Wine & Food

Snooth User: pboss

Trip report from Lodi and RRV

Posted by pboss, Jun 11.

After graduating from medical school and before beginning indentured service as a resident physician, my wife and I decided we should make a trip out to California wine country and Yosemite. So, a week after moving to my new residency location, we pawned off the two year old on the grandparents and headed for the hills of California.

We arrived in Sacramento a day before the rest of our group was to arrive, so we decided to hit Lodi early the next morning for a whirlwind tour. 

Michael David Winery

We got here around 10:00 am and there weren't many other wine drinkers around, so we had the tasting room to ourselves. Michael David has done a nice job of branding themselves, and many of their wines have interesting names, but overall we were underwhelmed with the wines. We did pick up a petite petit.

Oak Ridge Winery

Cozy little tasting room, and again we had the place to ourselves. Surprisingly, they had a sparkler there that was decent, but not really our style, so we bought a couple Zins (Delta Landing and Moss Roxx) and headed out.

Klinker Brick

By far our favorite winery in Lodi. A real laid back atmosphere with great wines and very nice people. Again we had the tasting room to ourselves. We enjoyed the Rose and Marisa Vineyard OVZ the most, and I was a little disappointed they were out of the Old Ghost OVZ (oh well). 

Macchia

We can get their Zins back East and I'm a real fan, so we decided to make a stop. We finally found the crowds we were expecting all day, but still enjoyed tasting there. I like most of their Zins, although some of them are very difficult to tell apart. The grounds at Macchia are very nice and we hung out in the back and listened to the live music for a little while before heading to the airport to pick up the rest of our group. 

Lodi is a very fun, laid back place to spend a day or two. Their Zins are distinctive in that they are big with tons of fruit. I wish I had one more day to spend there, as I feel I missed out on a few wineries (Lange Twins, Harney Lane).

After picking up the rest of the group from the airport, we headed for Yosemite. We weren't planning to stop, but after seeing several signs for Gnarly Head, we pulled over for a quick break and wine tasting. I'm glad we got to stretch our legs, but the wines here are not worth mentioning. 

We spent a few days in Yosemite. Despite being midday, I was able to snap this picture at Tunnel View:

 

After a few short days in Yosemite, we made the four hour trek over to Russian River Valley. We were staying at the Raford Inn B&B, and we decided to start tasting as soon as we arrived. Google Maps had us going down Westside Road, so we hit as many tasting rooms as we could before arriving at the Raford Inn. First up, Twomey.

Twomey Cellars

A beautiful, modern tasting room. We had the place to ourselves and were able to look out over the vineyards as we tasted and relaxed on the veranda. I thought there Sonoma Coast PN was the star (admittedly, the Bien Nacido was not available). Additionally, we picked up a bottle of Sauv Blanc.

 

Bacigalupi (John Tyler)

After driving past this place a few times, I decided Bacigalupi and John Tyler were the same winery. Indeed, Bacigalupi is the new name. Bacigalupi is well known for their vineyards, and they gave the impression that they only made wine on the side. Nevertheless, the wine was very good, and again, we had the tasting room to ourselves.

Thomas George Estates

We continued down Westside road and turned onto the beautiful grounds of Thomas George. I was a little disappointed to see that they were not tasting out of the caves today (apparently they turn fans on during the week to help with ?moisture? ?mildew?.) Picked up a few bottles of PN, with the Cresta Ridge vineyard being my favorite.

Moshin Vineyards

One of the more fun wineries we visited. Staff is very laid back and enjoys joking around. Wasn't too impressed with their wines (Later, at the Raford Inn we had an 'Emoshin' PN that was much better than anything we had in the tasting room). I got a kick out of the phrase they had on a lot of their merchandise - "It's not the size of the Pinot, it's the Moshin". Picked up a bottle of the Lost Ranch PN.

Gary Farrell

We originally intended to head over to Raford Inn after Moshin, but the group decided they had one more in them, so we stopped off at Gary Farrell. It was nearing closing time, so again we had the tasting room to ourselves. GF has a beautiful tasting room perched atop a hill and filled with windows, this was one of the best views of any winery we visited. The wine here was also very tasty, but we felt rushed as we had come in right at the end of the day. Picked up a bottle of the Bacigalupi Vineyard PN and the Russian River Selection PN.

