Monday, October 21, 2013

Sonoma Wine Country

We visited Healdsburg in Sonoma county for an immersion in great California wine. Mandy and Jeff, our friends from PA, visited the area at the same time and we arranged to meet them and their friends Ross and Mary who live in Healdsburg.  

We prefer Sonoma over Napa because you get world-class wine without the frou-frou pomposity. Also, because Jeff and Ross know some of the winemakers and belong to a few wine clubs, we enjoyed some "special treatment". We met the winemaker at Stryker who took us in the back to view and taste the wine being fermented. It had just been harvested a few days earlier.

Fermenting grapes ready for punchdown
The fermenting grapes need to be "punched down" a few times each day to mix the grapes into the juice. We tried our hand at punching down using a stainless steel tool. It was surprising how the cap was so hard and resistant - it took a lot of effort to get the tool through the cap. It was lots of fun for a few minutes but I imagine that punching down would get old if you did it 4 times a day! 

We tasted the raw juice - it was sweet and yeasty. Not bad but very raw. 

Barrels at Stryker

Jeff, Mandy and Denise enjoying a picnic at Wilson Winery

Vineyards at Wilson
We met the tasting room manager at Stonestreet who not only gave us great pours of some great wine, but also arranged for us to get into the "bubble room" at J winery, a place known for sparkling wines. This is a private room where we tried several wonderful sparkling and still wines including a magnum from 1999. We really enjoyed the chard and the pinot noir at J. 

Sparkling wine in the Bubble Room at J
Having visited the wine country in Washington State, Oregon and California over the past several weeks, we'd have to say that all 3 were great but CA edged out the other 2 for the consistency and diversity of wine. Needless to say we purchased a few bottles (well... more than a few) and have now exceeded the capacity the Motorhome. We are getting creative and storing wine in our clothes drawers and a few other nooks and crannies. We might need to haul a trailer to hold it all. 

Stryker Vineyards
Healdsburg is a nice small town with a cool town square. We sampled 2 great restaurants just off the square (Chalkboard and Bravas de Tapas) and enjoyed fantastic meals with our Healdsburg hosts Ross and Mary. The town has a California/European flair and is totally wine and food-focused. Definitely a place to put on your bucket list. 

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