Winery Visit: Idlewild Wines

With so many wineries in California, it’s incredibly important for new producers to find an angle or niche that sets them apart from the rest. Enter Sam Bilbro, a California native who makes soulful wines under the label Idlewild Wines. His focus is primarily wines made from Piedmontese grapes, such as Nebbiolo, Cortese, Arneis, Barbera, and Dolcetto. In a sea of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, these Italian-inspired wines are a breath of fresh air.

I first learned about Idlewild while tasting with their distributor last year. I was looking for interesting California whites and they showed me Idlewild’s 2013 Arneis. I was taken aback by how different it was – rich and broad on the palate, floral and aromatic on the nose, and balanced with a nice fresh finish. I introduced this wine to the Winelandia wine club last spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust last week I had a rare opportunity to visit Sam’s new production facility (sorry kids, it’s not open to the public) – a warehouse in Geyserville which used to be home to a mushroom farm. Sam informed me that the facility provides the perfect environment to make wine – cold, damp, and smack-dab in the middle of wine country. He is the first person to produce wine in the facility, which means that it’s unlikely commercial yeasts have set up shop in the building. This is important for winemakers like Sam who utilize “ambient”, “indigenous”, or “native” yeast fermentations, as commercial yeasts tend to be a lot stronger than native yeasts and can take over un-inoculated fermentations.

We tasted through a lovely lineup of Sam’s new releases, including his Arneis, The Bee (a muscat-based white blend), The Flower (a rosé blend), “The Bird” (a red blend), Barbera, and Nebbiolo. All of the wines seemed to follow a theme – bright, joyful, high-toned, aromatic, and varietally correct. Never before have I had a Nebbiolo from California that tasted like a proper Nebbiolo. I walked away from the tasting feeling invigorated and inspired; these are the kinds of wines that excite me.

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While we don’t have any Idlewild wines in the shop at the moment, we will be picking some up very soon. Keep an eye out in the Winelandia online store for these fantastic wines. If you just can’t wait, you can buy them directly from the Idlewild Wines website.

It’s Harvest Time in Wine Country

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Monday morning, I got out of bed at 4am so that I could be at a Saratoga vineyard by 6am to help some friends pick grapes for a wine they intend to make under their new label, Thistle. The wine will be styled after those made in Côte-Rôtie – mostly Syrah co-fermented with a small percentage of Viognier (an aromatic white grape). The idea behind adding 5%-10% of Viognier to your Syrah has a few purposes, but the primary idea is that the Viognier makes the wine more fragrant and floral, while also bringing out the aromatics in the Syrah.

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If you’ve never harvested grapes before, let it be known that it is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. While the weather was initially cool and foggy, the sun eventually came out and gave us all a relentless beat-down. In addition to the hot sun, some of the vineyard was on a pretty steep hill, making it even more difficult to maintain a foothold and harvest the fruit. There were about 10 of us picking 1.25 acres, and while we worked hard, it still took us until about 3pm to finish the pick. The end result is highly satisfying, seeing the fruits of your labor (har) all neatly piled up in buckets and bins.

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The greatest part about harvest is the group effort and camaraderie – everyone is working as hard as you are, and plugging along towards the same goal. Most people don’t know how much manual labor goes into the production of fine, hand-crafted wine. A lot of grapes are harvested by machines, but the best wines are gently harvested by hand.

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The hard work and heat were punctuated by copious amounts of barbecue, delicious cider from Normandy, a little bit of Champagne, and the company of good friends. The shady knoll we had our picnic on was a welcome oasis.

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Above: Thistle winemaker Aran Healy sabering a bottle of cider from Normandy with a pair of shears.

P9080150At the end of the day, we had harvested just over 2 tons of fruit (that’s over 4,000 lbs). I feel fortunate to know so many hard-working, ambitious, and creative people who make fine wine.

P9080155I’m looking forward to trying the new Thistle 2014 Syrah/Viognier!

We Went on the Korbel Tour, Y’all

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If I had a nickel for every time Colleen and I drove past the Korbel winery on River Road in the Russian River Valley, I might have enough money for a BART ride to the East Bay. Truth be told, I hadn’t had a Korbel wine in many years, if ever. All I knew is that they mass-produce sparkling wine. Colleen and I have been saying that we need to go on the tour for years…

Well, just this last weekend, Colleen bought me a night at our favorite somewhat-sketchy wine country hotel, The Sandman, as a birthday gift. It’s a magical place; loads of pillows, hot tub, pool, Carrow’s across the parking lot, and most importantly a waffle iron in the continental breakfast room. That’s right, after sleeping atop your mountain of pillows, you can wake up and go eat as many waffles as you can before you rupture your stomach, then get into the hot tub. It’s heaven. Rooms are only about $100 per night and they have good availability.

