Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Visiting California Wine Country
My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to the Russian River Valley/Dry Creek Valley to explore the wine country and cheer for our friend who was competing in the "Vine-man", which is regional-speak for Ironman. We stayed at a lovely house/cabin right on the river and the weather couldn't have been better.
If you have a chance to visit the area, specifically the charming town of Healdsburg, I recommend eating lunch at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill. No, it's not your ordinary bar and grill b/c their menu includes ingredients like shaved fennel, fiscalini cheddar, housemade pickles, local rock cod, etc. synonymous with the area's passion for sustainable farming. The BBQ pulled-pork sandwich is fantastic and so are the sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli.
If you're looking to picnic at one of the vineyards or are want to purchase some unique sundries, check out the Dry Creek General Store. It's an old-timey kind of store chock full of artisanal snacks, preserves, desserts, salads, beer/wine, and sandwiches made-to-order. Kick back on one of the rocking chairs outside while you enjoy a local micro-brew and toasted panini.
And of course, a trip to wine country wouldn't be complete without visiting the wineries. Listed below are a bunch of vineyards we visited. Only one of these vineyards happen to be on our itinerary - the rest we just stumbled upon which I thought was a really fun way to discover some new wines, most of which were small, family-owned establishments.
Dry Creek General Store
Healdsburg Bar & Grill
Tasting cost around $10 I believe and we were offered about 6-7 wines. The man who poured our wine was actually the owner which added a nice touch. He was a jovial sort of fella who told us a salacious story about the annual grape stomp. We brought home one of the Zinfandels and are looking forward to enjoying it with something hearty.
Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves
$15 got you 6 tastings w/ two food pairings. We started with a Rose that was paired with 2 Fanny Bay oysters (served with a tasty minionette). We then ventured over to the wine cave where we had the opportunity to browse the cave and taste a few Zinfandels and a Syrah intended to be paired with the paella that was simmering outside. Lastly, we enjoyed a Late-Harvest Zinfandel, a dessert wine and perfect accompaniment to vanilla ice cream.
Zichichi Family Vineyards
Another small family-owned and operated vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. I believe tastings cost $5-10. The thing that I liked about this place was that they offered a barrel tasting which I had never done. We tasted two futures from the barrel and enjoyed a Petite Sirah and a few Zinfandels in the tasting. My favorite was the Petite Syrah which we bought and plan to enjoy with a beef stew or pot roast.
A $5 wine tasting got us about 8 tastings, one of which even included a 1989 Cabernet. My favorite was the Bradford Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel. Loved the pepper and berry flavors. We ended up buying a few different bottles. Service was really friendly and it had a family-owned vibe to it. They're into the time-honored wine-growing traditions (as in their philosophy of Zero Manipulation) and practice sustainable farming.
Complimentary tasting that includes about 4-5 wines. Surprisingly, my favorite wine was the 2007 Chardonnay and I'm not usually a fan of Chardonnay. It wasn't very oaky but was rich and buttery with pear/apple flavors and a bit of citrus. This vineyard also takes advantage of one of the newest appellations in CA, called Rockpile which has proven to produce some fine Zinfandels.