Mr Prof and I went with another couple. I’ve given our overall evaluation as a group which was pretty consistent. I went with the idea of signing up for a wine club membership if I found one I liked, and I ended up picking two: Vina Robles and Dark Star. I didn’t write up my specific tasting notes on each wine, because a) I’m still pretty inexperienced so it might not be helpful, and b) I didn’t have time. But I’ll give a sort of overview of what my particular little group thought of each place we went, and it was a really eclectic selection I think.
Group vote: yes
Notable wines: Signature Cuvee (Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot); Vermentino
The setting looks is one of those monastery looking wineries with lots of arches. Very pretty. Specializes in the big, moody reds that are the coin of the realm, dark and chewy, a little oaky at times but not too much. Some slightly unusual blends, including what they call “Syree” ( blend of Syrah and Petit Sirah), and their “Signature” cuvee which is Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot. They were serving both 2007 and 2008 of several selections, and the person pouring gave us a lot of information about each vintage and what to look for. Our individual preferences were different by vintage. Very cool. Also Mr Prof was tasting all the whites (almost exclusively) and his favorite was here: Vermentino (Huerhuero) 2012. I loved this place right away and thought about getting a membership, but figured it was our first stop. I came back and tasted them again at the end of the trip, and they had stood the test of time! We signed up.
Group vote: hell no.
This is the “party” winery. Free and pretty much unlimited in number tastings. Unfortunately there is a reason for that. One of my friends wanted to go there because he is a “party guy”, kind of, or a wannabe. Sure enough, we met up with some friends of his who were already pretty plastered. Hey, they probably have some ok stuff on the reserve list, and if you like it great. But a lot of people reading this will probably want to skip. Also saw two different moms with infants in there. Wine tasting with infant? #toohipsterforme.
Group vote: yes
Notable wines: 2006 Hilltop Cabernet
Picked by the same person who picked the previous one, and my expectations were low. Actually it turned out to be a great experience! It was the only place on our list that offered three vintages of the same wine, their Hilltop Cabernet, from 2008, 2009 and 2006. Also, I know this is silly, but they were using these silver pour tops shaped like animal heads, which made me feel like I was in an old pub or something [see photo]. I bought the pig one. We ended up having our picnic lunch there and getting a bottle of the 06 cab. It might not be for everyone, it’s a big, oaky CA red. But at the picnic table with bread, cheese, olives, and figs, it was pretty amazing. Everything I personally would be looking for in a wine with a few more years on it. Sometimes a big, commercial place can surprise you.
Lunch by Di Raimundo’s Italian Market. Paso. Amazing, especially if you love cheese. They let you taste everything before you buy! So good for a picnic.