Looking for things to do to pass the time while in wine country (or Winelandia, we we call it), we decided that a trip to Korbel was in the cards. We are big fans of cheap-or-free things to do, and we’ve pretty thoroughly burned ourselves out on wine tasting in the area. At the very least, we thought it would be fun to pretend to be wine tourists for the day.

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Above: Colleen being a wine tourist

The tour itself lasted about an hour and was led by a very enthusiastic guide. She showed us some of the older structures which were built when the winery was a saw mill. The land the winery resides on used to be a dense old-growth redwood forest, which was clear-cut to make room for the winery. They milled and sold the wood to builders in San Francisco, and later built a winery. Next, the guide took us down to the old cellars, by far the most interesting part of the trip. Down there they had huge, old, large-format oak casks, which until about 2012 were used for aging the Korbel wines. These casks were retired and left in the cellar since they would be difficult to remove due to their size. I noticed the barrel hoops were loose and the staves were beginning to separate, due to being left empty.

P7120018Next, we were taken to the area where the wines were riddled before riddling was taken off-site. The second owner of the Korbel winery actually invented an automated riddling rack, which made the riddling process much easier and faster than doing it by hand. It was a pretty cool machine, and with the flip of a switch the bottles on the riddling machine would rattle and shake, then jolt into another position. The tour guide demonstrated this process, which was both noisy and fascinating.

P7120026There were oddities all over this place, strange equipment from yesteryear that you would probably need a historian to identify. If anyone knows what this thing is, please let me know, because I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me (and was also too lazy to ask!).

P7120010At the end of the tour, we were taken to a room which hosted the World’s Largest Bottle of “Champagne”, as well as the World’s Largest “Champagne” Goblet. This was definitely the icing on the cake. The only thing left to do was taste the “California Champagne” that made Korbel a household name.

P7120027After being led to the tasting room, we tasted a flight of 8 wines, picking the ones we thought were most interesting. Our favorite was the Korbel Brut “California Champagne” made from organic grapes, which was the most palatable of all the wines. I lost it when we got to the “Moscato Frizzante California Champagne”, because there is just so much wrong with that sentence.

In conclusion, the Korbel tour is full of history and interesting factoids about the early California wine industry, how Korbel survived prohibition, and the industrialization of Korbel wines. We learned why Korbel is allowed to call their wine Champagne, which is something that France wants them to stop doing. The building itself is really cool, and worth checking out if you’re in the area with some time to kill. The tour is free, as is the tasting. More information can be found here: http://www.korbel.com/winery/

 

 

 

 

Go Wine Tasting in the Bay Area – Six Urban Wineries


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Ever want to go wine tasting, but the idea of driving all the way up to wine country put the squash on your desire? Perhaps you’re without a car, and want to enjoy the spoils of artisan wine from the comfort of your own city? You’re in luck, because there are quite a few “urban wineries” all over the Bay Area. Whether you’re in the East Bay or San Francisco, there’s a winery for you. Here’s a list of our favorites!

Campovida
95 Linden Street
Oakland, CA 94607
510-550-7273
Campovida has a new urban winery in Oakland, opened just last year. They produce several Rhone varietal wines from their organic estate vineyards in Hopland, CA. The new tasting room is located near Jack London Square, and it’s a beautiful space. If you are doing the urban winery circuit in Oakland, be sure to pay them a visit. Open Tues-Fri 4:30pm-9:30pm and Sat-Sun 12:00pm-9:30pm. $10 tasting fee for 6 wines, waived with the purchase of a bottle.

Treasure Island Wines
995 9th Street
Bldg. 201
San Francisco, CA 94130
415-394-9463
There are a few wineries on Treasure Island these days, but Treasure Island Wines is by far my favorite. It’s a co-op space used by several winemakers that all share a facility and resources. Come by this winery on a Saturday or Sunday to taste through a collection of wines produced in their facility. This is an excellent value since they will often pour through everything they have open. Open Saturdays and some Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. $5 tasting fee refunded with purchase.

