fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

wine country wandering

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Karen and I had a chance — or more accurately created a chance — to have an aimless day of sorts. Adam had to be in San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall at 9:00 a.m. Sunday for a concert, and after leaving him with the group, wandered off in search of breakfast. Which we promptly found one block down and to the left at The Crepe House. It’s a nice little place, offering crepes, eggs, omelets and your basic breakfast foods. I opted for a cheese, ham and mushroom omelet, which came with pan fried potatoes and thick sourdough toast. Karen splurged on eggs Benedict, accompanied by two “plain” crepes (with lemon, butter and powdered sugar). It was nice to enjoy a hearty breakfast without rushing off.

After a quick stop at the office so I could set up the artificial Christmas tree, we leisurely found our way to Sears Point with the thought of stopping at wineries we typically pass by on our way to others in the more northern Napa or Sonoma valleys. And we were pleasantly surprised at each of the three wineries we visited. (I believe that all three only sell on premises or to restaurants.)

At Roche Carneros, our first stop, we sampled the standard range of wines from the area. The 2005 Carneros Estate Chardonnay is a very good, balanced white. We found the other wines to also be generally good, but I was very impressed with two dessert wines: the 2005 Taramix and the 2005 Late Harvest Merlot. Both are more subtle than most dessert wines, but the late harvest merlot was unlike any wine I have ever tasted. As a blush, a slight presence of tannins works a bit against the sweetness to leave a fresh taste on the tongue. Definitely a great wine for a hot summer day!

Just down the road we entered the long, sweeping driveway to Viansa Winery & Italian Marketplace, which focuses on Italian and was established by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, with Sam part of the well-known family behind the Sebastiani Vineyard & Winery. It’s quite a view from this winery’s hilltop location. The last half of Viansa’s name truly reflects what we found inside, with Italian foodstuffs and merchandise, as well as a small deli. Generally, the wines were good, but I think we were both very impressed with the 2004 Prindelo, which is a blend of Primitivo, Teroldego and Zinfandel. We also both enjoyed the crsip and clean 2005 Arneis. (Arneis is a reputedly difficult to grow Italian grape, while Primitivo is considered by some to be the ancestor of California’s Zinfandel. Teroldego is a rich red similar to Zinfandel.)

We continued northeast on Hwy 112, intent on heading up Hwy 12 to Sonoma, but before the turnoff spotted a smallish sign touting the funny little Larson Family Winery. I say funny because the first sign along the semi-private and rather rundown road states something like “Winery: .4173485 miles.” Further down the road another old wooden signs warns one to “Beware of Kamikaze squirrels.” This is another small, family-owned place with some surprising wines and hosted by a golden retriever named Buddy. Here you can find the 2004 Wingo White Carneros jug wine sitting alongside to a very nice 2005 Carneros Cuvée Rosé and what I would call an incredible 2003 Meritage. Speaking of rosés — it must have been inevitable that they make a return. But don’t turn your nose up at a rosé without first tasting it…I have very surprised at how good varietal rosés can be. (It’s not your father’s Lancers anymore!)

The rest of our day was fairly relaxed, dropping by Sonoma Jack’s for some cheese and food, visiting a few stores such as Pier 1 Imports for some Christmas goodies, before winding our way home.

P.S. I’m figuring that since we didn’t buy some of the wines that we enjoyed, a return trip will be in order soon!

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