Monday, February 20, 2006

J Vineyards and Winery

Two weeks ago I had the special opportunity to lunch in the Bubble Room at J Vineyards and Winery. J is located in a beautiful facility at 11447 Old Redwood Highway, just south of Healdsburg. The winery was founded in 1986 by Judy Jordan, the daughter of Tom Jordan of Jordan Vineyard and Winery fame. Originally focusing on one wine - J Vintage Brut - today the winery produces sparkling wines, pinot noir, chardonnay, a delicious Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio in Italian) that I was privileged to taste, and other wines.

J offers food and wine pairings in its main tasting room for $12/person. If you want a more intimate and leisurely tasting experience, then make a reservation for a tasting in the Bubble Room. Here you may spend up to two hours tasting limited release wines. Chef Mark Caldwell prepares interesting and well thought out food pairings for each of the wines. Tasting in the Bubble Room costs approximately $30/person. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 707-431-5430.

The wines and food change regularly, but you can be assured that whatever you taste at J will be wonderful.

If you would like to take a private, custom tour of the Russian River Valley that includes a visit to J, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Wonderful Food at the Madrona Manor

On Tuesday, I was treated to a delicious meal at the Madrona Manor, a stunning Victorian mansion outside of Healdsburg. The mansion was built in 1881 and today contains an inn and restaurant. Nine rooms, as well as the restaurant, are located in the main building and more rooms are located in out buildings.

We were expecting a five course meal with a different wine paired with each course, but chef Jesse Mallgren through in an extra appetizer, a sorbet to cleanse our palates, an extra desert, and a truffle to make sure we went to sleep with an appropriate sugar buzz. I particularly enjoyed the Alaskan Char,the Painted Hills beef filet, and the chocolate souffle. I am not a beef eater, but the filet was one of the tastiest and tenderest pieces of beef I have ever enjoyed.

The Madrona Manor is the perfect spot for a romantic weekend. The inn is located at 1001 Westside Road, just west of the charming town of Healdsburg. You can phone the inn at (800) 258-4003.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Beautiful Day In Wine Country

Yesterday I took a family to the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys for a day of winetasting. What a gorgeous day it was. I've always said the most beautiful days are between winter storms, and yesterday proved that to be true. After our abundant rain, the hillsides are a lush green and the yellow mustard is blossoming in the vineyards. With the nearly cloudless blue sky and temperature in the 60s, it was a perfect day to visit wine country.

My guests visited seven wineries, tying the Blue Heron the record for most wineries visited in an eight-hour tour. Yet the day was not rushed. Being a Saturday, we visited one of my favorite small wineries. Deux Amis (two friends) is the perfect example of a great boutique winery. Winemaker Phyllis Zouzounis and co-owner Jim Penpraze produce about 1,500 cases of luscious, full-bodied Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The winery and tasting room fit into a small warehouse at 1960 Dry Creek Road, outside of Healdsburg. When you stop by, not only will you get to taste great wine, but you'll always get to meet at least one of the owners. Yesterday, my guests met both Phyllis and Jim, tasted four great wines for free, and learned about winemaking as Phyllis topped off the barrels. Deux Amis is usually open on Saturday afternoons. If you want to visit at another time, call (707) 431-7945 to make an appointment.

If you would like to take a custom, private tour to visit Deux Amis and other wonderful boutique wineries, call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.