Wine & Food

Snooth User: pboss

Trip report from Lodi and RRV

Original post by pboss, Jun 11, 2014.

After graduating from medical school and before beginning indentured service as a resident physician, my wife and I decided we should make a trip out to California wine country and Yosemite. So, a week after moving to my new residency location, we pawned off the two year old on the grandparents and headed for the hills of California.

We arrived in Sacramento a day before the rest of our group was to arrive, so we decided to hit Lodi early the next morning for a whirlwind tour. 

Michael David Winery

We got here around 10:00 am and there weren't many other wine drinkers around, so we had the tasting room to ourselves. Michael David has done a nice job of branding themselves, and many of their wines have interesting names, but overall we were underwhelmed with the wines. We did pick up a petite petit.

Oak Ridge Winery

Cozy little tasting room, and again we had the place to ourselves. Surprisingly, they had a sparkler there that was decent, but not really our style, so we bought a couple Zins (Delta Landing and Moss Roxx) and headed out.

Klinker Brick

By far our favorite winery in Lodi. A real laid back atmosphere with great wines and very nice people. Again we had the tasting room to ourselves. We enjoyed the Rose and Marisa Vineyard OVZ the most, and I was a little disappointed they were out of the Old Ghost OVZ (oh well). 

Macchia

We can get their Zins back East and I'm a real fan, so we decided to make a stop. We finally found the crowds we were expecting all day, but still enjoyed tasting there. I like most of their Zins, although some of them are very difficult to tell apart. The grounds at Macchia are very nice and we hung out in the back and listened to the live music for a little while before heading to the airport to pick up the rest of our group. 

Lodi is a very fun, laid back place to spend a day or two. Their Zins are distinctive in that they are big with tons of fruit. I wish I had one more day to spend there, as I feel I missed out on a few wineries (Lange Twins, Harney Lane).

After picking up the rest of the group from the airport, we headed for Yosemite. We weren't planning to stop, but after seeing several signs for Gnarly Head, we pulled over for a quick break and wine tasting. I'm glad we got to stretch our legs, but the wines here are not worth mentioning. 

We spent a few days in Yosemite. Despite being midday, I was able to snap this picture at Tunnel View:

 

After a few short days in Yosemite, we made the four hour trek over to Russian River Valley. We were staying at the Raford Inn B&B, and we decided to start tasting as soon as we arrived. Google Maps had us going down Westside Road, so we hit as many tasting rooms as we could before arriving at the Raford Inn. First up, Twomey.

Twomey Cellars

A beautiful, modern tasting room. We had the place to ourselves and were able to look out over the vineyards as we tasted and relaxed on the veranda. I thought there Sonoma Coast PN was the star (admittedly, the Bien Nacido was not available). Additionally, we picked up a bottle of Sauv Blanc.

 

Bacigalupi (John Tyler)

After driving past this place a few times, I decided Bacigalupi and John Tyler were the same winery. Indeed, Bacigalupi is the new name. Bacigalupi is well known for their vineyards, and they gave the impression that they only made wine on the side. Nevertheless, the wine was very good, and again, we had the tasting room to ourselves.

Thomas George Estates

We continued down Westside road and turned onto the beautiful grounds of Thomas George. I was a little disappointed to see that they were not tasting out of the caves today (apparently they turn fans on during the week to help with ?moisture? ?mildew?.) Picked up a few bottles of PN, with the Cresta Ridge vineyard being my favorite.

Moshin Vineyards

One of the more fun wineries we visited. Staff is very laid back and enjoys joking around. Wasn't too impressed with their wines (Later, at the Raford Inn we had an 'Emoshin' PN that was much better than anything we had in the tasting room). I got a kick out of the phrase they had on a lot of their merchandise - "It's not the size of the Pinot, it's the Moshin". Picked up a bottle of the Lost Ranch PN.

Gary Farrell

We originally intended to head over to Raford Inn after Moshin, but the group decided they had one more in them, so we stopped off at Gary Farrell. It was nearing closing time, so again we had the tasting room to ourselves. GF has a beautiful tasting room perched atop a hill and filled with windows, this was one of the best views of any winery we visited. The wine here was also very tasty, but we felt rushed as we had come in right at the end of the day. Picked up a bottle of the Bacigalupi Vineyard PN and the Russian River Selection PN.

