Wine & Travel

Snooth User: vin0vin0

Russian River and Napa November 2014

Posted by vin0vin0, Nov 14, 2014.

We're doing a long weekend in Russian River and Napa this weekend.
Flew into San Francisco yesterday with no problems. Friend picked us up at the airport, definitely 
beats the heck out of fighting the huge crowd at the rental car counters. Why don't they have a 
contiguous highway from the airport to hwy 101.
So what's the first thing to do in wine country? Hit the Russian River Brewing Co for lunch.
First wine stop was a real pleasure - Old World Winery. Tasted with Darek Twobridge, the owner and winemaker. Really nice wine and one surprise, a very nice red made from Abouriou, a very rare grape with only one 4 acre plot known to exist outside of random field vines.  There's some good info on his website. The wine tastes like a cross of a big RRV pinot and a lighter zin - really interesting.
Second stop was at Russian Hill Estate. We tasted two pinots, a syrah and a really tasting viognier.  Nothing overwhelming but not bad either.
Third and last stop was Moshin.  Rick Moshin has been making pinot for almost 25 years and you can tell he enjoys his work.  We've been here several times over the years and always have fun with the folks in the tasting room. They also do fun things during the summer, like free movies on their crushpad. We tasted a 2009 chardonnay, three of their pinots, a nice red blend and a .syrah. All were quite enjoyable.
We have a busy day planned for today, stayed tuned.

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Reply by outthere, Nov 14, 2014.

Across the road from Old World, Fogline, pay them a visit. Tell Evan I sent you.

Reply by Really Big Al, Nov 14, 2014.

Sounds like good times ahead - you get into Napa Valley, can I recommend you stop at Duckhorn Vineyards?  We love their cabs.  Another favorite of ours is Barnett Vineyards too.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 14, 2014.

With so many places to go, and so little time, one wonders if Duckhorn warrants time these days. Last time I went was 2001. Methinks Vino should hang ten and ride the OT wave all the way, aside from his/their personal favorites from the past. If I were to try to go and catch up on the last few years I've missed I'd probably have to budget a half dozen week-long trips, with decompress weeks inbetween, to just scratch the surface. Not sure if Duckhorn would even make that cut, and this from someone who's drunk dozens of cases of their bottles over the years.

To which winery belongs the cat?

Reply by Really Big Al, Nov 14, 2014.

The kitty belongs to Barnett Vineyards.  This cool kitty knows he rules the grounds but he does so with a soft paw as opposed to an iron fist.  All the Duckhorn wines that we've tried have been very tasty - Migration, Paradux, etc.  Everyone should try their wines sometime, but I understand that with OT nearby and his expertise, you should go with his recommendations. 

Speaking of recommendations, remember I am still rather new to Ridge wines.  Tonight we had their 2011 Monte Bello Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon at 'The Wine House'.  It was very nice and paired well with my steak.  This wine and dinner together paired nicely with a George Mason University dance.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Nov 14, 2014.

Here are a few of my Sonoma favorites from my visit this past summer: Stryker, Cartograph, Kokomo and Unti.

If you visit Cartograph (in Healdsburg)  you should also stop in at Portalupi.  Both are located right in the heart of the city by the town square.

There are bunch of other wineries in the complex where Kokomo is.  We got there late and did not get a chance to visit any of the others. 

If you want to go to Unti you need to call ahead and make an appointment.  Their tasting room is small so they use the appointment thing to try to keep things under control.

Have fun and say hi to OT for me. :-)

Reply by vin0vin0, Nov 15, 2014.

RRV, what a fantastic place!

OT, Fogline has been added to the list, not sure if/when we'll get over to that side of town during the remainder of our time here.

Big Al, I'm always open to recommendations, thanks. Sunday is going to be our Napa day but we're already booked with 3 appointments. Apsara, Failla and Spring Mountain.

