Saturday, December 15, 2007

Beautiful Hilltop Winery in Sonoma Valley

Moon Mountain Vineyard is easily overlooked when winetasting in the Sonoma Valley. It requires an appointment to visit and is a couple of miles up Moon Mountain Drive, on the Sonoma side of Mount Veeder between the towns of Sonoma and Glen Ellen.

The drive up Moon Mountain Drive takes you through beautiful vineyards with fantastic views of the mountains and valley floor. Along the way, you will pass one of Sonoma County's most famous vineyards, Monte Rosso, which was founded by the Napa winery, Louis Martini. When you arrive at Moon Mountain Vineyard, you'll climb the steps to the tasting room, where you will have beautiful views of the surrounding hillside vineyards.

Moon Mountain grows all five of the classic Bordeaux varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec; as well as Syrah. The vineyards are certified organic; although, the wine is not as sulfites are added.

Tours and tastings are available from Tuesday through Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and sometimes at 10:30 a.m. A tour lasts about 90 minutes and includes a visit to the winery's natural caves. There is a nominal $10 fee for the tour and tasting that is credited towards any purchase.

Moon Mountain is a welcome retreat from the traffic and crowds along Route 12 in the Sonoma Valley. If you would like to take a private wine country tour of Sonoma Valley that includes a stop at Moon Mountain Vineyards, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Come for the Architecture, Stay for the Wine

Carl Doumani, founder of Stags' Leap Winery, decided he wanted to own a smaller winery. So in 1996 he founded Quixote Winery after selling Stags' Leap. Like Stags' Leap, Quixote is best known for its Petite Sirah.

However, what brings many visitors to Quixote is not the wine but the unique architecture. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a Viennese painter and sometimes architect, designed Quixote's building. Like all of his works, Hundertwasser included no straight lines in the building's design planted grass on the roof, capped the building with a turret, and utilized an array of colors.

You can learn much more about Fred Hundertwasser and his work by visiting Quixote. The 90-minute tour and tasting includes a presentation on the architecture as well as a tasting of Quixote's current releases. The tour does not include a visit to the production facilities as they are small and of less interest than the exterior architecture.

As for the wine, Quixote produces about 3,000 cases of Petite Sirah, Cabernet, and other varietals. Petite Sirah is not the same as Syrah (or Shiraz as the Aussies call Syrah). Rather, it is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin that was first propagated in the 1880s in the Rhone Valley of France by Francois Durif. In France and other parts of the world, the grape is known as Durif; however, it is seldom vinified in France.

Petite Sirah is a big, often highly tannic wine. Sometimes Petite Sirah is blended with other varietals to add more color and body tot he wine. The only thing petite about petite sirah is the size of the grape.

As you can probably tell, Doumani likes to do things differently. One other difference in his wines is that all the bottles are sealed with screw caps. This isn't the place to debate the merits of cork and twist-off closures, but Doumani believes that screw caps provide the best protection for his wines.

An advance appointment is required to visit Quixote. A tour and tasting costs $25/person. If you would like to include Quixote on a private Napa Valley tour, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) to arrange a visit. You may also e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Olive Oil Tasting in Rutherford

Not only does the Napa Valley produce excellent wine, but it is also home to high-quality, artisan olive oil. If you want to learn how olive oil is made and taste some excellent oil, I recommend a visit to Round Pond on Rutherford Road. The winery is on the south side of the road, while the olive mill is just north of the road.

Round Pond uses a stone mill and hammer mill to produce fresh olive oil from Italian and Spanish olive trees. When I visited last week olives were being milled, so I got to see some of the processing involved in the making of olive oil.

In addition to a tour of the production facility, a visit includes a tasting of Round Pond's oils and vinegar paired with various foods. The entire experience lasts about 90 minutes.

Tours and tastings are generally offered at 10:30, 12:30, and 3:00 and cost $20/person. Round Pond also offers an Al Fresco Lunch at 12:30 that costs $45/person. Advance appointments are required. Olives are usually harvested between October and January, so this is the best time to visit if you want to see some oil being made.

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