Exhausted from our travels, we settled into our rooms at Raford Inn (aka napped) until Dinner. We ate at Willi's in Healdsburg. This is billed as a seafood restaurant and wet bar, but it offers different fare than a typical seafood restaurant. All the dishes are share plates, and everything was delicious. I enjoyed eating here and would highly recommend it. We also spent some time walking around in Healdsburg, and fell in love with the town. We ended up coming back into town at least once every day we were there. 

Red Car Wine Co.

The next day we headed South towards Graton, and began another day of touring and wine tasting at Red Car. Red Car is situated on the same property as  Dutton Goldfield, and the feel of the two wineries is completely different - RC is very hip and somewhat modern, while DG offers a classic winery feel. Interestingly, these styles seem to be reflected in their wines too.  The star of the Red Car line up, I thought, was the Rose of PN.

 

Dutton Goldfield

After Red Car we headed over to DG for a cheese and wine pairing reservation out on the patio. Once again, we had the place to ourselves. In addition to the cheese, we also enjoyed just sitting around on the beautiful patio enjoying the CA weather. My favorite here was the Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, but the PN was excellent as well.

 

Merry Edwards

I had heard that ME had great wines but a poor tasting experience. I agree with most that the tasting rooms (everyone gets a private room to taste in) were a bit sterile, but our pourer was a lot of fun to talk with and was very knowledgeable. Contrary to many of the reviews, we had a 5 star experience. Picked up a bottle of the Klopp Ranch and the Sauv Blanc (good, but overrated).

For lunch, we headed over to Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton. Delicious place, and perfect for lunch. The open faced egg salad sandwich is awesome!

Scherrer Winery

At the suggestion of a few friends, I set up a tasting here. After pulling into the warehouse parking lot, I wasn't sure what we had gotten into. There were old pallets laying around, a dilapidated basketball goal, stacked wood, and chest high grass. I halfway expected to see some feral animals running around. We finally found our way into the warehouse and were immediately greeted by Fred Scherrer. He took us through the entire operation and opened bottle after bottle after bottle for us to taste. He is VERY passionate about his winemaking. I got the sense that he could easily sell out or produce on a larger scale, but chose to stay small to ensure the quality of his wine and to stay intimate with the winemaking process. In addition to opening any bottle we asked him to, he thoroughly answered all our questions, even going as far as showing us a method of paper chromatography he uses to track malo lactic fermentation in his wines. IMO, as a group, these were the best wines we tasted during this trip. I picked up several PN, a rose, and a cab. The old adage 'Don't judge a book by its cover' really played out this time.

 

After that 2 hour tasting and tour we headed back to the Raford Inn for our afternoon siesta before enjoying a few Zins from Carol Shelton on the porch.

That night we headed to Scopa, a local California-Italian place in Healdsburg, for dinner. Again, excellent food, especially the Burrata. 

Iron Horse

We enjoyed the outdoor tasting area overlooking the vineyards here. The sparklers were excellent, and the staff was very friendly. I was a particular fan of the Wedding Cuvee, but knowing that I could get that back home, we opted for a bottle of the Ocean's Reserve and Summer's Cuvee. I hounded the nice lady pouring the wine for a taste of the Chinese Cuvee, as I had read about this wine and had seen it for sale at the local Kroger. She assured me that they were completely sold out and certainly did not have any to taste. When I told her it was available at my local Kroger, she promptly told me to buy it as soon as possible. (Upon returning home, my wife bought this as an early Father's Day gift)

BTW, did I mention how beautiful the Iron Horse outdoor tasting room is?

Also fun watching them unload this truck:

J Vineyards

Staying with the bubbly theme, we headed over to J. This was a departure from the experiences we had been having at other places. This tasting felt corporate and almost like the server (complete with shirt and tie) was trying to "pitch" their wines to us. I was unimpressed with the wines, and my favorite - the Cuvee 20 - is available at the local Kroger, so we promptly paid the tasting fee and headed North to Dry Creek Valley.

