Picking up where I left off in documenting our wine visits…
Duckhorn Vineyards: Our first winery on Thursday, Duckhorn was set in a lovely country mansion home. We arrived a bit early for our personal tasting, and were poured a complimentary sip while we waited. As we lounged in high seats on the wrap-around porch, we felt that we were truly living the wine life. It is nice to be talked to through tastings, but it is also nice to be left alone sometimes and to just enjoy the experience. I think our favorite wine at Duckhorn was the 2009 Three Palms Merlot, deep enough to stand up to a steak.
Round Pond Estate: I have decided with reluctance to only write a paragraph (or two) on this place, instead of my original idea of dedicating an entire blog entry to the visit.
Round Pond is a true family business, with different members of the family being responsible for the wine, olive oil, etc. They have been producing olive oil for 9 years, wine for only 5 years, and are currently working on adding balsamic vinegar to the mix! We started out by going on a tour of the olive oil mill. I highly recommend this not just because I am half-Greek, but truly because it is a worthwhile and educational experience. We learned the difference between Spanish olives (produce more buttery/mellow olive oil) and Italian olives (more grassy/peppery). We were able to follow the whole process of picking the olives to milling them into olive oil to learning the proper tasting technique. There are even different milling contraptions for Spanish and Italian olives.
I didn’t realize that olive oil is such a controversial commodity, and I now have the book Extra Virginity on my reading list so that I can learn more. Apparently, a lot of what you see in the grocery store is not really olive oil. One takeaway tip is to never buy olive oil in clear glass; it should always be in dark glass, ceramic, or steel. Olive oil actually loses its full flavor quickly, so it should be used right away!
The proper tasting technique is a bit funny and somewhat like wine-tasting: You are supposed to hold the container in your hand to warm it, sniff the oil three times, coat your tongue with the oil, then whistle the substance in to get a true taste! If you cough, that is actually a good sign… you are getting the full effect of the pepper notes.
We ended up buying some mini olive oil bottles, some red wine vinegar, and a small jar of chili salt. This was the first winery where I was very tempted to join the club, because it boasted of incredible foodie treats like the vinegar and oil along with great wine! I think Round Pond is going to take off. As for wine, we did the estate tasting with food pairings (we really went all out at this place), but I think our favorite wine was actually one that we were poured at the olive oil mill as a bit of an afterthought towards the end: The 2008 Nebbiolo, which we bought a half-case of to distribute to family and friends upon our return.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery: This was our first stop on Friday morning, and was certainly one of the most visually stunning wineries that we visited. The wine was not worth remembering, but the place was designed by a Spanish architect and it did bring to mind Gaudi and the feel of Barcelona. I definitely enjoyed that aspect, and was glad we stopped by to take some pictures.
Westwood Tasting Room: Our last stop on our way back to San Fran took us to downtown Sonoma, and it could not have been a better way to say goodbye to wineries. As a result of Yelp, we decided to try out Westwood Tasting Room, which represented a small winery owned by John and Justin. Per the website’s instructions, we sent John a text to let him know we were on our way!
We were the only visitors there on a Friday morning, and we spent a good hour chatting with John and sipping generous pours inside the quaint courtyard tasting area. The setting was heavenly and the company was great, but the wines were seriously incredible. This was the second wine club that I was tempted to join! Instead, we decided to bring back the 2007 redFOUR, Estate Vineyard, Sonoma Valley (we’ve already had it) and the 2004 Pinot Noir, Nicholson Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Library Selection. Amazing. Westwood truly was like the cliffhanger that will bring us back for more of downtown Sonoma (such a quaint foodie/wino spot) and the surrounding area itself.
These two entries only scratch the surface of our wine times in California, but I hope this is helpful for anyone who may be on their way out there! We left with a lot more wine knowledge than we had coming in, and do hope that we get the opportunity to visit again soon.