Bluxome Street Winery
53 Bluxome Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
415-543-5353
Bluxome Street Winery is a lovely winery and event space located in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco. It’s a fairly new facility but they make some tasty wines (mostly from the Russian River Valley AVA) and are open during the week. So, if you work in SoMa and are looking for a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, this is a great place to stop by and do a quick tasting at (or enjoy a whole glass of wine). They sometimes have a food truck parked outside. Open 12pm-7pm Tuesday thru Sunday. Tasting flights are $10-$15 and full glasses are $6-$15.

Donkey & Goat
1340 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-868-9174
Jared and Tracy Brandt are the proprietors of Donkey and Goat. Their wines are super-natural and made with Rhone varietals, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. Donkey & Goat produces soulful and unapologetically honest wines, paving the way for many natural winemakers in California. The tasting room is located near the fancy shops at 4th Street in Berkeley and you shouldn’t miss this if you are in the area. Tasting room is open from 2pm-6pm, Friday through Sunday. Tasting fee is $10 and waived with a purchase.

Broc Cellars
1300 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-542-9463
Chris Brockway is the mastermind behind this great project, whose winery is located just a half a block away from Donkey & Goat. Brockway produces wines with a natural slant at a reasonable price point, mostly from lesser-known varieties. Stop by Broc Cellars if you are in the area and be sure to also visit Donkey & Goat while you’re there. Open Saturday & Sunday from 1pm-5pm. $5 tasting fee waived with purchase.

Dasche Cellars
55 4th Street
Oakland, CA 94607
510-452-1800
Dasche Cellars is located right by Jack London Square and produces some really outstanding Zinfandel. I am particularly fond of their native yeast Zinfandels, which are both delicious and affordable. These wines are made in a more old-world style with older French oak barrels, low SO2 levels, and without fining or filtering. They also produce a rosé, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon & Petite Sirah. Open Thursday thru Sunday from 12pm to 5pm in the winter, and until 6pm in the summer. Tasting fee is $10 and refunded with a purchase.

Winery Visit: Wind Gap

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If you dig back into the annals of Winelandia history, you’ll find a few storied visits to Wind Gap – starting at their prior facility in Forestville, and moving with them to their brand new winery and tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. We’ve known about Pax and his incredible winemaking skills for several years, and hope you all seek them out too! We are, it’s true, big fans.

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A few Saturdays ago, I went to check out the Wind Gap winery open house, to help them warm it (it was their first big event in the new space), and to try the new spring 2014 wines. Let me tell you, if you get a chance, check out a) the wines and b) the space. It’s a beautiful warehouse facility with high ceilings, metal beams, and concrete floors. Pax and Pam Mahle host this party annually, and it’s easy to attend – just add yourself to the Wind Gap mailing list from their website, and an invitation will come your way next April. I love this party so much, I bring guests every year – and compete with them to see how many oysters we can each finish. With Hog Island oysters, a special featured treat (this year is was pork belly buns), a variety of cheeses and meats, and pouring stations with the new wines for the season – not to mention live music! – it’s truly not to be missed.

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We tasted through 7 wines, but my top 3 are listed below:

  • The 2013 Trousseau Gris, which Pax is known for, and deserves a post in its own right. This light, acidic, and lively white wine from a nearly-forgotten varietal and vineyard in Sonoma County goes so well with the oysters Wind Gap serves alongside, I almost can’t imagine a better pairing. Except maybe a patio chair and an 80 degree day.
  • The 2013 Pinot Gris, which is skin fermented – Tala and I are crazy for these wines lately! This Pinot Gris is a deep copper color, with a hint of structure and spice, but it’s so clean and flawless that there’s a world of food pairings with this wine. Try it with mushroom dishes or salmon. I’m drinking it tonight with a “kitchen sink” dish of fregula, quinoa, green garlic, and baby artichokes. It doesn’t get lost in the complexity of flavors, and doesn’t overwhelm either.
  • The 2012 Sceales Vineyard Grenache is whole cluster, which gives it a nice amount of tannin, and some feral qualities. It’s never seen oak, so the flavor is pure Grenache – but this is an intense glass. It’s almost brooding, but not heavy.

You can try these wines at their tasting room, which is open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-6pm. Clocking in at just over an hour from San Francisco, it’s easy to get to, and offers plenty of exploration nearby. The Barlow is home to several other wineries, as well as a coffee roaster, distillery, brewery, and more. I encourage you to check it out, walk around, and taste through their portfolio! The wines – and the tasting room – are worth the drive.

