Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Molly4006

Recommendations for Sonoma Newbie Solo Trip in August?

Original post by Molly4006, May 16, 2012.

Hi everyone,

I'm a newish lurker who jumped on a great fare to San Francisco from my little pocket of Missouri wine country near St. Louis in mid-August with the intent of visiting the Sonoma area as a solo traveler.  I will be arriving early afternoon on a Thursday and staying until early Monday morning.

As a solo female traveler and a red fan - Pinot Noirs esepcially - hoping to maximize my travel dollar, do some bicycling for fun, fitness, and the ability to imbibe just a bit, and experience a variety of wineries, I would be most grateful for recommendations, including:

  • Should I stay in Santa Rosa or Windsor?
  • What are not-to-miss wineries?
  • How much can I do from a bicycle as a moderately fit cyclist, i.e. how many days should I plan to use a bike? Do I need to rent a car, or could I use transit to Santa Rosa or Windsor and rely upon a bicycle for the relatively short period I'll be there?

I am a little embarrassed by the "novice-ness" of my questions but am most, most open to and grateful for guidance.

Thank you! Molly

Replies

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Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2012.

Do you remember which Super Tuscan (i.e. Bordeaux blend or sangiovese)  and Cotes du Rhone  (i.e. syrah-focused or grenache-focused)? Can figure that out just from the labels. Good syrah in Sonoma, too!

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Reply by Molly4006, May 22, 2012.

The Super-Tuscan was a 2006 Ruffino Modus, and the Cotes du Rhone was Domaine Gres St. Vincent. 

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Reply by outthere, May 22, 2012.

That makes it easy. The CdR sounds like some of the mainstream RRV pinots with the candied cherry and oak. Can find lots of those in a modest price range. Will post later

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Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2012.

The Domaine Gres St. Vincent, as it turns out, is 50/50 syrah and grenache with nothing else apparently in the blend. From the Gault-Milleau review (some say the best winebible in France):

"Le flacon renferme une gamme aromatique saisissante de petits fruits rouges acidulés comme la framboise et la myrtille. La bouche joue la carte fruitée également, sur une sensation tactile croquante et fraîche."

(Roughly: "... a striking range of tart red berries, esp. raspberry and blueberry, on the nose. The palate also shows fruity, but crisp and fresh.")

 

Regarding the Ruffino Modus:

"A ripe red, with berry and spice character. Chewy and full-bodied, with a long finish. Builds slowly but surely on the palate. Juicy. Sangiovese, cabernet suavignon and merlot. Best after 2009."

Wine Spectator
91 Points

So it's not only the Bordeaux grapes, but also includes a lot of sangiovese (50%, the other two 25 each).

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Reply by outthere, May 22, 2012.

Sometimes too much Grenache just makes the thing out of whack. I had a Donelan Cuvée Moriah last night hat had too much Grenache, like 70-30, to Syrah and it was a candied strawberry mess. 50-50 just may make it resemble some cherry cola RRV Pinots which we all know have the tendency to be a touch candied.

 

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Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2012.

You (and some of the CA winemakers) should drink more CdR from the southern Rhone, outthere. The good ones, at least. I really don't want cherry cola blended into my wine...   ;-)

BTW, if you can check the most recent PN I mention in this thread, I'd be curious if you've had any, and if so how you found it.

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Reply by outthere, May 23, 2012.

No I haven't. I was never an Araujo freak because I don't see the value in $300 Cabernet and $100+ Syrah. Therefor I wasn't one to follow him into Pinot Noir though it is a bit more realistic @ $45.

Went to the website and signed up for the mailing list. Got an initial offer of a case. Since there was only a production of 130 cases total it seems there must not be a large following for me to be allocated a case on my first offer. Maybe I'll pop for a couple bottles and see what it's all about. But I just got a mailer from Jemrose today offering me their Egret Pond Viognier for 10% off. Decisions decisions.

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Reply by dmcker, May 23, 2012.

In total agreement about the Araujo cab.

Just that my search for the Grail has been for good PN from California (and Oregon). I started with the greats in Burgundy back in the late '70s and early '80s, kept running into the craps from CA (before OR was even a gleam in someone's eye). My first station on the path was finding Chalone, then later Swan, as mentioned elsewhere. Really like that earth on top of this hills in the Pinnacles, for PN, chard and even cab. So even though The True and some parts of the Willamette (and even one site down on the South Island of NZ) have been more recent waystations, I'm still extremely curious about that part of Monterey.

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Reply by EMark, May 23, 2012.

Molly, you may feel that you are learning, but you are teaching me.  Your reference to "Missouri Nortons and some Chambourcins" sent me scurrying to Wikipedia.  Thank you.

I learn great stuff here, every day.

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Reply by Molly4006, May 24, 2012.

Thanks, EMark. I've been fortunate to live and learn in Missouri's wine country. It's distinctive, and while not every wine made here is good, every one is a learning opportunity, and the wineries are small, friendly, and eager to share their knowledge and practices. It's been a blessing and a lot of fun. 

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Reply by jimkuhner, May 26, 2012.

As a local living in Santa Rosa (and in the west coast wine biz), I'll give you my choices for wineries in the Russian River Valley to visit that have great wines and a variety of decor:

  • Joseph Swan
  • Copain Wines
  • Gary Farrell (old school, classic)
  • Porter Creek
  • Benovia
  • Arista
  • Twomey
  • Acorn
  • Iron Horse (bubbles)
  • Red Car
  • Lynmar
  • Merry Edwards

Of course, there's also the Dry Creek Valley just to the northwest of Healdsburg that is big Zin and Grenache country. That's a whole other ball of wax.