Exhausted from our travels, we settled into our rooms at Raford Inn (aka napped) until Dinner. We ate at Willi's in Healdsburg. This is billed as a seafood restaurant and wet bar, but it offers different fare than a typical seafood restaurant. All the dishes are share plates, and everything was delicious. I enjoyed eating here and would highly recommend it. We also spent some time walking around in Healdsburg, and fell in love with the town. We ended up coming back into town at least once every day we were there. 

Red Car Wine Co.

The next day we headed South towards Graton, and began another day of touring and wine tasting at Red Car. Red Car is situated on the same property as  Dutton Goldfield, and the feel of the two wineries is completely different - RC is very hip and somewhat modern, while DG offers a classic winery feel. Interestingly, these styles seem to be reflected in their wines too.  The star of the Red Car line up, I thought, was the Rose of PN.

 

Dutton Goldfield

After Red Car we headed over to DG for a cheese and wine pairing reservation out on the patio. Once again, we had the place to ourselves. In addition to the cheese, we also enjoyed just sitting around on the beautiful patio enjoying the CA weather. My favorite here was the Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, but the PN was excellent as well.

 

Merry Edwards

I had heard that ME had great wines but a poor tasting experience. I agree with most that the tasting rooms (everyone gets a private room to taste in) were a bit sterile, but our pourer was a lot of fun to talk with and was very knowledgeable. Contrary to many of the reviews, we had a 5 star experience. Picked up a bottle of the Klopp Ranch and the Sauv Blanc (good, but overrated).

For lunch, we headed over to Willow Wood Market Cafe in Graton. Delicious place, and perfect for lunch. The open faced egg salad sandwich is awesome!

Scherrer Winery

At the suggestion of a few friends, I set up a tasting here. After pulling into the warehouse parking lot, I wasn't sure what we had gotten into. There were old pallets laying around, a dilapidated basketball goal, stacked wood, and chest high grass. I halfway expected to see some feral animals running around. We finally found our way into the warehouse and were immediately greeted by Fred Scherrer. He took us through the entire operation and opened bottle after bottle after bottle for us to taste. He is VERY passionate about his winemaking. I got the sense that he could easily sell out or produce on a larger scale, but chose to stay small to ensure the quality of his wine and to stay intimate with the winemaking process. In addition to opening any bottle we asked him to, he thoroughly answered all our questions, even going as far as showing us a method of paper chromatography he uses to track malo lactic fermentation in his wines. IMO, as a group, these were the best wines we tasted during this trip. I picked up several PN, a rose, and a cab. The old adage 'Don't judge a book by its cover' really played out this time.

 

After that 2 hour tasting and tour we headed back to the Raford Inn for our afternoon siesta before enjoying a few Zins from Carol Shelton on the porch.

That night we headed to Scopa, a local California-Italian place in Healdsburg, for dinner. Again, excellent food, especially the Burrata. 

Iron Horse

We enjoyed the outdoor tasting area overlooking the vineyards here. The sparklers were excellent, and the staff was very friendly. I was a particular fan of the Wedding Cuvee, but knowing that I could get that back home, we opted for a bottle of the Ocean's Reserve and Summer's Cuvee. I hounded the nice lady pouring the wine for a taste of the Chinese Cuvee, as I had read about this wine and had seen it for sale at the local Kroger. She assured me that they were completely sold out and certainly did not have any to taste. When I told her it was available at my local Kroger, she promptly told me to buy it as soon as possible. (Upon returning home, my wife bought this as an early Father's Day gift)

BTW, did I mention how beautiful the Iron Horse outdoor tasting room is?

Also fun watching them unload this truck:

J Vineyards

Staying with the bubbly theme, we headed over to J. This was a departure from the experiences we had been having at other places. This tasting felt corporate and almost like the server (complete with shirt and tie) was trying to "pitch" their wines to us. I was unimpressed with the wines, and my favorite - the Cuvee 20 - is available at the local Kroger, so we promptly paid the tasting fee and headed North to Dry Creek Valley.

