Friday begins pretty much exactly like Thursday…clear skies above and all around warmed by a golden orb we haven’t seen very often back home this year. Another light breakfast, coffee and OJ, back to the room to get cameras etc and we settle in to wait for our ride.
Yes…our ride. A wine tour loses a lot of its desired appeal for someone that can’t drink due to driving restrictions. Those are in place for numerous good reasons and no arguments here. But TODAY there will be no driving…at least not by yours truly. Prior to leaving home, I contacted Platypus Tours and arranged for the both of us to go on one of their selected visitations.
Thursday was spent stopping at a number of wineries that we were familiar with either because their wine was currently resting in our cellar or the local liquor store carries some of their products. Saturday will be another 2 of those. Today, though, will highlight 4 that are very local to the region with names totally unknown.
Our tour guide, Kelly, did more than expected with respect to making the day one to not only remember, but be happy to do again (albeit to different wineries – further investigation is certainly required!).
Travelling around in a very comfortable van, not having to drive, on a perfect day (from a weather perspective), doing what we came to do (taste wine!), sounds like it should be as good as it could be.
Be that as it may there is always the potential for a ‘but’. As mentioned this was booked some time ago and it would be impossible to control who our travelling companions would be. Once again our luck held. Brook (from Sonoma county), her friend Deena (from Chicago), Amanda and her husband Brett (from Atlanta), were all splendid accomplices to this guilty pleasure.
Kelly first took us through a little town called Healdsburg. It has a local reputation of being a little hoity-toity and has been referred to (upon occasion) as Beverly Healdsburg. There was no stopover for us today so I cannot say from first-hand experience. But I will say that the drive through was visually enjoyable.
Wineries visited were assuredly ones unrecognized by us. The first was De La Montanya. The grapes are being harvested, that process having been started last month in some areas. Here there were a number of rows of Zinfandel grapes hanging from the vine waiting for their pickers. Allowances were made to enjoy one (or two) from the vine, just being careful when picking. The grapes hung as if the bunches had been purposefully created to represent what the mind’s eye had only imagined. As impeccable as they were to look at, the explosion of sweet flavor was really the only proper final touch. No disappointment there.
A pouring of 1 white, 1 rose’, and 5 reds, if I’m being totally honest, did not meet my own hopes for the wines. They ranged in price from $30 to $60 USD, which in Alberta would be pushing $100 at the top end. I understand the rationale. They are an estate winery growing almost all their own grapes. They are bonded for 10,000 cases which doesn’t really allow for international inclusion as there is simply not enough to go around. Having said all that, I am confident their wine will grow in complexity and provide better and better results over time.
Our next stop was Mill Creek. They, too, are a small estate winery in business since 1969. It is now being operated by the 2nd and 3rd generations with the 4th happily running around the vineyards filling her little bucket. They produce about 6,000 cases per year.
They poured us 4 whites and 2 reds ranging in price from $25 (for the estate Gewurztraminer which we bought) up to $70 (which we enjoyed over lunch graciously spread out for us by our Fabulous guide, Kelly). Again, from a personal perspective only, these were far more enjoyable.
Harvest Moon now welcomed us for our next tasting. Pourings of 1 white, 6 reds, 1 late harvest Zin and 1 estate ice-wine style Gewurtz. These ranged from $22 to $42. There were 2, I thought, worthy of specific note. The first was named Verdelho which was blended with some very fine Portuguese grapes by the same name. The second (which was another that made our ‘purchased’ list) was the estate ice-wine style Gewurtz. VERY yummy indeed (and Yes, that IS the technical term).
Vizlay vineyards was our last stop of the day. Again a smaller estate winery, family run, complete with a 5 bedroom guest house they rent out. A pouring of 1 white and 4 reds completed our day of tasting.
Was the day well spent? Absolutely. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. Do yourSELF a favor and visit California Wine Country. A wine tour is, without doubt, the way to do it and I happen to know a very reputable company. 😉 Hopefully your group will be as fun and entertaining as ours.