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As the cooler weather arrives, at least cooler by southern California standards, our Wine Council gathered to taste California wines from the Napa, Salinas, and Sonoma valleys. Our first two, a brut rosé and a Chardonnay, were from Windsor Vineyards. Established in Marin County by Rodney Stone in 1959, he moved it to Windsor in Sonoma in 1962. Strong began customizing the wine labels for his customers who reserved their favorite Windsor Vineyards wine. After that, the customized labels took off and today you can select your wine and create a customized label or etched bottle. Our bottles were labeled with Wine Council members Susan and Todd Montgomery’s website Life-Uncorked.
Brut Rosé Platinum Series, North Coast ($32)
Produced using the French méthode champenoise (with a second fermentation in the bottle, aging 19 months), this sparkling rosé has honeysuckle and pear aromas on the nose, refreshing citrus on the palette, and a creamy rich mouthfeel. It paired well with a piquant Mexican farm cheese. Meanwhile, the 2019 Chardonnay Platinum Series from Russian River Valley ($27) has a bouquet of stone fruit and green apple, creamy vanilla and apricot flavors, with a smooth oak finish. The toasty warm flavors of this wine paired nicely with down-home and creamy comfort food chicken pot pie.
Merry Edwards Winery Pinot Noir, Russian River, Sonoma Coast, 2019 ($65)
Produced by Merry Edwards Winery (one of the first female winemakers in California), its Russian River appellation means cool Pacific Ocean breezes that cast fog over the vineyards in the mornings and evenings as well as warm days that radiate essential sunlight on the grapes. This Pinot Noir expresses the sensory characteristics of the terroir — the vineyard’s climate and soil. It’s a lovely ruby color in the glass with strawberry and pomegranate flavors. A luscious mouthfeel leads to a spicy, earthy finish which was accented by a pairing of nutty butternut squash soup.
Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 2017 ($48)
From the Stanton family’s Oakville vineyard. Since 1947 the family has been growing and selling grapes in the Napa Valley, and in 1999 Doug Stanton, grandson of grower Jesse, started producing wine under the Stanton Vineyard label. The land is cultivated, farmed, and managed by the family enterprise, without outside management. This petite sirah is aged in American and French oak barrels for 20 months, and the dark inky-purple color displays the rich typicity of petite sirahs. Full bodied, with intense dark chocolate and berry flavors, this wine paired beautifully with the earthy flavors of a smoky corn chowder.
Varozza Vineyards Petite Sirah, St. Helena, Napa Valley, 2015 ($50)
Estate grown 100-percent petite sirah, aged 24 months in French oak barrels. Varozza Vineyard’s proprietor Jack Varozza is a fifth-generation descendant of Swiss immigrant James, who worked the land in St. Helena. Aromas of mulberry and fig greet the nose, flavors of cocoa and berry entice the palette, and black pepper spice lingers on the finish. Flavorful Moroccan meatballs complemented the earthy structure of the wine.
Stokes Ghost Monterey, Petite Sirah, 2016 ($26)
Our last petite sirah is named after the legend of James Stokes, an1830s British sailor and counterfeit doctor, who purportedly haunts his still-standing Monterey home. The Scheid family started growing grapes in Monterey County in 1972, which lead to establishing Scheid Family Wines, with estate vineyards located in the Salinas Valley. This vintage has the traditional petite sirah deep, dark plum color, flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and plum, with tobacco and black pepper on the finish. Perfectly paired with Italian sausage lasagna which enhanced the spicy notes of the wine.
Tres Sabores Zinfandel, Rutherford Perspective, Napa Valley, 2018 ($34)
A bold red wine from Julie Johnson’s certified organic winery, Tres Sabores, founded in Rutherford in 1999. Tres sabores is Spanish for three flavors, and this family-owned winery focuses on the three “flavors” of terroir, vine, and spirit. The wine’s rich notes are more spicy and berry than jammy, with underlying mocha flavors. Well balanced and strongly structured, the distinctive tastes of the ground beef and tomato in the pairing of picadillo shine through with each sip of this lush wine.