I haven’t posted for a while. We’re working on a new content management system and a new concept for Wine Questers. We will probably move most of the content to a new iPad only app but continue with our Winery Quest Pro iPhone app.
Every year the site traffic starts to grow nicely and then Google makes a big change in their search algorithm and tanks WineQuesters.com in the search pages. This kills our traffic and eats piles of our time trying to recover. We’ve had enough.
Our plan now is to leave the maps on WineQuesters.com but the main features will move to the iPad app and we will integrate the winery profiles with user’s Facebook Timeline stories. Users will be able to share their wine tasting experiences with their friends like never before.
As we all know, stories are better after a few tastings
See you soon,
Driving south on Silverado Trail from Calistoga you’ll notice a large stone facade home and winery set against a redwood forest hill. The gate is often closed but when it is open drop into Paoletti Estates Winery and enter the main winery door for tasting. We found Gianni Paoletti, the owner and a well known Los Angeles restauranteur, pouring his wines.
Tasting is done seated at a long table with Gianni hovering over the guests telling stories and explaining his wine. He obviously loves entertaining tasters and is a world-class gracious host.
The grounds around the winery are beautifully landscaped and the picnic area is one of the best, and least crowded, in Napa Valley. It has a big view north to Mt. St. Helena with the forested sides of Spring and Howell Mountains on either side. It is an idyllic setting for an afternoon of munching and tasting.
Gianni has a wide selection of surprisingly affordable wines. When you see the estate you would think nothing less than $50 but half that is common and some wines are around $20! His trademark Piccolo Cru Cabernet – Merlot blend is a big fun wine. In the 2008 vintage there is much nose, body, and finish but the tannins aren’t overwhelming. The Fiore 2007 Sangiovese is full body and rich but delicate on the tongue. The 2007 Napa Valley Cab is a full body wine with rich fruit and medium tannins for a stunning $26. He treated us to a 1998 Cab – Sangiovese blend that had good structure and was softened with age. The nose, body, finish, and tannins were moderate. It took a while for this wine to open up so we hung around and Gianni was very good at interesting conversation.
Beautiful mission style South Coast Winery in the Temecula Valley wine region is one of my favorites. While the wines are good and the tasting room is inviting the restaurant and landscaping make this winery a unique experience. The gardens are extensive and usually something is blooming. The large dining room is ski lodge style with heavy timbers and romantic booths along with a friendly bar. The rear deck is popular for breakfast on warm mornings and is where I always have breakfast when I’m in the area. My favorite are the banana pancakes, a house special.
The winery also has lodging and a large event center onsite. Wine club members have a special treat, a shaded patio just for them. Next to the tasting room is a large gift shop full of treasures.
The bar in South Coast doesn’t serve hard liquor but they make up for that with exciting and creative Grappa cocktails. The menu should have something for everyone including Appletini, Cosmo, Chocolatini, Lemon Drop, Pomegranatini, Bloody Mary, Margarita, and whatever a Bellini is.
Enjoy your visit and plan on spending some time in the tasting room, gift shop, dining room, and wandering the gardens.
Aver Family Vineyards is a tiny operation with their tasting room in the garage of their new Tuscan style home. The home and surroundings in the Uvas Canyon are beautiful and serene. The picnic area is in front of the home and includes a great view of the little valley and surrounding mountains. They are surrounded by several acres of vines and their view includes the vineyards of Kirgin and Jason Stephens wineries. Amazing setting up on the hill a bit! A good place to buy a bottle to share with a late picnic lunch and soak up the warm sun in the valley.
We were warmly greeted and John did a fine job of explaining their wines. Their estate Cab was a bit too soft for us, which means it should be wildly popular for most people, but we really enjoyed their “Hope” Rhone blend. It has a BIG interesting nose, modest body with soft fruits, and a soft but long finish. Very well compiled.
While driving around searching for wineries with tasting rooms regularly open to the public we wander into some wonderful settings. Maple Creek Winery is one of our favorites for picnicking. It is located along the mountainous Mendocino County part of Highway 128 in the Yorkville Highlands AVA area west of Cloverdale in the Alexander Valley. Route 128 snakes through Napa Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Yorkville area into Anderson Valley then on to the coast. It is an amazing wine trail and the mountain section in Mendocino County is fun to drive and explore.
The 180 acre mountain ranch is a terrific setting for a relaxing and scenic winery picnic and we’ve picnicked there twice.
Vintner Tom Rodrigues is a painter and stained glass artist and displays his crafts in the rustic barn tasting room. Tom and his wife Linda are gracious hosts at their winery events in front of the tasting room and anchored around an old farm truck.
Their 2007 Chardonnay is French oak fermented and rather soft with moderate aroma and finish. We paired it with sea bass for a nice meal. For desert we opened their Artevino brand Cowboy Red blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Carignane which is a nice full bodied aromatic wine.
The 180 acre ranch has edible mushrooms, wild boar, orchards, vineyards, 2 miles of creek and 7 springs. They can live, and drink, off the land in their wild mountain retreat. You can drop by, enjoy a wine tasting and picnic, and savoir their lifestyle for a few hours.
Husch is a small family owned winery in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. The winery was founded in 1971 and is the oldest in the Anderson Valley. The setting is one of our favorites with a tiny rustic tasting room in an old farmstead and a lawn with picnic tables on the mowed grass or on the deck. It is calmly romantic and the staff is always delightful. They produce a couple dozen wines with their estate Mendocino grapes so there is plenty to taste.
