs and Sauvignon Blanc, but to be honest I loved their Syrah. But, I am not complaining about their other wines (well, maybe their Pinot Noir, I am not a fan of that)- very impressive. They are also another family owned winery right off of Highway 29.

4.) Andersons Conn Valley, St Helena

680 Rossi Road St Helena, CA 94574

www.connvalleyvineyards.com

Now this is a winery off the beaten path, by about 15 minutes. The best thing about this winery is the location. You taste the wines in wine caves! With wine barrels surrounding you. It is pretty cool, to say the least. The wine is alright. Not my favorite Napa wine, but for the tour and tasting, the trip is totally worth it. The Anderson’s are down to earth and not pretentious. They are by appointment only as well.

5.) Salvestrin Winery, St Helena

397 Main Street St Helena, CA 94574

http://www.salvestrinwinery.com

Again, I save the best for last. And again, I may be a bit biased. My husband  and I stayed at their Inn the last time we visited Napa. Wow is all I have to say. We met the family, sat on their patio, tasted their wines (some from right out of the barrel), and woke up at 4:30 am to watch them harvest the grapes. And to top that off, their wine is truly outstanding. Sadly though, you will not be able to Salvestrin in stores. It is only available through their winery (they can ship though!). My two favorite is their Sauvignon Blanc and Retaggio (a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab and Cab Franc – it will knock your socks off). They are also appointment only, but if you pop by without one, they will not turn you away. As a side note, if you want to throw a party, they have an amazing facility you can rent. A patio within the vineyards!!! And for a true experience, stay at their Inn for the weekend.

Happy wine trails in California and don’t forget your designated driver and wallet (you will need loads if cash in Napa).

Cheers!

I apologize for the delay… but I have new wines

Portuguese wines… have you ever thought about Portuguese wines? I have. Lately I have had my heart set on visiting Portugal’s wine region. And if you know me.. when I have my heart set on something, I usually go for it. Portugal has some amazing wines. When you think of Portugal however, you usually think of Port. But, Portugal has some dynamic, and affordable, wine regions. My dream is to take a week and explore Portugal’s wine region the summer of 2011 (if someone will take my kids for a week). I don’t know why I am obsessed with exploring it, but I am. When I became with obsessed with Spain, I moved there, ( I hope I have that same drive about Portugal except, I probably won’t move there at this moment) . I just wished while I was in Spain I visited Portugal, but I didn’t. I went the other direction to France. So now, I am on a mission to explore Portugal. 

At the moment, I am in Scottsdale AZ. Ian ran into a great little wine store/bar called Bacchus in North Scottsdale (for my AZ peeps, in Kierland Commons).  Ian knows what wines I prefer and grabbed this Portuguese wine that he read about – thinking I would really enjoy it. Ian scored BIG time. This is a delicious wine!! Take notes my fellow novices. This is a wine worth the price. I just hope I can find this in Seattle. 

Tonight’s Tasting: 

Animus – Douro, Portugal  2005  (Bacchus, Scottsdale AZ $14.99) 

Wow!! What a wine for a vacation…. just wish it was a vacation in Portugal. This is from the northern region of Portugal. Animus was a pleasant surprise. It is a very simple wine, yet a party on your palate. Animus has a nice blend of dark cherry and raspberry flavor. Very clean, soft and fresh tasting. It has an inviting aroma – wonderful conversation with your friends you are sharing this wine with. Great for a night sitting out on your patio. Please ask your local wine store for this wine. I promise it won’t disappoint. 

Animus, Portugal

 

Since I am on vacation, why not open another bottle!  I popped open another wine I think my fellow Novices would enjoy (and their wallets too). While I was visiting my girlfriend Caroline last week (she has a new baby,Preston – adorable), I noticed a bottle of wine on her counter called Cupcake (FYI- best gift to give a new mom.. a bottle of wine. I know from experience). She hadn’t tried it yet and I was very curious about it’s flavor. When I see wine’s on counters, I become curious… So, while I was in Scottsdale, shopping at the local Fry’s (a Kroger store).. I noticed that same wine. I grabbed a bottle since it was a nice price of $9.99. 

Cupcake Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007  Central Coast CA (Fry’s – aka QFC, Fred Meyers  in Seattle $9.99) 

Another decent wine at a great price. I had a glass of this wine, after Animus. I was prepared to be disappointed since I loved Animus and guess what? I wasn’t. This is a heavy wine, but with great flavor. A blend of Plum, Cherry and Mocha is what stands out in my mouth. No bite at all. Smooth, rich and sweet. Bring this bottle to your next book club meeting for sure. Then that way you can focus on the wine and not on the fact you never finished the book! 

Keep on enjoying wine my friends….