First wine stop on day two was Iron Horse for some bubbles to start the day.  We did the sparkling wine tasting which consisted of five different wines. The Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc was fascinating with an interesting combination of salinity, minerality, yeastiness and acidity. We also purchased a bottle of the Russian cuvee which we're planning on passing around with the fresh squeezed OJ in the morning.

Second stop, the main reason for the trip and the highlight of the day was the Scherrer open house. We spent some quality time with the owner/winemaker Fred Scherrer talking about his wine making preferences and styles, recent vintage variations, history of his vineyard and alot about his experiments with grapes, graftings, barrels, aging, blending, ...  And then spent an equal amount of time talking with his father Ed.  A remarkable gentleman who's been working his father's farm in the Russian River/Alexander Valley for years.  All in all a fantastic time and a great experience.

Third stop was the Wine Guerilla tasting room in downtown Forestville. These folks are producing some world class zins and are obviously having a good time doing it, just check out some of their labels.

After a very tasty lunch at Twist Eatery We headed into downtown Healdsburg where we visited Valdez, Longboard, Mueller, C. Donatiello winery and Selby. Trust me, everything we tasted was very good, not a bad wine in the whole batch. I've been told I may need to put a limit on my purchases.

We definitely covered a lot of ground today, good thing we shared tastings.

We have a couple of by appointment visits planned for today at Emeritus and Littorai.

Reply by outthere, Nov 15, 2014.

As I drove past Radford Inn on my way to work yesterday morning in the dense fog I was tempted to lay on my horn but thought better of that at the last minute.

Stopped by on my way home from work yesterday to see Fred, Ed and Judy. Judy said she enjoyed seeing you. Came home with the '10 Hallberg and the '11 RRV. Both were great. The nose on the Helfer Chard was mesmerizing. Glad you enjoyed Wine Guerrilla, it's the only wine club I belong to. Gets me immediate discounts when I drop in after picking up bread at Nightingale Bakery next door. Bruce is super friendly.

Stopping by PAX/RYME/Wilde Farm today to drop off some wines. Otherwise working around the house building my appetite for this evening at Walter Hansel Bistro. Looking forward to a good time.

Reply by outthere, Nov 15, 2014.

I forgot to mention, speaking of Apsara, Robin's name is on one of the bottles I'm bringing to dinner tonight.

Reply by EMark, Nov 15, 2014.

Excellent adventure, v v.  Keep the reports coming.  That poster is awesome.  Sadly, it hits a bit close to home--another order to Bedrock the other day that was OKed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but now I think I owe her a new bedroom set.

Reply by outthere, Nov 16, 2014.

We must have kept him up too late last night. Had a great time at Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro. Lots of good food, good conversation and good wine. I'll let vinO do his report.

Reply by vin0vin0, Nov 17, 2014.

Just when we thought this much fun couldn’t possibly continue we had day three.

Started off with another fine breakfast at our B&B to lay in a good base and then off to our first appointment at Emeritus. Our enthusiastic host Laurel started us off with a taste of their Hallberg Ranch pinot and a tour of the vineyard and winery. This was followed up with a tasting of their William Wesley pinot. Both were excellent with the Hallberg a bit lighter in body and flavor and the Wesley possessing more dark fruit and firm tannins.  The only problem here was that they only had these two wines available for tasting due to having run out of the rest of their lineup – good for them, bad for us.

We then headed over to the Ryme pick up party and just happened to run into OT. We had a good time talking with OT and sipping the Ryme releases as well as the Pax Mahle lineup.  The winemaker/owner of Ryme (Ryan Glaab) also assists Pax with some of his wines.

Bidding OT adieu, we had lunch and then travelled to our 2nd appointment at Littorai. After another vineyard tour and a really nice discussion of their biodynamic practices we commenced a tasting of five of their pinots.  Littorai sources grapes from several areas in Anderson Valley and also on the Sonoma Coast. It was interesting to taste the differences not only between the Valley and the Coast but also the differences between different parts of the same areas.  All of the offerings were excellent with varying degrees of cherry, crisp acidity, fine grained tannins and layers of flavors.

