Tag Archives: sonoma

Sonoma Travels

Over Labor Day weekend I was able to enjoy two things: a weekend with old and wonderful girlfriends and a weekend away from my toddler (LOVE the child, but time away is rare, therefore glorious!).

What do 10 girls in Sonoma do all day? Visit wineries of course! While we also enjoyed long lunches and brunches, a few winery visits are worth mentioning.

I was obliged to be at the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on Saturday, so I will mention how fantastic that event was – the wines (and food!) were excellent and the weather could not have been better. If you're looking for a great way to spend 5 hours on the Saturday of Labor Day, I highly recommend this festival. Great selection of wines from all over Sonoma, some new labels I'd never seen, as well as some new wineries. And the food… did I mention the food? From Kobe beef sliders to fig pizza, there were some delicious samples going on from the restaurants and food providers of Sonoma. While I was delighting my taste buds at this festivity, the other gals had a memorable visit with Ravenswood, and I returned to find bottles of Zinfandel lined up for later consumption. My red wine drinking friends were quite delighted in the hospitality and wine quality of Ravenswood and I was sorry to miss it.

Sunday's trip included more yummy sipping.

Cuvaison – I'm quite familiar with Cuvaison – I remember they make Chardonnay and I'd recognize their label anywhere, but I could not remember the last time I actually tasted it. Since they've been around for a while, I expected an old school style winery and tasting room, but to our surprise, the winery we entered was hugely modern, with glass walls showing off the sunlight, and lots of room to move. Plus tables! A plethora of tables and chairs for guests to sit and enjoy their wine while taking in the incredible view of Carneros. All these modern-looking glass windows and panes had one more attribute – it helped the winery rely on solar power for much of its energy.
And the wine…
The entry level Chardonnay we tasted was hallmark California Chardonnay, but of the new style – meaning not overly oaked, but nicely balanced between fruit, acid and oak. It was clean, yet rich in texture. It made me remember that Carneros Chardonnay is not Central Coast Chardonnay – this wine had more crisp than creamy in the mouthfeel. We also tasted the higher-end Chardonnay, which, unfortunately, is only sold in restaurants and the tasting room. This always frustrates me as I think consumers should have equal opportunity to buy wine in restaurants and retail stores, but many wineries make labels solely for on-premise use, and the higher end Chardonnay and Pinot at Cuvaison are made in this manner. So while I do recommend – with renewed enthusiasm – the Chardonnay that is well-recognized by all, I also recommend a trip to the winery if you're next in Carneros to taste their other offerings. It was a nice surprise – both the winery set up and the wine itself.

A final added bonus – the winery is directly across from Domaine Carneros! My favorite place to sit on a beautiful day to sip bubbles. Which is exactly what we did. This winery is always worth a visit. The service is knowledgeable and friendly, and the view from the deck is incredible. Plus how can you beat an afternoon munching on cheese, sipping on bubbles and basking in the Sonoma sun?

So your stops for your next trip to Carneros? Cuvaison & Domaine Carneros.
And what you're doing next Labor Day? Sonoma Wine Festival.

When the “big” wine guy helps the “little” wine guy

Last Friday our company outing took us to two wineries for tours and tastings, one of which was DeLoach Vineyards. If you've ever visited DeLoach, nestled in the lovely Russian River Valley of Sonoma, you'll know how impressive it is. As well it should be. The winery is owned by Boisset, one of the largest French wine companies – they own and import a number of wines from France and run a few properties in California, too. The family's line up ranges from easy-drinking quaffable wine to collectible Burgundies. They have positioned themselves at the forefront of the eco movement in wines, packaging a few of their wines in PET bottles and converting DeLoach to organic and then biodynamic farming.

DeLoach is pretty cool in that it has an organic farm, with herbs and vegetables galore, as well as chickens laying fresh eggs and sheep roaming about. It's what you'd call self-sustainable.

Walking through the vineyards with Lisa Heisinger (yeah, she knows her stuff), the general manager, we heard all about their biodynamic practices, as well their efforts to recycle (water & grape pumace). In the barrel room they described the artisan practices used in making Pinot Noir – manual punchdowns, natural yeasts, minimal oak, etc. While I love all of these efforts, it's still wine made from a big company. With a lot of money, who can afford to implement these practices. That said, they are a big company that helps the little guy. We were joined by one of the "little" guys that day.

His name is Ulysses Van der Kamp and he owns Van der Kamp vineyard, which is located in Sonoma Mountain and has been around for over 100 years. You immediately want to talk to Ulysses due to his rugged good looks and piercing blue eyes. He's a farmer. He grows grapes. Pinot Noir grapes, to be specific. That's pretty much it. This man lives and breathes Pinot Noir. His passion is contagious and draws you in. He's the kind of guy that does not take vacation because the grapes don't take vacation. He personally visits each vine at least 12 times a year, doing the pruning himself, focusing on the entire life of the vine. I actually asked him if he gave the vines proper names! (he doesn't)

Ulysses (I choose to call him by his first name because I love it) loves DeLoach and DeLoach loves him. They've been working together for a few years and in 2006, DeLoach released the first Van der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir, part of their Vineyard Designate series. As a grower, dedicated to organic farming and sustainable living, I think Ulysses wants to sell to a winery that feels the same way about the vines. Though he has no say in what happens after DeLoach takes the grapes, he is clearly pleased with the outcome in the bottle – as are we. This wine was fantastic. Bright fruits, lots of dried herbs on the nose. And the palate, while bright with acidity and red fruits, is also coating with its texture, savory character and super lingering finish. A great food Pinot and we loved it with the myriad of foods we had on our plates for lunch.

While it is still a wine run by a big wine family, who makes everything from artisan Pinot Noir to easy-drinking value bottles, they are a big company that thinks like a small one and they represent what you want a "big" company to do – use their money to give back to the earth (organic, recycling, etc) and utilize the artisan growers of the region, like the very lovely Ulysses. Hats off to DeLoach for all that they do up there – making fantastic wine, maintaning a beautful place to visit and most importantly, doing what they can to better the earth they use and the people around it. 

Stay tuned for the Van der Kamp Pinot Noir to show up in our selection. And we hope to head down to Sonoma to talk further with DeLoach and Ulysses.