Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friendly Tasting Room in Carneros

Carneros is the wine growing region (American Viticulture Area (AVA)) that spans the top of San Francisco Bay. The nearby Bay provides for cooler temperatures; thus, making Carneros (sheep or ram in Spanish) an ideal locale to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Growers have also been experimenting with other varietals, such as Syrah.

Carneros' beautiful rolling hills and proximity to San Francisco (approximately one hour by car) make this a great place to taste wine. One of the friendliest tasting rooms to visit is
Nicholson Ranch, a small, family-owned winery that produces about 6,500 cases of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a very small amount of Merlot. The land is owned by Socrates Nicholson. (Ellis Island officials Anglicized the family's Greek surname.) Soc's daughter, Ramona, owns the winery. Both are frequently in the tasting room and available to answer your questions.

More likely you'll encounter the regular tasting room staff, which includes Bruce, Bill, Charles, Donna, Mark, and Susan. All are enthusiastic about Nicholson's wines; extremely knowledgeable about wine in general; and, most importantly, welcoming to all visitors.

Nicholson charges $10 for a flight of six wines, which you may keep to yourself or share with your companion. It's fun to compare and contract Nicholson's various Chardonnays, Pinots, and Syrahs. The staff will help you select wines that will appeal to your palate. Nicholson is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Tours of their caves may be arranged by prior appointment.

If you want to take a private, custom wine country tour that includes a visit to Nicholson Ranch, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking

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