We then found ourselves in downtown Sebastopol and headed over to the Wind Gap tasting room in the Barlow. As we were sitting there enjoying a really fine syrah, in walks the Ryme winemakers. Come to find out, Wind Gap is also a Pax Mahle endeavor and they were there to help with a club member party.

The grand finale of the evening had our two friends and us meeting up with Mr. and Mrs. OT for dinner at Walter Hansel Bistro. OT went beyond generous bringing four fantastic wines to share:

·         2012 Arnot Roberts Trout Gulch Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains

·         2010 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Pinot Noir

·         2012 Jolie Laide Grenache-Syrah Rossi Ranch

·         2012 Elementary Cellars Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Funny thing was that we also brought a bottle of Arnot Roberts chardonnay, great minds think alike. Because we didn’t have enough bottles on the table we also purchased a bottle of the Hansel Cahill Lane pinot.  The food was fantastic, the service was over the top and of course the wines were phenomenal.  Needless to say, we all had a tremendous time

Reply by dmcker, Nov 17, 2014.

Sounds like a great Sonoma visit. Any notes on those wines from dinner?

Reply by Really Big Al, Nov 17, 2014.

This is a fantastic wine tasting trip.  Who is who in the above picture?  Is that OT in red?

Reply by outthere, Nov 17, 2014.

No AL, I'm on the right, Vino is in the center and his friend "B" on the left.


  • '13 Arnot Roberts Watson Chardonnay - Apple, pear and a dose of honey on the nose. Oily texture, apple and nectarine/white peach. Neutral oak but with more mid-palate heft than the Trout Gulch likely due to higher ripeness. Great balance and finesse. A real joy to drink.
  • '12 Jolie Laide Grenache/Syrah Rossi Ranch - Beautifully perfumed nose that was by itself worth the price of admission. But the fun didn't stop there. Think '11 Quivet Las Madres with crunchy red fruit on the finish. Nice depth and richness from the Syrah balance out by the Grenache crunchiness really nice.
  • '10 Rivers Marie Sliver Eagle - Gamey barnyardy nose turns to ripe black cherry, orange peel and pine needle with a hint of strawberry. Medium bodied, nice texture. Very aromatic
  • '11 Walter Hansel Cahill Lane - Markedly lighter in color than the RM. Cinnamon and Allspice mix with red cherry. Lighter bodied red fruited, red cherry palate, feminine, subtle acidity. Finishes slightly tart with a little stemminess. Nice contrast to the more robust TRB wine.
  • '12 Elementary Cab Volume 1 - Nose was black currant, coffee grounds, tobacco and hint of graphite. The palate is more young than fruity with more black currant, black raspberry and some rustic minerality. No bell pepper but no overt ripeness either. Medium/full bodied, good intensity but still a bit wound up. Striking a nice balance between fruit and tannin.


Reply by dmcker, Nov 17, 2014.

Thanks.  Envy,,,

Reply by EMark, Nov 17, 2014.

Sensational trip, v v and excellent reporting from both you and OT.  Thank you,very much, for providing this vicarious experience to us.

Reply by vin0vin0, Nov 17, 2014.

We made it home safe and sound with a few less dollars in our bank account but we came back with some mighty nice jewels that we discovered along the way.

Sunday was our Napa day.  Thanks to another great rec from OT, we found our way to Apsara in Calistoga.  We met with winemaker Robin Akhurst, what a great guy.  A Scot from south of Edinburgh, Robin was full of enthusiasm and passion for his craft.  We tasted his sauvignon blanc, a northern Rhone style whole cluster syrah, and a really fine cab. He also toured us through the Envy winery, where he makes his Apsara wines. Back in the tasting room we finished off with a late harvest sauv blanc.  L and I agree that this, along with the Scherrer open house, was the highlight of our trip (I mean other than meeting up with OT of course).

