Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wine provisioning has begun!

Fruit of the vine, almost ready for harvesting

It's been a great couple of days here in Sonoma!! We've started each day with a 30+ mile bike ride under crisp blue skies and warming sunshine, followed by lunch, and wine tastings around Sonoma Valley. We've indulged in a massage or two post-ride, along with some relaxation time in the outdoor hot tub...what's not to like?? We've hit the local organic hot spots for dinner in downtown Sonoma, eating outside, enjoying the cooling evening dusk. We just have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Vineyards south of Sonoma, belonging to the Carneros Estate

One thing we have noticed though, is that one's perception of "flat" changes out here! The rolling hills of the wine country's valleys pale in comparison with the climbs into the surrounding mountains...let's just say we aren't exactly skipping to the top of some of the hills! (Forget the mountains...!) Cycling along Florida's Indian River is definitely not preparation enough for the climbs they have here. Be they ever so humbling, there's nothing like hills! California hills especially! Still, we're enjoying our rides immensely, and drinking in the glorious views and dry climate as we pedal.

More golden hills framed by vineyards

The wine tasting has been just as much fun as the riding. Each afternoon, we've stopped at one or two vineyards for tastings -- any more than that, and one's palate is shot! -- and we've had a blast. Yesterday we stumbled across a vineyard we'd never heard of, Little Vineyards, and in the interests of adventure, forged ahead and enjoyed a private tasting in their tasting room. We were delighted with their wine, and ordered a case for the boat!! We then stopped at the winery B.R.Cohn (owner Bruce Cohn being the one and same long-time manager of The Doobie Brothers -- who are performing here next month for a charity event!) where we of course had to buy several bottles of their special "Boaters Barberra"!! Ron also had to get a couple bottles of their "Riders' Red", as a nod to his Harley. 

There's a plethora of wineries and vineyards to choose from, so we've had fun picking and choosing! Today we biked north through the wooded hills and steep dales of Glen Ellen (reminiscent of New England in some moments)  before cruising south on the main Route 12 through the Valley from Kenwood to Sonoma. After lunch we headed to Arrowood, a vineyard where we are wine club members, to sample some of their latest releases (again buying more wine for the boat). It was nice to come back and treat ourselves to their wine and the spectacular vistas of the valley from their porch! (Below are photos of Arrowood's tasting room, and the views!) The sunny weather has really set off the colors!

From there we explored new terroir, driving north to Kenwood and stopping in at Chateau St. Jean. (And yes, there IS a chateau...not sure whatever else I was expecting, to be honest!) What we've discovered is that many a winery's bottles that are available for sale in our part of the country are only a fraction of what is available if you go to the vineyard itself. Wineries sell special, small-case reserve bottles of wine only to their vineyard visitors or to their wine club members, and the quality of these special wines are fabulous. (In fact, I'd not seen any of the wines we sampled at Chateau St. Jean available in the stores out east. Clearly indicating we're not connoisseurs of any kind -- or else we simply shop at all the wrong places?!) In any event, it was a delight to sample these reserve wines! Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

          Entering the Chateau St. Jean grounds and gardens
Tasting room at Chateau St. Jean
Exiting the hall  where the reserve tastings are held       .        

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