Ridge Vineyards

Zinfandels here are meaty and complex. We also opted for the Monte Bello Cab tasting, which costed an additional $10 bucks. At that price for a single tasting I expected a lot, and it was certainly worth it. Picked up a bottle of East Bench Zin. (Just couldn't make myself give $160 for a btl of the Monte Bello)

Talty Vineyards

Quaint little vineyard and winery making big Zins. Was the 2011 Snooth Winery of the Year. Michael Talty was serving and we had a good time talking to him. Picked up a couple of the Estate Zins.

Dutcher's Crossing

We headed here at the suggestion of Mike Talty, and this was a good find. Very laid back and fun tasting room with a nice lawn and patio in the back. Had a Rose of Grenache which was very good and the first time I had seen a Rose from this varietal. Picked up a bottle of the Rose and Petite Sirah (Overall I found the Petite Sirahs from Dry Creek Valley to be outstanding).

Ferrari-Carano

Beautiful gardens and excellent wines. Atmosphere is kind of Vegas-esque with lots of marble and opulence (evidently the owner is also in the casino business). We opted for the Limited Release and Reserve wine tasting which takes you to the bottom floor of the building, past the barrel room. Picked up a chard and PN. 

Enjoyed the rest of the day on the Raford Inn porch drinking some outstanding Balletto pinots.

Raford Inn Winery

Dane, one of the proprietors at the Raford Inn, takes guests on a tour of the small wine operation at the Inn. He is growing mostly Zinfandel. After showing us the vineyards and going through the process of winemaking, he took us into his small barrel room and treated us to some barrel tastings.

 

Williams-Selyem

Beautiful winery with top notch PN. Interestingly, you have to be on the mailing list and set up a private tasting here to even find out where the place is. There is no sign off the road - only a gate and address. Upon arrival our tour guide promptly poured us a glass of Chardonnay and led us into the barrel room. After that we headed up the hill to a beautiful tasting veranda where we had several of their PNs. Apparently, the tasting selection at the winery changes often due to limited availability. According to the tour guy, 95% of their wines go directly to their mailing list, 4% go to restaurants and 1% goes to the tasting room. We settled on a bottle of Block 10 PN and then headed into Healdsburg to enjoy the day before flying out of Sacramento that evening.

 

This California trip was a home run and I am already thinking about a return trip. Major find this trip was Dutcher's Crossing - just a neat place to hang out and have a glass of wine. Lodi was great fun and very laid back, but the wines are just not on par with those found further West. In the future I would like to spend more time in the Dry Creek area. Also, after driving past Korbel, I wish I had worked that into the itinerary, as it didn't look nearly as corporate as I had expected. Cheers!

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Replies

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 13, 2014.

OT sounds like maybe Mauritson...Fox's secret Zin.

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Reply by MrWino101, Jun 13, 2014.

Go give and take, but you said "I am a wine lover not a blogger", which to me infers that bloggers are not wine lovers. But that's just my opinion. Also sorry, but I didn't realize I had to go back through the archives to review your postings to understand your persona and how you apply that to your postings. But then again that’s just my opinion and I hope it doesn’t get under your skin! (sarcasm!) RRV squatter? Well I hope to be joining you in about six months to a year. I’m in negotiations to purchase a business in Healdsburg and make that part of the world my home, which has been my goal for the last ten years or so. As far as different taste, well that’s a hard one to call, since neither of our preferences are really known. But I am partial to Pinots, Zins and Rhone wines, and Napa Cabs. So, good back and forth, and I hope to meet you some day. By any chance are you planning on taking part in Zap’s Healdsburg program in August? Could be a fun event!

Have a good one!

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Reply by outthere, Jun 13, 2014.

I logged on to your website where you mention the wines you like. D'oh. I'll type slower from now on so there are no misunderstandings. I think Foxall is bringing me to the Zin event as his date this year. So yes I am going. Would really like to attend West of West but the ante is just too high for me to absorb.

Screw the archives, I don't infer, I'll come right out and say what I mean. So  turn off the filters and just have fun. It's what we do best here.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 19, 2014.

So was MrWino a one day drive-by? I thought he fit in well here.

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Reply by dvogler, Jun 19, 2014.

I just read this exchange.  "Hit the road like ME and PBoss do".....

