Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wining in Napa and Sonoma and Lompoc...Part 1...

Having been invited to witness the wedding of Megan and Rich, JD and I drove up to Napa 7/24, stopping at Harris Ranch for an overpriced lunch and fuel for the car; arrived at the Best Western Inn at the Vines in Napa. Very nice, updated, clean room. Pulled in around 4, cleaned up and rested a bit, then coasted over to Villa Romano for the rehearsal dinner. Megan and Rich love Villa Romano, but the staff were a bit unfocused due to the sudden illness of their boss the night before, so dinner had some interesting hiccups. The guests were mainly family, but there were other folks as well: Dale and Mark, Brian and Stephanie, Rich’s best man Don Williams and his family, and Joe Lobue from WineShop At Home and his wife.

Dinner was edible, the wines were from WSAH, and were fine for the meal. Thanks and gifts were presented to various participants, including JD and me, and then we all met back at the Meritage for wine and roasted marshmallows around the fire pit. By that time, JD and I were beat and we headed back to the BW for a good night’s sleep.

7/25 we slept late. Comfortable bed and quiet place. Got up and dressed, found some bad-for-you-but-tasty food down the road at Applebee’s for breakfast, stopped at Target to pick up some supplies (read wine), and went back to the room to sit on the patio and read and nap until it was time to get ready for the wedding. The wedding was, of course, beautiful and moving. Joe officiated - his first wedding! - and did everyone proud. It’s always heartwarming to attend a ceremony for people who have clearly found their soulmates. I read a short poem that Megan had assigned to me; other readings occurred. Tears ensued. Perfect.
Reception in cave @ Meritage

While pictures were being taken, the guests trooped out to the patio for wine and passed hors d’oeuvres. The wines for the reception and dinner were from Cline and Jacuzzi. Dinner was tasty. Dancing followed. We faded around 10 p.m. or so, but I heard the party went on for a while after. Our wedding duties done, we focused on WINE.

Barr opening his wine.
Monday the 26th, nephew Chris drove up from Walnut Creek to join us for what turned out to be an extraordinary day. We drove up to Calistoga to visit winery owner, Barr Smith, at Barlow. The tasting took place in Barr’s father’s home, a beautiful open-design home with lots of windows and a deck with a gorgeous view of the vineyards. That morning the mist was still hanging low over the hills while we sampled - and purchased - Barr’s lovely wines. My favorite is his Bordeaux-style blend called Barrouge. It rocks!

Pulled pork 'wich @ Zin. Yum!
After a pleasant visit with the Smiths, we headed over Rte. 128 to Healdsburg, and Chris treated us to a quick, but yummy lunch at Zin, a friendly little bistro and wine bar.

After replenishing our strength, we set off to visit Clay Mauritson at Mauritson Family Winery. The fog cleared, the sun shone, and Clay, after a quick tasting in the tasting room, and some barrel tasting in back, filled a wine bag with bottles and glasses, loaded us into his truck, and headed up the road to the Rockpile at the very tippy-top of Sonoma. Straddling the ridge between the two arms of Lake Sonoma is Rockpile AVA. One of the newest appellations in California, Rockpile's location and history can be described in one word: DRAMATIC!

Rockpile AVA
On the road, he told us the history of his Swedish family who had come over to Sonoma as ranchers of sheep, not wine. The Mauritsons had owned almost 4000 acres of land, which was rudely taken by the US Gov’t citing Eminent Domain. The state put a significant amount of acreage under water to create Lake Sonoma, and then condemned the rest of the property they had seized, and proceeded to offer it for sale at a price so high, the Mauritsons couldn’t afford to buy it back. Luckily, they still owned 700 acres, and turned to grape-growing and winemaking. Clay knows more about soil – and the 37 types of soil on their property – than any person I’ve ever met.

Clay opening a Rockpile Zin
 I have to say the 'white-knuckle' tour of Clay's Rockpile vineyards was more than any of could have imagined or hoped for. The weather was perfect, the view from the top of the mountain breathtaking, and the drives up and down terrifying. However, being able to drink a wine with the winemaker pointing out the vineyard that supplied the very grapes being drunk at that moment was a moment to be treasured. Thanks, Clay, for a truly amazing afternoon!

JD, me, Chris at Rockpile
After Clay brought us back to the winery, we made a few purchases, thanked Clay for his kindness and generosity, and headed back to Napa. The 3 of us were overwhelmed by the events of the day, so Chris headed home and JD and I went into downtown Napa to find some dinner. Tuscany Restaurant on 1st Street provided a pleasant, but unexceptional dinner, and we ended our day tired but happy.

Next, a full day of tasting along Rte. 29 and the Silverado Trail.


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