On a recent holiday trip to Sonoma, I discovered some really stellar and noteworthy wines. Our group did a tour of some of the wineries and vineyard stops that make California’s wine country the perfect stop for a romantic holiday trip.
Our first stop was to Williams Seylem winery at their new tasting room in Healdsburg on the RussianRiver. Williams Seylem has never had a public tasting room. The only way to taste at this winery is to call in advance and set up an appointment. This is definitely a “can't miss” opportunity to taste some of the world’s best wines, because in the past, it's been very hard to taste these special wines unless you were “the” list.
You know you are in a special place when you begin your tasting. Most wineries will start you with their newest 2010 wine, but here at Williams Seylem, you start with an early vintage, a 2005 Pinot Noir. It’s easy to see what aged Pinot Noir can taste like when done correctly like Bob Cabral and the crew do at Williams Seylem. Don’t forget to pick up some of their wine and you just might be able to get yourself on the infamous “list.”
- Photo c/o weirdcombinations.com
The next stop on our tour was to the famed Silver Oak. Now, there are two Silver Oak wineries; one in NapaValley (which is the brand new winery and tasting room that they've rebuilt) and then there is the beautiful AlexanderValley tasting room above Healdsburg. We tasted in AlexanderValley where we had the chance to taste the current releases of Silver Oak.
Silver Oak is one of the few wineries in America that feature one wine only, Cabernet Sauvignon. . This is in the style of a classic French winery. Silver Oak produces the Napa Valley Cabernet (which is done in the Bordeaux style) and the Alexander Valley Cab that's done with 100% Cabernet grapes.
We started our taste with the 2008 Alexander Valley Cab which was excellent, very balanced, and a very drinkable wine for right now. From the first taste to the long finish, it is superb.
The 2007 Alexander Cab is excellent as well and has a bigger taste and lots of structure. I recommend buying some of the 2007 and laying it down for the next few years for future holidays and occasions.
The 2007 Napa Valley Cab is a Bordeaux blend, wonderful to drink now but it's also very structured with a great balance to it and it’s clear that it will only improve with age.
When you stop by the Silver Oak tasting room you can buy the current releases (which in this case is the Alexander Valley 08) but for $5 more, you can get any back releases: so if they have an 07, it would be the price of the bottle +$5, an 06 would be +$10 and so on. This is a fun way to stock your wine cellar.
- Photo c/o silveroak.com
It was on to NapaValley for our group, destination Duck Horn, ( a great stop for you Merlot and Cabernet fans) where the wines are excellent indeed.
A little known fact about the Duck Horn wineries is that they also produce Pinot Noir under the “Golden Eye” label.
Their Golden Eye winery is located in the AndersonValley which is above Healdsburg and north of Napa and Santa Rosa. Something that all beginning wine connoisseurs should know is that wine is really a product of the soil and the atmosphere that the grapes are grown in. In 2008, there were some serious fires up in the SonomaCounty and the Santa Rosa area and all of the smoke from the fires drifted towards the north and landed in the AndersonValley. It was so widely dispersed that the 2008 crop of Pinot Noir had a taint of smoke to the nose; so if you can find a bottle from this 2008 AndersonValley crop, you can smell that smoke unless the winemaker was able to filter it out. Wine made a year later in 2009, still has some residual smoke left over in the soil. The vine acts like a pump and brings up all of the wonderment from the soil and gives this wine a unique and one of a kind taste. The must try at Duck Horn is that 2008 or 2009 Golden Eye.
- Photo c/o carbonfund.org
Next on our tour list was the Honig Family Winery. The Honig Family is one of the great families of NapaValley and they have incredible wines. Check out the two Sauvignon Blancs and two Cabernets, one regular and one reserve. Each of these four wines will woo your palate! Tasting at their winery is always a wonderful time, the special brand of Honig family hospitality really makes this a must stop when you are in NapaValley.
Our second to last stop took us to Oak Knoll and the great Biale winery. Biale is what I like to call the “Holy Grail” of Zinfandel producers. Biale functions in much the same way as Williams Seylem and Silver Oak; they have smaller vineyards that strictly produce Zinfandel varieties. Their Black Chicken is one of their most outstanding and popular Zins and is currently sold out but you might actually be able to find some of their Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel. There are also some vintages available in the large format, so if you cannot find the Monte Rosso or the Black Chicken, they may be carrying the larger bottles and you'll be able to bring some home with you. Their new wine will be coming out later this year so make sure you get on their list and enjoy some incredible Zinfandels, plus you can even become a member of the Black Chicken Society.
- Photo c/o http://www.robertbialevineyards.com/
On our third and final day in the wine country, we visited the great people at the Jordan Winery in AlexanderValley. John Jordan has been putting together the wines at Jordan Winery since 2005. We were lucky enough to drop in on them during their holiday party and the kind people on the Jordan team actually let us in on special treat! We got to taste the 94 and 99 vintages. I believe that this was some of their very last bottles of the 94 and what we found was a wine so well produced and structured that the age had not gotten to this wine at all, what was in our glass was refined and very balanced, but still had great tannins on the finish. Besides the 94 and 99, they had a vertical tasting of the 02, 03, 04 05 Cabernets. All had great tannins, amazing structure and were very balanced. Their current release is their 08 vintage which you will be able to taste in their tasting room. . For Alexander Valley Cabernet, this one has a lot of structure, and if you like the more structured NapaValley style of Cabernet wines, you're going to love this Jordan from AlexanderValley. I call it the Alexander Valley Cab with Napa edge.
So there you have it—the perfect romantic weekend getaway all planned for you; beautiful wineries to tour, delicious wines to taste and don't forget the culinary delights of the wine country! Cheers!