Ridge Vineyards

Zinfandels here are meaty and complex. We also opted for the Monte Bello Cab tasting, which costed an additional $10 bucks. At that price for a single tasting I expected a lot, and it was certainly worth it. Picked up a bottle of East Bench Zin. (Just couldn't make myself give $160 for a btl of the Monte Bello)

Talty Vineyards

Quaint little vineyard and winery making big Zins. Was the 2011 Snooth Winery of the Year. Michael Talty was serving and we had a good time talking to him. Picked up a couple of the Estate Zins.

Dutcher's Crossing

We headed here at the suggestion of Mike Talty, and this was a good find. Very laid back and fun tasting room with a nice lawn and patio in the back. Had a Rose of Grenache which was very good and the first time I had seen a Rose from this varietal. Picked up a bottle of the Rose and Petite Sirah (Overall I found the Petite Sirahs from Dry Creek Valley to be outstanding).

Ferrari-Carano

Beautiful gardens and excellent wines. Atmosphere is kind of Vegas-esque with lots of marble and opulence (evidently the owner is also in the casino business). We opted for the Limited Release and Reserve wine tasting which takes you to the bottom floor of the building, past the barrel room. Picked up a chard and PN. 

Enjoyed the rest of the day on the Raford Inn porch drinking some outstanding Balletto pinots.

Raford Inn Winery

Dane, one of the proprietors at the Raford Inn, takes guests on a tour of the small wine operation at the Inn. He is growing mostly Zinfandel. After showing us the vineyards and going through the process of winemaking, he took us into his small barrel room and treated us to some barrel tastings.

 

Williams-Selyem

Beautiful winery with top notch PN. Interestingly, you have to be on the mailing list and set up a private tasting here to even find out where the place is. There is no sign off the road - only a gate and address. Upon arrival our tour guide promptly poured us a glass of Chardonnay and led us into the barrel room. After that we headed up the hill to a beautiful tasting veranda where we had several of their PNs. Apparently, the tasting selection at the winery changes often due to limited availability. According to the tour guy, 95% of their wines go directly to their mailing list, 4% go to restaurants and 1% goes to the tasting room. We settled on a bottle of Block 10 PN and then headed into Healdsburg to enjoy the day before flying out of Sacramento that evening.

 

This California trip was a home run and I am already thinking about a return trip. Major find this trip was Dutcher's Crossing - just a neat place to hang out and have a glass of wine. Lodi was great fun and very laid back, but the wines are just not on par with those found further West. In the future I would like to spend more time in the Dry Creek area. Also, after driving past Korbel, I wish I had worked that into the itinerary, as it didn't look nearly as corporate as I had expected. Cheers!

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Replies

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Reply by napagirl68, Jun 11.

Wow!  GREAT write up.. thank you!  I need to digest this a bit.....

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Reply by napagirl68, Jun 11.

Wanted to add... Lodi, IMO, is meant for whites.  Rhone whites.  Spanish whites.  I think the zin thing is overrated, and many are too big and fruity for that climate and fertile soil.  Harney Lane made a decent Albarino that I used to enjoy. The hidden gem is Acquiesce winery, which ONLY does white rhone varietals/blends.

 

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Reply by napagirl68, Jun 11.

Ok, it's me again... just lapping up your post.. love it!   Scherrer sounds awesome (I think OT would agree) and the tip on Dutcher's Crossing is great.. I have passed it by a few times, but will put it on my itinerary.

LOVE Iron Horse sparklers as well... sorry to hear about the the corp 'tude at J Vineyards.  I have liked some of their sparklers in the past, but when I visit, I want an experience!

On the Pinot front... Of the handful of Dutton-Goldfield Pinots that I have had, I found them to be very decent but overrated. 

 

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 11.

I agree about Lodi, NG. Never have been a J fan, though, even from back in the '80s when it wasn't a separate operation. Nor do Iron Horse wines float my boat they way they do for some.

 

Great writeup, PBoss! Thanks for sharing. How many bottles did you end up carrying or shipping home?

I agree with you on Scherrer and Ridge, and several others. How did you like the Williams-Selyem wines?