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Wine 101: Traveling with Wine

Wine often travels long distances before it makes it’s way into your home. Perhaps you purchased some wine on a weekend trip to wine country and drove it home in the trunk of your car. Maybe it was shipped to you from a wine club or online retailer, from many cities or states away. Imported wines also have to travel a long distance to get to the US, and they often make it onto a retailer’s shelves just a week or two after passing through customs.

Many wine professionals believe that you should let your wine “rest” after it spends any time on the road. A wine that has been exposed to the elements of long-distance travel often tastes different than the same wine that has not. There are a variety of mysterious reasons for this, but two factors are temperature fluctuations and vibration during travel. I’ve experienced “travel sickness” in wine many times first-hand, and it took me a few encounters to realize what was going on.

Travel sickness and heat damage are two different things. Travel sickness seems to resolve on it’s own with a little time, while there’s no cure for a wine that’s been overheated. You never want to let your wine get hot, or expose it to excessive temperature fluctuations. When wine gets warm, the liquid expands and pushes the air out of the bottle. When it cools back down, the liquid contracts, pulling oxygen into the bottle, and causing oxidation. This is one of the reasons wine collectors store their wine in climate-controlled warehouses with very specific, stable temperatures and humidity. Wine that was exposed to hot temperatures often tastes stewed, prune-y, high in alcohol, bitter, or astringent.

Wines that are simply “travel sick” often seem disjointed or out of balance. Perhaps the wine tastes more acidic than it usually does, or the oak is very pronounced. Maybe the nose is muted and closed, when the wine is typically very aromatic. Sometimes the tannin can seem abrasive and harsh, while under normal circumstances they are well-integrated and firm. Letting the wine sit in a cool, dark place for several days, weeks, or months, seems to cure it of this ailment.

Here are some basic guidelines for traveling with wine, or caring for wine that has traveled a long distance:

  • Don’t buy from retailers or wineries who ship during the hot summer months without taking extra precautions to ensure your wine won’t be exposed to extreme temperatures during shipping, or left on your porch on very hot or cold days.
  • If you do have wine shipped, let it sit in a cool, dark place for at least a week (preferably longer) before you drink it.
  • Never leave wine in your car on a warm day. Even a cool, sunny day can be enough to make your car inhospitable to wine. If you are planning on leaving wine in your car, bring a small cooler and some ice packs to keep it cool.
  • If you’re going on a far-away adventure on an airplane, remember that most airlines will allow you to check wine like luggage before the security checkpoint. Bring some of your favorite bottles to enjoy on your trip, or bring some discoveries back with you from your travels. Wine shipping boxes are a good idea for transport and can be purchased from most packaging supply stores. Check with your airline for specific policies for transporting wine.

It’s important to remember that wine is a living, breathing thing, as well as a food product. Care must be taken when moving it around if you want it to be as delicious as it was made to be. Do your yourself and your favorite winemakers a favor by following these simple guidelines.

7 Fun Ways to Survive the Drought in California

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a bit dry, wouldn’t you say?

Here in the Bay Area, we are accustomed to the major metropolitan areas being empty on the weekends during “ski season”. The entire Bay Area population seems to migrate north-east to Tahoe. Some of my friends I don’t see for a good 6 months out of the year. Well, we haven’t had much (if any) snow, so I’m going to put my money on you spending your weekends wondering what the heck to do with all this free time and abundant sunshine.

I’ve put together this list of fun, local daytime activities to keep you entertained while you quietly pray for snow.

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1. Visit a California State Park. Your hard-earned tax dollars help fund one of the country’s most prized park systems. Many of the parks are open year-round, and there’s no excuse not to go with all this great weather. Some of my favorites include:

