Napa at its finest!

Mom and Dad came to Healdsburg this week for some wine tasting adventures.  They arrived on Saturday and attending the Petaluma Artisan Cheese Festival.  By the time I met up with them on Monday, they had a whole stash of cheeses waiting to be devoured. So anyone that knows me, realizes I am a total wine freak, so if you are not interested in this blog posting, you may want to visit this random link instead, or both…. Monday started out with an appointment at Tara Bella Winery. Booker the Springer Spaniel greeted us in the driveway, slobbered all over our pants, and preferred his purple Frisbee being thrown over us tasting the Cabernet. Rich the winemaker and owner got off his tractor and invited us into his wine cellar. There is a great video from CNN on their website that gives a wonderful story of their winery. They only make Cabernet- 300 to 500 cases a year.  They have a great story and were so hospitable.  It was a really nice way to start the day.  Next stop was Martin Ray. We pulled up and spotted several picnic tables in the sun, so of course had to break out the CHEESE. Mom knows how to do up a picnic lunch. I think we grazed for 45 minutes on on the delicious goods she brought along. 3 cheeses, a loaf of French bread, olives, bean salad, fruit, salami, it just went on and on.  Another appointment was as Joseph Swan. If the wineries are not highlighted, ummm….not so much.  Tuesday, our first and very best appointment of the day was with Peter’s Family Winery. Doug Peter met us in this crazy conglomerate of wineries in a corporate park.

He started us off with three tastings in his office and then took us out to the barrel room, where we did another 6 tastings.  The biggest thing I/we took away from this tasting was the different tastes that the barrels impart on the wines.  We tasted the same wine in barrels from different forests in France.  Until you’ve sampled the wines, the experience is hard to describe. Although the setting was not vineyard-like, the learning aspect of the tasting was worth the trip! If you are ever out this way, this is the place to go to really learn about the nuances of wines. The next stop was Merry Edwards. She was one of the first women in the valley to make a name for herself and start opening the doors for women wine makers. We had one of her Pinot Noirs a few years back, but the winery only distributed to restaurants at the time.  Now there is a beautiful tasting room and a classy tasting waiting to be had.  Then onto one of my favorites Iron Horse. Five tastings of champagnes amidst one of the best views in the valley. Wednesday started us out at Saddle Back Winery. The weather was picture perfect, so the wine tasting was held on the edge of the vineyards at a picnic table. One of my very favorite wines is Groth, and learned that the wine maker at Saddle Back Winery used to be the wine maker for them. There is something to be said while sipping a Viognier and taking in the three rows of grapes right in front of you that produced the wine.  Next, Mom hooked us up with a really neat tasting room called Maisonry. The art in the building is local and changes every month. It is funky and cool-and half of the stuff you shake your head at, not quite sure what it is. The tasting was held outside at a 35 ft. Red Wood table.  We tried four boutique wines- some only producing 200 cases a year. The wineries are too small to have a tasting room, so they have paired up with Maisonry to showcase the wines.  The picture of Mom is from here. I love that shot of her!  Dinner that night was at Bouchon. This is one of Thomas Kellers’ restaurants, but a much more scaled down version.  As always the food was excellent.  The picture of the French onion soup is from there. Next door is the bakery and I got 6 mini brownies…to die for and a huge peanut butter cup, so rich one or two bites lasted me a few days. On the last day, we saved the best for last, Robert Young Winery.  This was the first wineries that I went to and loved all of the wines. Usually, you may like one or two from a wine maker, but this winery is consistent every year.  The laws changed a few years back and was able to join their wine club, so now I am able to get the wine on a regular basis.  It is family run- 5 generations.  Small quantities.  And for anyone who has seen Sideways, I guarantee you will drink their Merlot. We were able to go up to the top of the hill on the property and have a picnic lunch. (Me in the picture) The final stop of the day was Zichichi Winery.  This is a doctor who lived in New Orleans and after Katrina hit, packed his bags and came to Alexander Valley with his family.  The wines are very limited, most sell out before bottling even begins.  We had a great time and as always Russian River/Napa have a wonderful place in my heart. And for the last bit of crazy news, as much as I love that part of CA, overall San Francisco has been a bust. My internship took a nose dive very quickly- I’ll save you the gory details, but this girl doesn’t work with roaches or unconscious assholes. It has been really difficult securing a second internship.  A wonderful catering company allowed me to do some hours, but I am far from finished at this point.  Between the pathetic public transportation, smog, and horrendous amounts of homeless people I’ve decided that San Fran is not the place for me. After sampling many restaurants and their version of good food, I contacted a place in NY called Dirt Candy and was able to secure an internship there. I start in a week and plan on calling NY home for awhile. Nothing lost, nothing gained. Gromit gets the “Cat of The Year” award for all the miles he has on him. Nothing that a sun beam and some wet food won’t fix. Ciao

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