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Reply by outthere, Jun 11.

Nice, all this time in my backyard and not a single PM. there are some hidden gems out here in West County though you did fairly well without my help. We probably crossed paths a few times and didn't realize it!

Nice report!

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Reply by pboss, Jun 11.

NG -  I've always heard the Zins touted as the varietal flagship, but I will definitely start exploring whites from Lodi.

DMCKER - We ended up with four cases. Got first class plane tickets as a graduation gift on the way back, and turns out you can check 3 bags each for free when you fly first class with USAir. 

OT - Hope I didn't offend (but also didn't want to be presumptuous). Will definitely message you next time.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 11.

Offend? Me? Get outta town! ;)

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Reply by dvogler, Jun 12.

If your medical/patient reports are half this good, you'll make a fine doctor!

Glad you bucked up for the Monte Bello tasting.  Even more glad to hear it was worth it!  $160?  Weird, because I can get one here in Victoria for $170...I'd expect it would be much less there.

Great job.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Jun 12.

PBoss, excellent write up! So glad you and the family had such a good time in my all time favorite wine area. Your experiences are right in line ours, especially the extra special treatment from Fred Scherrer and Dane and Rita at Raford. We haven't been to Dutcher's Crossing or Williams Selyem so now we have some new entries on the to do list.

I'm trying to convince L we need to get back out there for the Scherrer open house in November, all depends on how much vacation time we have left.  Do you think you might be interested in joining us?  If we do make it, we'll give OT a heads up well in advance.

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Reply by Really Big Al, Jun 12.

PB - I agree with the others, this was most excellent documentation.  I've taken to making a web page of our vacations / wine trips, like this one from our spring 2013 visit to Napa and associated places:  http://www.bigal-computers.net/wine-country-2013.php  I like your approach of providing details on each winery visited.  I assume you took more pictures but one or two per winery might be enough.  I take tons of pictures, sometimes over 1K pictures on 2-week vacations with my iPhone. 

Based on your reviews, I really want to go visit Healdsburg and several of the wineries you tasted at. 

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 12.

Enjoyed the report...really reinforces the fact that I need to get out to Scherrer one of these days.

DV, Ridge charges maximum retail at their tasting room plus $10-20 so as not to offend their vast wholesale business. They have to answer to large outfits such as BevMo, Total Wine after all. You'd be shocked at the costs of their library Montebello's, they get up to $400+ pretty quick.

I will avoid all Lodi until new information comes along, ditto for Temecula. 

However I'm interested in the potential of coastal So Cal sites that don't produce wine such as some of my stomping grounds between San Diego and LA.

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Reply by MrWino101, Jun 12.

Hope you bought the optional bread at Scopa...to die for! Your trip sounds like one I do about every six weeks. If anybody else is looking to hit the wine road in RR and Dry Creek, her's a couple sure bets. Zins:

Mazzocco, which does about two dozen single vineyard Zins...and not one of them is less than perfection.

Armida, does a great Maple Zin (Tina's Block)

Wilson, great deck area (one of the best) and nothing but 90 pointers in the bottles.

There's one real sleeper in RR taht I won't even mention the name because they sell out so fast. Last time I was there Dave Ramey was there buying the Pinot. Even he said this is where I always get my Pinot! 

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Reply by pboss, Jun 13.

I'm glad to hear about Mazzocco - it came highly rated by a couple we met there. Would love to know the 'unmentionable' sleeper.

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Reply by MrWino101, Jun 13.

Yes PBOSS, Mazzocco is a real winner. It's part of Ken and Diane Wilson's group of wineries, and every one of the eight are great. Diane, who makes the juice for Wilson, was named International Womans Winemaker of the Year a few years back. I first discovered Wilsons almost two decades ago when it was appointment only. If you missed Mazzocco, I would suggest you order a couple bottles and have them shipped to you. Their Smith Orchard, Pony, Stone...well hell, any of them will do the job. As far as my unmentionable sleeper...So sorry, it will remain snooring, as I missed out on one of my faves that sold out in just a couple months! Their Pinot is to die for, as the cliential I noted, is proof of that! Glad you enjoyed your visit here. Next time around, give me a shout and I'll be happy to meet up for a taste on the wine road!

www.wine-o-101.com

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Reply by outthere, Jun 13.

