One of our WineCountry.com readers (known to other message board posters as "Hawkeye") recently posted a very detailed report of his recent wine tasting trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley Wine Country. The trip spanned 7 days and was jam packed full of wine tasting experiences. Day 3 of the trip was spent exploring the wineries of Healdsburg. See his suggested itinerary and read his reviews of the wines below.
Day 3, Saturday, October 23
The day began on a very special high note! I had been corresponding with Cabgirl for a month or so about joining us for a tasting. She and her mother met us in Calistoga for our tasting in the Healdsburg area. I think Cabgirl probably knows more about wine that all of us together.
We had a nice visit as we headed over the two mountains to Healdsburg. On the way we ran into construction twice, both one way bridges, and both about a 15 minute wait.
We arrived at Duex Amis at our appointed time of 10:00 AM. There were now 10 of us in the group. The two owners, Phyllis Zouzounis and Jim Penpraze greeted us. This is one of those charming small wineries where we tasted in the winery barn. The tasting bar is a plank held up by two wine barrels. I had tasted there about a year ago and thought their Zin and Pino were pretty good. This time, I did not have the same experience. Their wines just did not have enough body for me.
By Courtney Cochran
Bucolic Anderson Valley is fast taking off as one of the nation's most buzz-worthy wine regions, but you wouldn't know it to wind among the valley's verdant vineyards, gently rolling hills and towering redwoods on twisting Highway 128. Situated some 75 miles north of San Francisco, the valley - home to show-stopping Pinot Noir and palate-quenching whites - exudes a peaceful serenity that seems diametrically opposed to its escalating notoriety. To see for yourself what all the (low-key) buzz is about, follow this itinerary for a rewarding day of wining and dining among the vines - Mendocino style.
By Robert Farmer
It is arguably the most power packed handful of square miles in California's Wine Country. Yountville: a tiny town along Hwy. 29, can be driven through in a matter of a couple minutes. But at a more leisurely pace, it can take a week to soak it all in. What a week that would be--filled with hours of wine tasting, spa time, and long casual dinners in some of the nation's best restaurants.
Yountville is home to several charming inns and a few world-class resorts. It boasts six Michelin stars among its dozen or so globally famous restaurants. And it's all contained within a few blocks radius. Yet in spite of its highly charged wine-and-dine reputation, Yountville manages to retain its slow-paced rural charm--never feeling too far from the roots that were planted in 1855, when George Calvert Yount laid out the city's plan and put the first grapes in the ground.
So it's not surprising that while many visitors are drawn to Yountville because it is home to Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his more casual Bouchon, still as many arrive to take in the joie de vivre of Wine Country as it can only be found in a town chock full of shops, boutiques and purveyors of the good life.
The town is in the throes of a master plan improvement, which will ultimately add a series of new hotels, spas, and of course restaurants--effectively jamming even more into its already packed four square-mile radius. And through December, the city and its surroundings come aglow during its 20th annual Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations and holiday-themed events.
By Robert P. Farmer
Part geological wonder, part destination to for the good life, Calistoga is one of the most popular regions of California's Wine Country. It first built up steam as a destination in the 1880s, when travelers made their way to the northern end of the Napa Valley to soak in the warm, sulfuric waters of the many area hot springs. In its later life, visitors grew fonder of the excellent cabernets and chardonnays being produced in the region. Today's Calistoga combines the best of all worlds, and throws in for good measure a great collection of excellent resorts and restaurants.
For a classic therapeutic experience, visit Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort, or Indian Springs Resort & Spa. Notable luxury resorts include the beautiful and secluded Calistoga Ranch, and the chicly appointed Solage Resort & Spa. When hunger strikes, check out the ever-inventive Wappo Bar & Bistro, or the dependable comfort of Brannan's Grill.
Most Calistoga wineries offer tours, many are lengthy, informational tours well worth carving out an afternoon for. Prices for the tastings vary, but are typically between $5 and $15.
By Robert P. Farmer
Among Sonoma County's numerous and unique appellations is Russian River Valley. One of the too-often-overlooked regions, in my estimation, this charming bucolic swath of valley terrain is home to more than 100 wineries--each as unassuming as they are impressive. It's also a region known to locals for its great off-the-trodden-path eateries and markets, and where winemakers are as serious about their craft as they are about enjoying life. Russian River Valley enjoys warm summer afternoons and ample coastal fog allowing for a long growing season. A diversity of soil types allows several varietals to thrive, though the Valley.