  • Point Lobos State Reserve (above). About 2.5 hours south of San Francisco just past Monterey, this park is considered the “Crown Jewel” of the State park system. Azure waters, abundant wildlife, tidal pools, and stunning sunsets await you.
  • Redwood Regional Park. While this is not technically a State Park, it’s convenient to get to and beautiful. Did you know that you could hike through a shady redwood forest without leaving the East Bay? The main trailheads are located on Skyline Blvd. in the Oakland hills. There are tons of great day-hikes and many of the trails are dog-friendly.
  • San Bruno Mountain State Park. Just 5 minutes south of San Francisco, this practically unknown park has some of the most amazing views of San Francisco you’ve ever seen. Gorgeous wildflowers, sweeping views, picnic areas, and rare plants and animals are abundant here. There are about 8 miles of single-track and fire trails to hike and some of them (but not all) are bicycle-friendly.
  • Montara Mountain State Park. Climb a mountain in Pacifica and find yourself above the fogline. It’s just a few minutes down Highway 1 from San Francisco. Lots of mountain bikers and trail runners enjoy these trails as well. This 1800′ climb will get your blood pumping and show you some amazing ocean views.

golden gate2. Ride your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge with a friend, get lunch at Fish., and take a ferry back from Sausalito. Normally this route is completely overrun with tourists, but the off season should give you some respite from the sea of rental bicycles. Fish has some of the best sustainable seafood in the Bay Area, and their outdoor seating will give you an opportunity to enjoy some delicious craft beers the sunshine. I recommend ordering the Crab Roll. If you’re on a budget, order the grilled cheese sandwich off the kid’s menu (it’s really good and comes with a huge pile of fries). Then, take the ferry back to SF from Sausalito.

P11200213. Take a trip to Wine Country, using our handy Tasting Room Guide. Right now wine country is pretty quiet and it’s a great time to check out the local producers while they have time to spend with you. Most of the fermentations are over (while others are sleeping) and pretty much all that’s happening is pruning in the vineyards. Chat with the local farmers about the drought, and be sure to stop at Rosso Pizzeria in Petaluma for some delicious burrata and pizza on your way home.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. Rent a paddle-boat and enjoy a picnic on your local reservoir before it disappears. Lots of places rent them. You can find them on Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette (above), the San Pablo Reservoir in San Pablo… you get the picture. This is a great way to enjoy some sunshine, munch on some delicious food & wine, and get a little exercise all without creating any carbon emissions.
sailing5. Since we’re talking about boats, why not rent a charter boat and go sailing on the San Francisco Bay? There are tons of companies that will sell you a ticket for a “sunset cruise” for about $40. The water has been pretty calm lately, so it would be a great time to grab a ticket to cruise the bay on the Adventure Cat (my personal favorite), or any of the other various boats selling tickets along Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Don’t forget to bring a jacket, it gets windy out there.
pinnacles6. Head down to Pinnacles National Park. It’s east of Salinas and easy to get to for a day-trip. In the summer, this place is dangerously hot (temperatures can climb to 120F), but in the winter and spring it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. An ancient volcano, the Pinnacles have been slowly moving up a major fault line over the last 3 million years. Giant spires of rock jut up out of the ground like fingers. You can hike all the way around the park in a day, and it’s about 9 miles total. Bring a flashlight because part of the hike requires you navigate through a series of pitch-black caves. There are also lots of California Condors, which have been brought back from the brink of extinction. If you decide you want to stay the night, there are camping options as well as The Inn at the Pinnacles – a wonderful bed & breakfast owned by the lovely Brosseau family. The B&B is on an organic vineyard that produces some really great Chardonnay from the Chalone AVA, and lies atop one of the largest limestone swaths in California.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Head north to Hog Island Oyster Farm. This place is usually crawling with people, and I can’t guarantee it won’t be this time of year, either. Go anyway; pack up a picnic, a cooler, & your shucking knife. If they have tables available, hang out at the farm and shuck to your heart’s content (if you don’t know how, watch a youtube video and start practicing). If there are no tables, pack your cooler with oysters, then head to Point Reyes where you will find endless picnic areas waiting for you to use for free.

Yeah, it sucks we are in a major drought. Who knows what that means for our great state in the long run. I say, enjoy the sunshine while it’s here, because tomorrow it might be gone. Let’s all make the best of the situation. Take advantage of what our great state has to offer!

What are your favorite dry-season activities? Let us know in the comments!

Winery Visit: Porter-Bass Vineyard

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This drought is really something, isn’t it? There’s something eerie about it being 65 degrees on a January afternoon, wispy clouds dotting the horizon after the only rain we’ve had so far this winter – if you could even call it a rain. More like a dampening. Enough to keep the dust down. Anyway, it was this day after the “rain” that Tala and I headed out to Winelandia again, to visit a producer we love. Luke Bass is the wine grower/proprietor of Porter-Bass Wines outside of Guerneville. This property, deep in western Sonoma county, tucked right near the Russian River, produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in small quantities. They sell fruit that becomes some of the most sought after Chard in the area – Ceritas makes a Porter-Bass Chardonnay, as does Littorai.