While Anderson Valley is well known for Pinot Noir there are many varieties produced in the valley and nearby AVA’s.
We purchased a half dozen bottles of wine and enjoyed each with various foods. The 2010 Sauv Blanc was big for peaches and aromatics. Really a delight. The 2007 Cab Sauv was aged 14 months in French and American oak and is a big Cab but with soft tannins and a nice long enjoyable finish. We did a comparison tasting of their 2008 Special Reserve Mendocino Chard and the 2009 Vine One Anderson Valley Chard. Both are French Oak aged and are big tasty Chardonnays with great aromas and finish but distinctively different.
Husch is a great place to enjoy a wine picnic on a warm sunny Anderson Valley afternoon.
The Graziano tasting room is beside Highway 101 in tiny Hopland in southern Mendocino County. Hopland is becoming a wine town with almost a dozen tasting rooms to welcome you to the county. The area is best known for wine originally with Fetzer Winery. The tasting room is small and friendly with a variety of their brands available to taste. The Graziano family winemaking heritage goes back to their native Italy but in 1918 they planted their first vineyard in Mendocino County.
Their focus is on unusual varietals from Tuscany and Piemonte such as Cortese and Arneis, two white varieties that are close to Pinot Grigio in taste and dryness. Graziano also produces the local red bend called Coro Mendocino. We brought home the Cortese and Arneis wines to sample. Both are light nose, body, and finish with slight differences between the two that makes tasting both at the same time interesting. We loved them with halibut and sea bass, both light flavor and rather delicate tasting fish.
We found their pricing to be nicely lower than usual and a good place to stock up.
I’ve previously blogged about the intimate and friendly Route 128 tasting room and the wines from the Opatz Family Winery. Their tasting room is in the Alexander Valley, the vineyards just north of there in the Yorkville Highlands AVA, and the winery is near Hopeland in Mendocino County.
We wandered into the tasting room recently and noticed cases of wine in a corner and labeled “Fire Sale – $50 / case”. Our kind of price. Lorna poured their 2008 Pelu Rouge red which is a hearty blend of Viognier, Zinfandel and Syrah. Except this time there was an additional dimension – smoke.
On June 24th 2008 a lighting storm ignited over 1,700 wildfires in California. This overwhelmed even international wildfire fighting capacity and the fires burned for up to two months. The smoke blanked vineyards in over a dozen California wine regions. Many vintners tried to salvage the vintage in various ways but many ended up dumping the wine. Pete Opatz didn’t.
We enjoyed the smoke with an excellent wine and bought two cases. We like it even better now and have paired the wine with a variety of meals but mostly red meats and sausages. It is a bit of an acquired taste but if you like smoked cheese, salmon, ham, etc. then try a 2008 wildfire smoked wine wherever you can find them. While Route 128 will probably be sold out by the time you read this Heller in Carmel Valley, Monterey wine region, may have some left.
We also brought home a bottle of Route 128 2009 High Five Bordeaux blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. It is a big and interesting wine with not much of a tannin bite. No nearby wildfires in 2009
A few years ago I was shooting photography in the Anderson Valley and discovered the beautiful Goldeneye Winery tasting room and back patio. Goldeneye is a species of wild duck and this is an appropriate name because their sister winery in Napa Valley is the also beautiful Duckhorn. Both have excellent landscaping, serve wine at tables, and are a classy experience.
For a $10 tasting fee they serve you four Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs on a patio table with a great view of the vineyards and redwoods. A fountain adds a lively waterfall sound for exceptional relaxing ambiance while you focus on the wines, friend, or whatever.
On a warm fall afternoon in 2011 we were seated at a patio table and presented with four local Pinots – 2009 Gowan Creek Vineyard, 2009 The Narrows Vineyard, 2009 Goldeneye from several vineyards, and 2009 Confluence Vineyard. We love horizontal and vertical tastings so we can compare vineyards by year or a vineyard over many years.
All the wines were lightly oaked and aged 16 months in French oak, medium body, soft Pinot aromas, and top quality throughout. Not a long finish but that’s Pinot. We could taste subtle and interesting differences between the vineyard designate wines. To keep you oriented they provide you with detailed tasting notes from the winemaker on each wine plus a good description of the vineyard.
For a great laid-back tasting experience both their patio and indoor sofas and fireplace locations are a cut above most other wineries.
PS: Several days after writing this post we paired the 2009 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot with a roasted duck. We were disappointed. The wine was boring and not worth the price. We finished only half the bottle. The next evening we were watching a movie and the wine was very nice. Go figure.
I was driving along the backroads of El Dorado County’s Fairplay area and found the delightful little Mellowood Vineyard winery and woman winemaker Linda Neal. The tasting room opened in July 2011 in the small wood barn style working winery. Linda explained that she was making wine in Napa Valley but now doing her own thing in the Sierra Foothills. What I love about the site is it is well off the main road and up a hill in an oak and pine forest. Really a romantic location.
Linda is an interesting and informative winemaker to engage with so I shot a video interview with her for our Discover El Dorado County Wine Region video.
I had little time for tasting but later tried Linda’s 2006 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel. It has big flavors and aromas with a medium weight wine and no alcohol burn. The oak was noticeable, which we like, and reflected the winemaker’s Napa roots (not the Zinfandel’s roots).
I strongly recommend a visit to Mellowood and hopefully you’ll catch Linda in the tasting room.