If you are looking for good places to eat, here's what I recommend:

  • Rosso Pizzeria in Santa Rosa (or checkout the Saturday farmers market at the Wells Fargo Center) - always a winner
  • Underwood in Graton - good for dinner
  • Willowood in Graton - good for lunch/brunch
  • Peter Lowell's in Sebastopol - uber-local food sourcing, really great casual lunch
  • Barndiva in Healdsburg - pricey for dinner, great for lunch/brunch
  • Scopa in Healdsburg - tiny, amazing food
  • Willi's Seafood in Healdsburg - super fresh, small plates, fun and casual

If you want to focus on the stretch of Highway 116 between Forestville and Sebastopol, I love to have brunch at Willowood in Graton and then hit Iron Horse, Red Car, Merry Edwards and Lynmar. Fairly close together. Wrap it all up with ice cream at Screaming Mimi's in Sebastopol and you're set.

If you want further advice, just let me know!

Jim

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Reply by outthere, May 26, 2012.

Listen to Jim, he's the man. 

Hi Jim, bet you're wonderingwho this is.

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Reply by jimkuhner, May 27, 2012.

Thanks for the kind words, outthere. I am wondering who this is... can you share??

Cheers!

Jim

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Reply by outthere, May 27, 2012.

It's Brian, I'm a Copain customer and saw you at the Vinify open house last month when you were pouring for Calluna.

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Reply by jimkuhner, May 27, 2012.

Of course! I had a sneaking suspicion it was you based on your Forestville location and your recent review of the 2010 Copain Les Voisins Pinot!

I'm currently working with 5 Sonoma-country brands: LIOCO, Calluna, Barbed Oak, Dunstan and Pip!

Some really fun stuff. I'm now doing by-appointment tastings on Friday AM and Saturday AM for LIOCO at the Copain Custom Crush on Hopper Ave. I'll have some wines open this Saturday AM for sure, if you'd like to come by.

I'll private message you so we can take this thread off-line.

Cheers!

Jim

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Reply by dmcker, May 27, 2012.

Glad to see you guys drawing each other out, all to our benefit!

Jim, I'm with you about everything but the Iron Horse. I find that is a wine and winery that divides opinion. Used to travel many times a year to Sebastopol (O'Reilly an important client) as well as Lucas Valley Rd. down in Marin during the '90s, and since my time was pretty much my own I spent a lot of it before or after those visits enjoying the area. Last decade I had even more free time and would spend month-long installments in Napa or Sonoma. I grew up in SoCal (with family in fruit orchards, etc. there and in Lake Co.) and Berkeley but have spent decades in Asia since, so these were great revisits to my spawning grounds. 

Was introduced to the Iron Horse cult at the beginning of the '90s by someone at O'Reilly. I'd spent a decade or two before enjoying discoveries in the depths of champagne, and getting frustrated with spumante and prosecco and cava. Found some Napa sparkling I liked but the Sonoma versions (Korbel and then IH) left me with those frustrated feelings from unsatisfying spumante or cava. Balance issues, lack of depth, off tastes and smells, questionable use of varietals, etc., etc., so I viewed and used them as fodder for Bellinis or Kir Royales or Mimosas. They certainly provided workmanlike service in those tasks.

Haven't really had any the last five or more years. Nor can I say that I sampled every bottling IH did during the couple of decades before that. Are they doing anything different, did I just miss some special releases, or is it merely a matter of my taste?   ;-)

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Reply by jimkuhner, May 27, 2012.

I totally understand where you're coming from. No other sparkling wine that I've tasted can compare with what you can get in Champagne. I am a Champagne fanatic but really love drinking sparkling wines from all over the world.

Even though Iron Horse cannot compete with Champagne, I think they do a really lovely job. I also think the wines have gotten better over the last few years. I've done the "flight" there so many times that what I usually do when I have friends in town is drive up there, purchase 3-4 glasses of bubbly (always including the Wedding Cuvee) and soak up the view and chat while passing around the glasses of bubbly.

When it comes to CA sparkling wines, Iron Horse may be just a hare behind Schramsberg and Roederer Anderson Valley in terms of quality but I still enjoy drinking them.

Now that it's coming up on Summertime, I do enjoy drinking Roderer's Rose sparkling this time of the year. It's always delightful.

Cheers!

Jim

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Reply by dmcker, May 27, 2012.

As outthere (Brian) knows, I'm a Schramsberg fan from the end of the '70s, when I started drinking them. I also agree that the Roderer AV's better than any IH I've had. At least a couple others in Napa, too.

Do undertand about enjoying the view and sharing the glasses at IH, though!

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Reply by Molly4006, May 29, 2012.

This is such, such fantastic information - thank you so much, Jim.  I'm starting to build the day trips around your recommendations, and the restaurants are spot-on.  I cannot wait for the seafood and produce out there; my idea of heaven is good wine, locally-sourced healthy food with lots of seafood, and enough bike riding to indulge absolutely guilt-free in both.  ;)

Wow...I had no idea my initial post would elicit such great advice.  Thank you all, and keep it coming if you like - it's all being used to build my trip.

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Reply by dmcker, May 29, 2012.

Hey, you'll owe us a good report on the places and wine you visit!  ;-)



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