Next stop was Failla.  Another tour of the winery including a walk through their man-made caves where we did our tasting of a decent estate chardonnay, an excellent ’12 Chuy vineyard chard and several very fine pinots – the Sonoma Coast, Peay Vineyard and Hirsch Vineyard. The Peay was my favorite, a bite of acidity with bright red fruit, where the Hirsh had some darker cherry flavors, was slightly more tannic and had a bit more body.

We grabbed some lunch at Cook’s in St. Helena (Robin’s recommendation) and having a bit over an hour before our next appointment, we ducked into White Hall Lane.  Their chardonnay seemed a bit thin but not bad, just not as good as what we’d tasted at other places. Also sampled their merlot, a bit one dimensional but the price was right. We then had a taste of the estate and reserve cabs. Again nothing special but these are not you’re +$100 Napa cabs, so you’re getting what you pay for.

Last stop of the day was Spring Mountain Winery. Now this was what I was expecting for a high end Napa estate.  We were greeted by Marilyn who had four glasses of their sauvignon blanc waiting for us. The SB was excellent, a blend of tropical fruits, nicely balanced with a touch of white grapefruit, very nice acidity and a pretty decent finish.  We then moved on to their ’08 cab. This was not what I was expecting at all.  Instead of a big tannic fruit bomb, this cab had fine grained, round tannins, notes of fig and plum, some leather and a small touch of smoke.  The acidity came out on the front and the fruit on the backend with great mouth feel and a fairly long finish. The next wine was their flagship Bordeaux blend called Elivette. I’ve never been a huge cab fan and haven’t taken many opportunities to taste Bordeaux type wines, having been focusing more on Burgundy and Rhone styles. After this tasting, I think I’m going to be making some room in my eurocave. The Elivette is a beautifully balanced, mouth filling red blend of cab, cab franc and petit verdot. Loads of dark fruit, leather, a bit of earthiness, layers of flavors roll over the tongue with well integrated tannins and acids.  Our host was then kind enough to open an ’07 cab which was a good bit different than the first cab in that it had a bit less fruit and more of a mouth coating texture. The ’07 is still fresh and lively, just a different beast. As a topper we were treated to a taste of the ’12 chardonnay.  This reminded me a lot of the Arnot Roberts we had with dinner the other night.  More on the creamy lemon side with medium acidity and nice complexity. There’s little to no oak but also it's not overly acidic, just an extremely tasty Napa chard.

Now I thought there must have been some collusion going on between OT and our B&B hosts because when we got back, there was Evan from Fog Line pouring his wines in the dining room (see earlier entry from OT recommending we stop in at Fog Line while in the area). We tasted through his stash of a rose of pinot, a pinot noir, his lighter style syrah and the best zin we’ve had the whole trip. His zin was full of bright red berries/cherries with a splash of spice that did a little dance on the tongue – absolutely lovely.

We ended our trip with a great dinner at the Applewood Inn, a fine way to top it all off.

Reply by EMark, Nov 18, 2014.

Again, v v, an excellent report.  I think this is the best wine country trip report I've ever read.  

I have often commented here that I enjoy Spring Mountain District wines.  Maybe your experience will add more popular respect to this district.  My experience is from Chateau Chevalier, Keenan, Smith-Madrone and Terra Valentine.  However, I do have a Spring Mountain Vineyards Cab in my inventory, and, based on your report, I will look forward to it.  FWIW, I' think that Chaeau Chevalier is a second label of the Spring Mountain Vineyard winery.  The Chateau Chevalier Cab is pretty reasonably priced in the low $20s--OK, that's considered reasonable for a Napa Valley Cab--and while I would never call it a great wine, it is certainly worth the modest investment.

By any chance did Robin Akhurst mention his new project:  Elementary Cellars.  I received an e-mail on that, today, and am listening and looking for more information.

Reply by outthere, Nov 18, 2014.

"By any chance did Robin Akhurst mention his new project:  Elementary Cellars.  I received an e-mail on that, today, and am listening and looking for more information".


Look up 4 posts in thus thread. We drank one Saturday night.

Reply by JonDerry, Nov 18, 2014.

Very well done gents !!

Already feels like too long since I've been up there.

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