Monday, January 28, 2008

Stunning Napa Winery

A couple of months ago a tour guide friend told me he had been to the most beautiful winery he'd ever seen: Palmaz Vineyards. Since he has been leading wine country tours for more years than me, I figured I better seen this winery. Last week I had the chance.

Palmaz sits on a hillside overlooking the southern end of the Silverado Trail, just outside of the city of Napa. The winery is built into the side of Mount George in a five-level cave that is equivalent to the height of an 18-story building. The five levels enable the grapes and wine to move by gravity; thus, making pumps unnecessary. This gentle handling of the wine improves its quality says Palmaz, and other winemakers.

The fermentation dome is the world's largest underground reinforced structure at 54 feet high and 71 feet in diameter. The fermentation tanks sit on a carousel that enables the tanks to rotate into place to catch the grapes as they drop from the crusher-destemmer. Each fermentation tank is connected to a central computer so temperatures can be monitored constantly. These high-tech features are unlike any I had ever seen.

If you visit Palmaz, you will get to tour the winery and taste their current release wines paired with cheese or hors d'oeuvres. Palmaz produces two Cabernet Sauvignons, a dry Riesling, Chardonnay, and a sweet Muscat Canellli. The entire experience lasts about 90 minutes and costs $60/person.

While, Palmaz may not be the most beautiful winery I've ever seen, it certainly is one of the most stunning and certainly the highest tech winery I've visited. If you would like to take a private tour of the Napa Valley that includes a visit to Palmaz, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Zin and Syrah in the Russian River Valley

This past weekend I had a chance to take guests to one of my favorite little wineries -- Limerick Lane. This small, family-run winery features Zinfandel (red, not pink) and Syrah. Currently they produce four Zins, a Syrah, and their signature 1023 - a blend of Zin and Syrah. (1023 is the winery's address.) All of the wines come from the winery's vineyards, making Limerick Lane an estate winery.

But what makes Limerick Lane special is the laid back feeling and knowing that this is a real winery supporting local families; not just one of dozens of wineries in a big corporation's portfolio. Because the winery is small, they frequently sell out of wine. Thus, you are unlikely to be able to taste all of their wines during your visit. For example, 1023 is released in December and is usually sold out by early March.

This past weekend, my guests were able to taste Limerick Lane's Late Harvest Furmint. I had never heard of this grape and learned that it is a Hungarian varietal. Limerick Lane may be the only winery in the U.S. producing wine from Furmint. In addition to the Late Harvest Furmint, the winery produces a dry Furmint, but is currently sold out of this wine.

Limerick Lane's tasting room is located at 1023 Limerick Lane and is open daily from 10:00 - 5:00.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour that includes a visit to Limerick Lane, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Italian Varietals in Sonoma Valley

Some wineries have their tasting rooms located away from the actual winery. Wineries do this because their facilities are too far away from the usual tourist routes; the county will not issue a permit for a tasting room at the actual winery; or they lease, rather than own, production facilities.

VJB Vineyards and Cellars has a tasting room on Sonoma Highway (Hwy. 12) in Kenwood that is open to the public daily. They also offer sit-down tastings at their estate, which is just off Sonoma Highway, a couple of miles north of the tasting room.I had a chance to stop by the tasting room on a quiet day recently and found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable.

VJB produces wine from both traditional Italian and French varietals. I enjoyed their Barbera during my visit. They also produce Prosecco, an Italian-style sparkling wine, and Tocai Friulano, a white wine. Their Italian-style red wines include Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Anglianico, and Primitivo. Their French varietals include Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Syrah. Finally, they produce a Zinfandel (red, not pink).

VJB is a good stop on any visit to the Sonoma Valley. You'll get to taste wines that are not commonly available in an enjoyable environment. If you would like to take a private Sonoma tour that includes a stop at VJB, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Friendly French Cafe in Occidental

Last February I wrote about the small town of Occidental in the Russian River Valley and the Inn at Occidental. At that time, I did not have the opportunity to dine at the well-regarded Bistro des Copains. So on a recent overnight in Bodega Bay, I decided to drive the 30 minutes to check out this restaurant.

It was a typical winter's night in Occidental. The rain was pouring and the winds were blowing. When we entered the cozy restaurant, we were warmly greeted by owner, Michel Augsburger. We had many tables to chose from as not many folks were venturing out on this wet, chilly Monday night. We selected a window seat and decided on a red wine to help ward off the cold. While we were in California's wine country, Michel helped us select a French red to accompany the Provencal cuisine.

The bistro offers a very reasonably priced three-course tasting menu that changes daily. Since cassoulet - one of my favorites - was featured, my choice was easy. My wife opted for a salad and a thin-crust pizza. The food was good and the service casual and friendly. I definitely recommend dining at Bistro des Copains if you find yourself in West Sonoma.

I'd be happy to help you plan a vacation that includes a visit to the Russian River Valley or the Sonoma Coast. Just call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.