Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tasting Sweet Wines

Sometimes I get folks on tours who prefer sweet wines and would like to taste such on their visits. Their preferences range from White Zinfandel to German-style Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers. Tasting sweet wines can be tough in Napa and Sonoma Counties as these wine regions are best known for dry wines.

There are wineries that produce excellent dessert wines such as Van der Heyden, Dolce, Trefethen, and Artesa. Some wineries, including Prager Port Works, Imagery, Frank Family, and Merryvale, produce sweet, fortified wines. However, my guests are usually looking for sweet table wines to sip or to drink with a meal.

To taste such wines, visitors can go to Beringer and Sutter Home. Both wineries have inexpensive, sweet wines to taste including some that are only available in the tasting rooms. These wines are not made with grapes from the Napa Valley and the tasting experiences are nothing to write home about. Beringer, though, is in a beautiful, historic facility. It is the oldest, continually operated winery in the Napa Valley and offers an array of interesting tours that focus on the winery's history.

The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are generally too warm for German varietals such as Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. Trefethen does make a dry Riesling, but this is usually not sweet enough for the folks I am talking about. My favorite place to taste a sweet table wine is St. Supery in Rutherford. While best known of its Sauvignon Blanc, St. Supery makes a quality Muscato that is a well-crafted sweet wine; although, not from Napa grapes. The Muscato is so popular that the winery has a Muscato-only wine club. St. Supery also makes an array of dry wines including Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and both white and red Bordeaux-style blends.

One of the advantages of taking a private, custom wine country tour is that I can help you pick wineries to visit that are likely to have wines you will enjoy. If you would like to make arrangements for a tour in Napa or Sonoma, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Zin and Bordeaux Varietals in the Alexander Valley

When I take guests on tours of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, one of my regular stops is Stryker Sonoma Winery. This small winery produces about 7,000 cases a year. However, winemaker Tim Hardin is a creative soul and likes to make small lots of wine. Thus, the 7,000 cases of wine are divided among approximately 22 red wines and 4 whites, with lots as small as 100 cases. One of Tim's specialties is wine from Bordeaux varietals, including a good number of Cabernet Sauvignons, a few Merlots, and small amounts of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Semillon. Tim also loves Zinfandel, so he produces at least eight different wines from this varietal.

The winery is a sleek, modern building with floor to ceiling windows in the tasting room. Thus, you can gaze out at the vineyards while tasting Stryker's many wines. The tasting room staff are friendly and eager to tell you about Stryker's wines and the various wine regions from which Stryker sources its fruit.

The winery is located on Hwy. 128, north and west of the city of Healdsburg. The tasting room is open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. You may just drop in for tasting. Tours can be arranged by prior appointment. Stryker offers more than one tasting menu, so fees vary.

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