You don't go to wineries OT, you just drive by on your way to a real job.  My opinion of bloggers, and this is a huge generalization, is that they are somewhat narcissistic attention-seekers.  I've read many blogs about many topics and I am often left irritated by self-centeredness.  I like this forum because it's just a bunch people with no agenda sharing experiences.  Bloggers ultimately are seeking followers, whether it's for-profit or attention or both.  I could be just another opinionated a-hole, but I haven't been told to clear off from Snooth yet!   I drink a lot of BC wine and occasionally I'm surprised with one that's under $20 (barely) and is decent.  I share them on my Facebook page (even though I know there was only a case in some instances)and many friends are grateful because they usually choose crap.  (I guess you could say I'm a mini-blogger).  

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 19, 2014.

Well sai DV...I'll pm that link to my blog when I get a chance ; )

Seriously though, there are a handful of people on here who I wish would start a blog, but I suppose most of their content is on here anyway.

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Jun 24, 2014.

Hey - That was really entertaining! 

Way better than most blogs out there.  Of course, mine is the best, and I write it strictly to garner more attention and stroke my massive ego!  I invite you all to go read it so I can collect more hits and brag about all the eye balls peeping my pages.

Looking forward to trading more secrets and inside jokes in real life next month!

Cheers

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Reply by dvogler, Jun 24, 2014.

Oh geeze...

I forgot you do a blog!  I confess, I've not looked at it.  Now, I'm SURE you're the exception to my rule about bloggers!  You're a bike racer, that already makes us better than most people.  Wine loving bike racers, well, we're verging on Deity here.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 24, 2014.

I have nothing against bloggers. ;) 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 24, 2014.

Best thing about Lucha's blog is the guests! ;-)

I've been the victim of OT's sarcasm, but remind me to share all my faves with him.  Now we know what gets him started.

Joining late here, but that was a great writeup, PBoss.  Funny thing is that I was one of the early touters of Scherrer (search around, you'll see) and I regularly correspond with them, but I've never been able to get out there for an open house.  Maybe JD and I can arrange one soon.

And Mike Talty is ALWAYS pouring in the tasting room, at least in my experience.  He's the epitome of the one man show.  If traffic is light and I think I will arrive before he officially opens, I just call his number and he usually answers.  He's just that amazing.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 24, 2014.

August 1st-3rd for the Scherrer Fall open house. Come taste and order your futures!

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 24, 2014.

See, that's the thing:  It happens right when we have family in town and my daughter's Bat Mitzvah.  Every year, actually twice a year--totally cursed.  I'm going to ask them for a special tasting for all the good publicity I give them.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 25, 2014.

Is there any way to work wine in to a Bat Mitzvah's?

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Reply by dvogler, Jun 25, 2014.

Would the wine's production need to be overseen by a Rabbi?

I think one of the BC Wine guides I'm bringing to OT's has an article about a winery in BC that's making Kosher wine and there's a Rabbi involved and a Jewish winemaker.  I'm intrigued.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Jun 25, 2014.

Fox, Scherrer also normally has an open house in November, think that time frame will work for you?  We're going to try to make it out there then.

OT, discussing Scherrer here just proves your point about the wonderful way snoothers share info about excellent but lesser known wine makers. As a point in fact, we turned pboss on to several of the places they visited in his report and we're extremely happy to have done so.

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Jun 26, 2014.

The guests ARE definitely one of the highlights on my blog.  Fox has made some excellent contributions.  The Giro TT edition was the best yet (IMHO).

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Reply by GregT, Jun 26, 2014.

Seems like a one time drive by.

Fun thread though. And turned into something completely unexpected.

Got a chuckle out of the review Richard Jennings did on the one a few years back in Virginia. It's a very long read but extremely informative.

He's one reason I don't do a blog. The compulsion to churn out tasting notes from every wine experience he's ever had, and the lengthy authoritative dissertations on regions he's just discovered or visited for the first time, and the assertion of "expertise" in one or another areas - I just don't have the self-confidence to do that. Or to be offended that people didn't treat my self-important ass with more respect.

Sigh.

One day I'll try to learn something about wine and I'll write a tasting note. Until then, HELLO SNOOTH!

 

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Reply by outthere, Jun 26, 2014.

 You just need to learn how to speak your mind Greg. Everything else follows easily. ;)

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Reply by dvogler, Jun 26, 2014.

Greg for President!  Haha..I can't wait to meet you!  You're not a jerk after all!

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