But Luke also makes his own wine from this property – entirely biodynamic in the vineyard and the winery, and we think a great secret of Sonoma wine country. The wines are fresh and lively, with great acid and subtlety. Perfect for sipping with friends, but balanced and very food-friendly too. Tala and I have been impressed with the Chardonnays for quite some time, because they’ve got a great zingy acidity that many California Chardonnays lack, but they don’t compromise on texture either. What a great find! The Pinots are bright and fruity, and the Zinfandels are almost ethereal. Floral, light, and just… Just delightful. I feel precious even describing wine that way, but they are just a delight to drink.

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On this afternoon, it was like the wines and the air were mimicking each other – each trying to upstage the other with more freshness and brightness. Surrounded by redwoods and pines, the small property is about as idyllic as it gets for California wine country. I mean, I think Healdsburg and Alexander Valley and Calistoga and the Santa Cruz Mountains and Forestville  –  all these places are stunning. But visiting Porter-Bass feels like you’re discovering something, which is hard to say about wine country these days. It kindof feels like a secret. Clean air, crisp wines, just you and Luke and a few bottles of his great product. 

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I hadn’t been to Porter-Bass in a year or more, and I was reminded how great these wines taste, and how great a property it is to visit. Luke is a character, with plenty to say about how he makes his wines and why, and great thoughts about the present and future of the industry that surrounds him. It was a wonderful Sunday adventure, and our first visit to the wine country in quite some time.  In particular, we recommend picking up a bottle of Zinfandel – you won’t regret it! It’s a great bottle to show you what Zin can become in a different setting, in a different pair of hands. 

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Porter-Bass is open by appointment only. They’re located on Mays Canyon Road outside Guerneville, CA. If you visit in spring or summer, ask Luke if he’s got any spare eggs. They’re amazing.

Winery Visit: Copain Wines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s no secret that I’m obsessed with wines from the Jura. White, red, yellow, sparkling, rosé – I love them all. The red wines are particularly delicious to me, so you might imagine how excited I was to find that Copain – a local producer based in the Russian River Valley – was growing and making wine from the Trousseau grape. There are only a handful of Californian producers that I know of making wine from Trousseau – one being the renowned Arnot-Roberts – which they have made since 2009. It turns out, the Copain plantings of Trousseau are grafted from the original vines used to produce the Arnot-Roberts Trousseau.

Colleen happened to be the person to introduce me to this great wine from Copain. We enjoyed a bottle of it over dinner at her house one fateful night. I was taken aback by it’s freshness, finesse, texture, and the outright Jura-ness of it. A California red wine epiphany. It was like drinking red Jura without the reductive aromas often found in Jura reds. I was in love with this bizarre little bottle from our home turf.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(above photo is a Jura red, not the one from Copain)

I eventually found this wine again at Ruby Wine in Potrero Hill, and snapped up a bottle before it was all gone. Revisiting this wine really cemented how I initially felt about it, and it was showing even better the second time around. It was floral, spicy, and fruity all at once. It’s not often you can find a wine from California with so much elegance, complexity and femininity. It was full of texture while still being light on it’s feet. I was crushed when I found out that the Trousseau was all sold out for the year – I’d hoped to score some of it for the Winelandia Wine Club. I guess I can wait until next year.

