I had the great pleasure of spending my Memorial Day Weekend tasting wine at some of the most beautiful and tucked away vineyards in Sonoma (aside from one special pit stop on our way home in Napa Valley, but I’ll get to that later). With a map in hand and no real itinerary, aside from our few favorites, we set out and crafted our own wine adventure to some of the most hidden treasures on and off the map. With characters met along the way and enjoyable experiences, here is our road map to our “off-roading in Sonoma” or ‘off the beatin’’ as some like to call it. Not to overwhelm you, I divided everything by day so you will have to check back for Day 2 of “Off-Roading in Sonoma”. Beware, do not drive while reading…..
Friday, May 27th 2011
10:30AM – Premeditated first stop in the Russian River Valley; Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery. The beautiful and diverse terrain started our trip off in a magical way. We were the first ones to enter and were treated like kings! They make a 2007 Estate Red which evokes a wonderful red wine that is true to Chalk Hill.
- Fav Tasting: 2007 Estate Red (51% Cab, 24% Malbec, 13% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenere)
- Bought: 2007 Estate Red and 2008 Estate Sauv. Blanc (great price)
- Fun Fact: They do their vineyard tours in a hummer and you should ask for Rich S. when you get there!
11:43AM- J Vineyards stop for some morning bubbly
- Fav Tasting: Brut Rose (what they are known for) and the entire champagne tasting we did there. Highly recommend!
- Bought: Brut Rose (there is no way I was leaving without a bottle)
- Fun Fact: Really cool looking bottles and you can’t help but stop and gaze at the exquisite entrance with bridge running over a lily pad filled pond.
1:20PM: Pit stop in Healdsburg Burger Bar and Grill (best burger in town) washed down with Damnations Russian River beer (Belgian Strong Pale Ale) brewed in Santa Rosa, CA. TRY: GET A BURGER, IT’S WORTH IT!
2:30PM: Returned to car and found a stranded cell phone by the car, it rang, we answered, and we received a free bottle of wine for returning the lost phone! Pays off to be nice!
3:39PM: Entered Dry Creek Valley
4PM- Looked up on yelp “wineries that serve chocolate with their tastings”, Truett-Hurst Winery came up, we went and were disappointed that they didn’t have free chocolates. They did however have the spiciest and highest in alcohol wines of the day… TRY: RED ROOSTER & DARK HORSE GPS.. Some of the most unique tastes I’ve had. EXTREMELY INTENSE WINES!
4:45PM- Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves was the next stop down the road that added a nice change of atmosphere. Great cave tasting experience with top-tier Zins and Syrah’s (their specialty). This is a must stop for a nontraditional experience and tasting
- Bought: 2009 Zin – rich, rustic and the perfect ‘all-purpose Zin’!
- Fun Fact: They have the most amazing cheesy breadsticks to clean your pallet with and great Adirondack chairs outside on the grass to chill out in!
6:15PM – Longboard Vineyards, the last stop that we randomly stumbled upon and had them reopen the tasting room for us which was an interesting concept of WINE and SURF! Not only (as you can imagine) do they have surfboards hanging from the walls, t-shirts, glasses, basically everything branded with a surfboard, they also have a ‘Surf Speak’ glossary somewhere around their tasting room. Drink up and surf’s up BRO!
- Bought: 2007 Syrah (complex wine with dark berries and coffee notes.)
- Fun Fact: “Stay loose, trust your own palate, get wet often and spread more time surfing and sharing life with friends and family and less time reading the back copy of wine bottle” – as I’m reading the back of the wine label… SURF’S UP!”
Day one completed and survived… Stay tuned for what’s to come for Day 2 (SPOILER: chocolate shots, olive oil tastings, and fire pits ahead!!!)