Dude that's weak. This forum is about sharing, comparing and enjoying wines. Wine geeks share. I never hold back on new hot producers and/or limited production wines. If the wines sell out maybe you should be on their mailing list and take advantage of them when they release?

Sorry, but someone had to say it.

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Reply by MrWino101, Jun 13.

Sorry OUTTHERE, but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself, just like I'm sure Dave does. I remember finding an old suppermarket when I was about tweleve years old that had a penny baseball card machine. That machine seemed to always spit out the hardest cards to get. That was 1959 and I was the only kid on the block that three Duke Mass cards, the hardest card to get that year from Tops. Once I told a friend, who told a friend, and before you know it the machine always had about four or five kids standing in line with their pockets full of pennies. Needless to say the machine ran out of cards in a few hours and we had to wait until the next week or so when the vendor re-stocked the machine. With wine its not simply restocking the following week. Actually thats what I find exciting when traveling the wine roads, and I'm sure there are others that have that hidden gem that they treasure. Like Forrest Gump and his box of choclates, you never know what you're going to get. Keep in mind, I do share plenty on my blog, and intend to share much more on the new site when it's up and running next month.

Hope to catch up with you some day. BTW are you going to the WBC next month?

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Reply by outthere, Jun 13.

Oh, sure, I was stung by a bee when I was 7 and now I never ride my bicycle through swarms. Have you seen a therapist for that?

As for WBC, no. I am a wine lover not a blogger. I partake in wine boards to learn, share and make new friends with a common interest. . Got a chuckle out of the review Richard Jennings did on the one a few years back in Virginia. It's a very long read but extremely informative.

Oh, BTW, I received some new wines yesterday that I have been really excited to try. Very well known winemaker, his own personal label. 1-3 barrel production per variety. Sold out in one day. Would love to share it with you but you know how it is. ;)

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Reply by tradewater, Jun 13.

Nice trip report.  It makes me realize that it's about time for another couple of weeks in California wine country...

Thanks for the effort!!

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Reply by MrWino101, Jun 13.

Many thanks for the sarcasm, and no, I’ve never seen a therapist for anything. Sorry you limit yourself to information by presuming bloggers aren’t wine lovers, and won’t be attending the WBC. You might find blogging fun and rewarding, meeting others and making friends like you noted. The over 400 bloggers attending the WBC, that you already noted you look to for information, are ALSO wine lovers. That’s how and why we started doing what we do in helping you and others get information and different perspectives on wine. BTW, Richard will be at the WBC and I’ll make sure to tell him you said hello. So, I’m really sorry that I’ve gotten you so upset by just not divulging the name of one single winery amongst almost 300 in the Dry Creek and RR areas, that you had to resort to the noted sarcasm. Actually I’ve been to almost a 1,000 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington and east to Texas Hill Country (BTW, most of the Texas wineries note that some of their best selling wines are from fruit sourced from California). And of those near 1,000 wineries, I bet there are hundreds I’ve never even discussed with anybody. But everybody has their own way of expressing themselves, just like a winemaker does with the fruit he or she works with. Not sure where you’re located, but the best way to find great juice, and those hidden gems, is to hit the road like PBOSS and I, and seek them out, which I do about a week or so every month. It’s always great to have feedback, even if it tilts to the negative sarcastic side of the spectrum from the get-go, which also makes it much harder to make friends.Enjoy the fruit of the vine and pop a cork for me!

Cheers!

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Reply by outthere, Jun 13.

Me upset? Not in the least.  Glad you got the sarcasm, where did it shift gears?

I didn't say wine bloggers are not wine lovers, I said I am not a blogger.

Resort to sarcasm? It's who I am. If you spend any time here you will understand that and not key it get under your skin.

I live in Sonona County in the middle of the RRV. I probably already know of your "secret winery" and it may or may no it be in my wheelhouse. Seems we have differing tastes. Regardless of that I simply don't see the value of coming to the Snoith community to post about something and keep it a secret. The secret us likely already out.

Happy secret keeping!

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