The Copain Trousseau is what inspired a trip to the Copain winery in the Russian River Valley – just off Eastside road in Healdsburg. I headed up there just this past weekend to taste through their current offerings and to see the estate. You have to make an appointment to visit, so be sure to call before stopping by. It’s conveniently located just off Highway 101 in Healdsburg.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon arriving, I was immediately enamored by the beauty of their estate. Small and rustic, it overlooks Riverfront Regional Park, a gorgeous little oasis complete with a redwood grove and multi-use trails for bikes, equestrians and hikers. The park would be a great place to enjoy a picnic at if you are visiting the winery, as the picnic area at the winery is reserved for wine club members only. They have 13 acres planted here – all of which is Picpoul Blanc, Trousseau and Poulsard. Everything is farmed sustainably, encompassing both organic and Biodynamic practices (although they are not certified for either). I took a seat at one of the comfy wooden chairs out front, and Phil graciously began my Farm Table tasting beneath the strangely warm January sun.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhil poured for me all of their current offerings, beginning with their estate Picpoul Blanc. This neat little wine is aged in neutral French oak, which gave it body and character not normally found in your typical Picpoul Blanc porch-pounder. It was a great entrance to the wines that would follow, which included their entry-level “Tous Ensemble” Chardonnay, followed by several Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The Pinot Noirs, mostly from the Anderson Valley area, showed rich and flavorful typicity of the region. The Syrahs – from the Yorkville Highlands – were dark, savory, and brooding. All of their red wines (the Syrahs in particular) showed tons of aging potential with great structure and balanced acidity. Copain wines are definitely Californian in style, but with restraint and balance normally reserved for the Old World.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Farm Table tasting also included a delicious spread of local cheeses, meats, and snacks. I especially enjoyed the crostini with white bean purée and fried rosemary. Everything paired beautifully with the wines that were served, the abundant sunshine, and the relaxing view. It doesn’t get much better than this – it’s the Holy Grail of the wine country experience.

I appreciate the warm hospitality shown to me by my host, Phil, and the beautiful wines made by Wells Guthrie. Winelandia hopes to offer wines from Copain in the future, as we feel they are one of the better producers in California. We highly recommend you stop by Copain for a visit if you’re planning a trip to the Russian River Valley – you won’t be disappointed. They are just an hour and a half north of San Francisco. Be sure to call ahead to schedule, as they are appointment only.

Copain Wines
7800 Eastside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 836-8822

Day Trip: Point Lobos State Reserve

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the past month or so, we’ve had some unseasonably sunny and warm weather here on the West coast. While the dryness and warmth is sligthly unnerving, I look at what’s happening with the weather in other parts of the world and I feel fortunate. We may be having a record-breaking dry spell, but the sunny skies and hospitable temperatures are definitely favorable to tornadoes, typhoons and snowfall. I’m sure you all can agree.

My husband’s birthday came around a few weeks ago, which happened to fall on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. He had some time off, and his birthday wish was to go to as many beautiful places as we could. My mom had been posting some gorgeous photos she’d taken in Point Lobos the previous weekend, so I scooped him up and dragged him all the way down to Point Lobos State Reserve, just past Monterey on Highway 1. It was the middle of the day when we decided to head down there, which meant that we would make it just in time for sunset.

Point Lobos is a little swath of marine biodiversity just south of the hustle & bustle of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a popular tourist destination about 2 hours south of San Francisco. Point Lobos has gained the protection of the state of California for plenty of good reasons: It’s a habitat for many endangered plants and animals, and it’s considered to be one of the richest marine ecosystems in California. You will spot sea otters, harbor seals, whales, brown pelicans mid-migration, sea urchins, deer, and many other wild friends. Point Lobos is considered the crown jewel of California’s state park system, and it’s not hard to see why.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have many childhood memories of this place, and I can remember being in awe of all the various little creatures in the tidal pools. Hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, and all manners of seaweed can be found in these pools. This is a great place to take your kids to teach them about marine life (but leave the dog-friend at home – they aren’t allowed here).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s also a photographer’s dream – the Husband and I both brought our cameras and spent the whole afternoon taking beautiful photos to share with you. One thing he and I have in common is our love of photography. I gifted him with a carbon fiber tripod for his birthday, and we wanted to put it to good use. With his new gear, he found many opportunities to capture his birthday moments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got tons of photos of little sea creatures, interesting rock formations, ocean waves, and migrating birds. Once the sun was getting low, we packed up and started walking back to where we started from. Right as we arrived at our starting point, the sun began to set and we stopped to get a few more photos before we had to go (the park closes promptly 30 minutes after sunset).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our walk back to the parking lot, we encountered some VERY friendly deer, who hammed it up for the camera.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you find yourself with an itch to get in the car and go somewhere beautiful, Point Lobos is an excellent destination. You could even take the long route, heading all the way down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Check out this blog post for some sightseeing destinations along the “Slow Coast”. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a sandwich, some water, cash for parking, and your camera. You won’t be disappointed!

Point Lobos State Reserve
Route 1 Box 62
Carmel, CA 93923
831-624-4909

Winter Hours:

8:00am to 1/2 hour after sunset.

Daylight Savings Time Hours:
8:00am to 7:00pm