New Holiday on February 14

I am not a fan of Valentines day. I actually find it the most pointless day. It is a throw-it-in-your face day if you are single or an I am disapointed in you day if you are married/dating. We all know this is just a Hallmark holiday, yet we still fall for this need to be romantic, buy a gift, pass out candy (that we don’t need) day. I would like to change this day. My challenge to you, fellow novices, is not to fall for this silly holiday by purchasing a gift for your loved one, but treat them to a FABULOUS bottle of wine. Or for all the single ladies or men, no need to stress over this pointless day – treat yourself to a wonderful bottle of wine. I am turning February 14th into Wine Day – anyone else in on this with me??

I would like to recommend some of my most favorite wines that will leave you feeling happy. I will have a wine in almost every price range. Take notes, grab a bottle (or two) and enjoy!

DeLille Cellars D2 (Columbia Valley) – around $32.00 – you can find this at local grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Ballard Market, Greenwood Market and most local wine shops.  This wine is worth the price, hands down. If you feel the need to splurge on this day, splurge on this wine!!

Wineglass Cellars Zinfandel 2007 (Yakima Valley) around $22.00 – if you are out of WA state, this will be a challenge for you to find For those in WA,  check your local wine shops, however I have seen it in Whole Foods, Ballard Market and QFC. Check Winecellars website, it tells you the places where their wines are sold. www.wineglasscellars.com This Zin is dark, rich, chocolately and heavenly. If you can find it, grab as many bottles as you can find. It is amazing!

FYI to my out-of-state novices, if you are looking to join a wine club for WA wines, Wineglass Cellars will not let you down. I belong to their wine club and I have NEVER been disappointed with any of their wines.

Stump Jump Vintage 2008 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (South Australian)  around $11.00- I have mentioned this wine on many occasions, but I have talked about their pure Shiraz. This blend is also a very nice wine – and a little fruitier. For the price, you cannot beat this wine!! It tastes delicious. This wine is pretty easy to find – Costco, Whole Foods, many large grocery store chains and local wine stores.

Rigoloccio Rosato (Italian – Tuscan region)- $9.75. This Rose is refreshing and romantic. A Rose doesn’t have to be saved for summer time. This wine is perfect for any occasion. I have only seen it at West Seattle cellars, but take the name into your favorite wine store and I am sure they can find it for you.

Guenoc – 2007 Petite Sirah (California). Is around $8.00- good wine for a “can’t beat” price. I have seen it at Trader Joes, West Seattle Cellars and a few chain grocery stores.

 

My recommendation list could go on for days, I have so many favorites… however these 5 wines I think are perfect for this Wine Day holiday. They will compliment almost any meal you cook and will taste divine with chocolate. Please don’t look at February 14th as another annoying, stupid, marketing holiday. Look at it as a day to explore and try new wines. Remember this is now Wine Day!

Happy Wine Day!!

South America

My friend Lisa stood at a crossroads trying to decide between a Chilean or a Spanish wine one fine day in Scottsdale, AZ . She didn’t know which one would settle her craving – they both are Spanish-speaking countries and both known for making good, inexpensive wines; she decided to take a gamble, trust her instincts and went with the Chilean wine (and she had not read my Spanish wine blog yet). I haven’t heard her opinion on the choice, but it motivated me to buy a bottle of Chilean wine.

Chilean wines are foreign to me. Usually, when I decide to fill my South American wine craving, I tend to lean towards Argentina. Wines from the Mendoza , Argentina region are medium-bodied and smooth (oh so lovely). I am sure at some point in my life I have tasted a Chilean wine, but it obviously did not leave a lasting impression. But, at times I am biased and probably skipped that region in the wine shop to head towards my favorites. So thank you Lisa for inspiring me to explore my horizons.

* Here is a little known fact about Chilean wines – there are more than 20 different types of grapes but it is their Cabernet Sauvignon which is famous. The wine I chose was not a Cab, but to me, an unknown varietal.

Some of you have asked me to review/taste wines that are under $10.00, since most of my fellow novices prefer wines around that price range (and we are in a recession right?). So, I will make sure to write about affordable wines as well as some splurges (we should all splurge sometime, right?).

Tonight’s Tasting:

Terra Andina – 2008 Carmenere – Central Valley of Chili (Whole Foods $8.99)

I do have a cold, so I am not the best judge of  wine tonight. From what I have tasted, I am not a fan, cold or not. It has an overbearing berry taste which is harsh on the taste buds and stomach. Ian said it tasted like the end of a bottle of wine; the flavor of sediment. We let the wine sit, and there was still no improvement. This is a wine I would not recommend ( I think having a cold made it taste better).  Even if you needed a take a cheap bottle of wine to a party, I would say stick with a Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes. Now, I am not blaming the Chileans, every country makes bad wines. So, my mission fellow novices, is to try a wine from Chili that will take you to a happy place!

Have a wine filled night my friends!

ps – Ian just opened a bottle, since he was not a fan of the Chili wine either. This is a staple in our cellar and would recommend this to anyone – we usually keep a couple bottles on hand.

Guenoc – 2007 Petite Sirah from California. Is around $8.00 – I have seen it at Trader Joes and West Seattle Cellars (don’t purchase through their winery, they charge $20.00 a bottle, ouch!). Smooth, nice and easy to drink!

2007 Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah