Quivira Winery: Visiting a Sister (Winery)

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As my wife and I are Tandem Wine Club Members — and as Quivira Winery and Tandem are related (“sister wineries”) – we decided to swing by Quivira Winery after our visit to Michel-Schlumberger – an easy five-minute drive away.  As some background, my wife and I were introduced to Tandem Wines in July 2008 at a restaurant known then as The General’s Daughter located in Sonoma — the restaurant has since been sold and reopened under the new name “Estate” and is now more of an Italian restaurant.   Getting back to my short story, the sommelier recommended that we try Tandem’s 2005 Peloton as she told us, “the interesting thing about Peloton is the blend changes each year yet it consistently is a good tasting quality wine” — I totally agree.  I have found that I have enjoyed the blend from 2003 through 2005 with the 2005 Peloton being my favorite.  The photo below is Tandem’s 2007 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir which is a wine I wrote about earlier and illustrates Tandem’s label should you be unfamiliar their wine.

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Tandem: 2007 Pinot Noir (Manchester Ridge Vineyard)

I assume you are wondering how the visit to Quivira Winery is relevant to a Tandem Wine club member.  In January 2009 Greg La Follette (Tandem) agreed to take on a new majority partner, Wine Creek, founded and owned by Pete Kight.  Pete Kight is also the owner of Quivira Winery thus establishing the relationship between the two.  Jennifer Rolander, Direct Sales Manager for both Quivira and Tandem, was so kind as to arrange a quick last-minute tasting for my wife and I.  In our haste I forgot to take any photos, however the Quivira wines we tasted were delightful and the staff in the tasting room were great.  Jennifer poured a variety of wines for us, including the highly rated 2006 Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) along with the 2007 Grenache  (Dry Creek Valley) and a Sauvignon Blanc — we enjoyed all of the wines.    On our visit, we were fortunate enough to meet Pete Kight and he did reaffirm that Greg La Follette, who heads up Tandem’s wine-making and viticulture, is now able to focus on his passion:  crafting fantastic wines without having to worry about all the business trappings.

This was a quick visit but I am glad we took the time to introduced ourselves to Quivira wines.  The winery is in beautiful Dry Creek Valley and should be visited if you are in the area.

I have to further acknowledge the outstanding customer service as provided by Jennifer Rolander.  Not only did she arrange her schedule to accommodate our visit she has since worked with me to reduce the shipping costs I incur by consolidating wine club shipments.  This may not seem to be a big deal but the cost savings to me will be significant — such that I can spend the money on what I enjoy — wine!  Most wineries I have spoken to have not been willing to even entertain the idea.  Cheers to delicious wine and great customer service!   These days, extra efforts towards customers is that special touch that sets a winery apart from the herd and Quivira / Tandem does an outstanding job due to Jennifer’s special touch.  Should you desire to follow Quivira on twitter they are @Quivirawinery.

Recommendation:  If you are in the Healdsburg area you should visit Quivira winery as they craft quality wines you will enjoy.  Make sure you make an appointment if you would like to take the tour and, as always, I suggest you take the tour if you have the time.  No appointment is necessary for the tasting room with a $5 tasting fee that is waived if you buy a bottle.

 Quivira Vineyards and Winery:  4900 West Dry Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

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Posted in Quivira, Sonoma County, Tandem, Winery Review Tagged: Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, Quivira Winery, Sonoma County, Tandem Winery

Michel-Schlumberger Winery: Gem in Dry Creek Valley

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From the Gary Farrell Winery we had some time before our next appointment so we drove into Healdsburg, had lunch at El Farolito (Mexican food) and then walked across the street for ice cream at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe.  Healdsburg itself is fantastic as there are plenty of great restaurants, fantastic shopping, wine tasting opportunities and of course, one of my favorites — yummy desserts.

After lunch we drove to Michel-Schlumberger Winery, located in Dry Creek Valley, for our 2 pm appointment for our “Estate Tour and Tasting”.   A “Wine and Cheese Pairing” is available Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we visited on a Tuesday so this was unavailable).  In addition, a “Vertical Tasting of Reserve Cabernet” is also an option — looking back I wished we had gone with the vertical tasting as it would have been interesting to taste the differences in the 1998, 2000 and the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon side-by-side.

Twitter Info:  Michel-Schlumberger has an active presence on twitter so if you are into that you can follow them at @M_Schlumberger along with Jim Morris who is the Director of Retail and Direct to Consumer operations for the winery and is known as @Sonomawineguy.

We began the tour walking a short distance up the hill — the view from that vantage point is quite impressive.  As you look around, you see vines on the sloped hill, the picturesque lake and the vine-covered valley below — a truly beautiful setting.  The 30 minute tour continued stepping through the entire process from the vineyard to the bottle and then ultimately, to the tasting.

Michel-Schlumberger Lake View

Michel-Schlumberger: Lake View

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Tour was informative in a beautiful setting

Our tasting experience allowed us to enjoy the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in the beautiful mission styled main building.  As we walked in, it was if we were special guests entering a friend’s home  — you could see the painstaking efforts made to ensure that we felt like honored guests.  Nice touch indeed! Enjoyed the winery, however the wines were not to my liking — not all wines are for everyone.
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Beautiful room setup for our tasting

Recommendation:  Make efforts to visit the winery — the view plus the enjoyable wine makes it worth the effort. Michel-Schlumberger:  4155 Wine Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448 < p style="text-align:justify;">
Posted in Michel-Schlumberger, Sonoma County, Winery Review Tagged: Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg, Michel-Schlumberger, Sonoma County, Wine, Winery, Winery Review

Gary Farrell Winery: The Wow Factor!

Wow!  What an experience!  Prior to our visit, I had heard that the tasting room at Gary Farrell Winery offers one of the best views overlooking the Russian River Valley and it did live up to its reputation.  The winding drive up to the winery set the tone as my wife and I kept commenting on the beauty that surrounded us as we made the drive up to the top of the hill to the winery.  Our 10 am appointment gave us 30 minutes before the winery opened to the general public allowing us to have the place relatively to ourselves for a brief time  – an advantage to making an appointment in advance.   As we like the slower pace we opted for the tour, tasting and cheese pairing and I urge you to do the same as it makes for a fantastic experience.
Gary Farrell: View off patio deck

Gary Farrell: View over-looking the Russian River Valley

Scott Monroe took care of us beginning the tour with the stunning view you see above.  This overlook of the Russian River Valley is fantastic and this photo does not even come close to capturing the beauty.  Scott described the wine making process beginning with the important long-term relationships the winery has with various vineyards for its supply of quality grapes — with only one exception, the fruit originates from Sonoma County — most of it coming from the Russian River Valley.  One particular relationship that caught my attention is the one with Rochioli Vineyard as this vineyard is known to produce exceptional fruit year in and year out — supplying both  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Scott detailed the process and concluded the tour talking about Susan Reed who spent 3 years working with Gary Farrell and then in August 2006 took over the reigns as winemaker at the winery.
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Winery Tour: Scott Monroe explains the wine-making process

The wine tasting and cheese pairing experience was both relaxing and enjoyable and the view — have I mentioned the view?  The view from the tasting room really is breathtaking, so much so I forget to take a photo for you to enjoy.  The relaxed atmosphere made the experience one both my wife and I will always remember.  We tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, a Proprietary red blend and Zinfandel.  Of the 9 wines we tasted, I noted 4 as being very enjoyable including the 2007 Bradford Mountain (Dry Creek Valley)  Zinfandel.

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Wine and Cheese tasting setup

We joined the Gary Farrell Grand Crew Club as we were so impressed with the wines we tasted.  We just recently took our first delivery which consisted of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and once I open them, I will share the tasting experience in a future write-up.

On a side note, when you visit the Gary Farrell Winery you are a short drive (about 10 minutes) away from the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant, a Michelin rated one-star restaurant that is just fantastic — my suggestion is go there for dinner if you can.  The link will take you to my earlier post about our experience there — a truly memorable dining pleasure.  I only mention this as the Farmhouse Inn Restaurant is in my top 2 favorite restaurants in the Sonoma / Napa area.

The tour, tasting and cheese pairing is at a cost of $25 — do it!  You will enjoy it!  You can opt for tastings only with a tasting fee of $10 and $15 depending on the wine flight you choose.

Recommendation:  Make time to visit the Gary Farrell winery as you will enjoy both the outstanding wines and the exceptional view overlooking the Russian River Valley.

Gary Farrell Wines; 10701 Westside Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448

 


Posted in Chardonnay, Gary Farrell, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, Winery Review, Zinfandel Tagged: Gary Farrell, Healdsburg, Richioli Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Winery Review

Schramsberg Vineyards: Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles

We booked a tasting and tour with Schramsberg Vineyards & Cellars due to its outstanding reputation for sparkling wines and our group was relatively small — about 8 people.  The caves were initially hand dug by Chinese laborers in the 1870s with further expansion of the caves in the 1980s.  As we entered the caves, we noticed a clean up crew at the end of the first tunnel as a couple of bottles had burst causing a chain reaction within the stack of bottles resulting in about 100 bottles breaking.  We could see the remnants of the small stream of sparkling wine that ensued making us realize the careful handling required for sparkling wines — something I had not thought about prior to the tour.  The caves themselves hold an inventory of approximately 2.2 million to 2.4 million bottles.
Image courtesy Schramsberg Vineyards Website

Master Riddler: Ramon Viera (Image courtesy Schramsberg Vineyards)

Schramsberg uses the méthode champenoise method in its sparkling wine production meaning the secondary fermentation process takes place in the bottle itself.  This method is the more expensive process but is used in higher quality sparkling wines such as those Schramsberg produces.  After addition aging, the resulting settled out yeast — the sediment – has to be removed through the Riddling process.   The bottles are placed on a rack with the neck facing downward initially at  an approximate 45 degree angle and abruptly twisted (about an 1/8 turn) every 1 to 3 days with the bottle angle slightly increased each time.  Schramsberg’s Master Riddler Ramon Viera (we were told he is set to retire in 2009) has been with Schramsberg for approximately 35 years and turns between 30,000 and 50,000 bottles per day!  The Riddling process continues until such time as the bottle is almost vertical  — during this process the sediment will have completely migrated to the neck of the bottle.  The neck is then frozen and both the frozen sediment and crown cap are removed and the bottle is then topped off and corked.
Riddling process being explained

Riddling process being explained

The tasting is fantastic as the cave setting with candle-light provides for an impressive experience.  Schramberg’s quality sparkling wines have been served by every US President to honored guests since President Nixon began the tradition with his toast to peace with China in 1972.

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Be sure to call ahead and make an appointment as the space is limited and the tours do fill up quickly.  The experience is something you will remember and enjoy and is worth the effort — the tour and tastings are not to be missed. Recommendation:  Make the effort to enjoy this tour and tasting; it is worth the effort and although a bit pricey, the memorable experience is worth it. Schramsberg Vineyards:  Tours: Generally 5 tours offered daily; by appointment  — Cost: $35 per person Location:  1400 Schramsberg Road; Calistoga, CA 94515
Posted in Napa Valley, Schramsberg, Sparkling Wine, Winery Review Tagged: Calistoga, Napa Valley, Schramsberg, Sparkling Wine, Winery Review

Whetstone Wine Cellars: Visit to Phoenix Ranch

Throughout my experiences in enjoying wines, Sommeliers have in many instances suggested wines that I otherwise would have never tried or experienced.  Such was the case at dinner at John Ash & Company whereby the Sommelier suggested trying a wine from Whetstone Wine Cellars.  He told us of Jamey Whetstone’s beginnings in the wine industry and his development as a “Rock Star” in the wine industry and the quality wines he crafts.  Jamey began at Turley Wine Cellars in the summer of 1998 and the evolution for him continues as he is the founder of the Whetstone Wine Cellars label, is co-founder of Manifesto! Wines and is a consulting winemaker for JT Wines.  That initial taste made me a believer in Whetstone’s quality and I have enjoyed Whetstone wines ever since.  A particular favorite wine of mine is the Phoenix Ranch Syrah and Jamey and Michelle Whetstone were gracious enough to invite us to a private picnic lunch at Phoenix Ranch.  Located in the southern part of Napa Valley, Phoenix Ranch experiences the perfect climate for the quality Syrah fruit this vineyard consistently produces.

Phoenix Ranch (Napa)

Phoenix Ranch (Napa)

Michelle had set up a spread of sandwiches and Whetstone wines for us to enjoy and as we did so we enjoyed the beautiful view of the scenic Phoenix Ranch Vineyard — what a memorable experience in such a beautiful setting.  I had only tasted the Whetstone Pinot Noir and Syrah and noticed that Michelle had included the Russian River Viognier for us to try.  My wife and I had previously made the mistake of limiting ourselves to the reds and the Viognier made us aware of the quality whites Whetstone also produces.    It was a pleasure spending time with both Jamey and Michelle  — they both demonstrated their passion reflected in the wines they represent.

Michelle & Jamey Whetstone

Michelle & Jamey Whetstone

If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying Whetstone Wines I highly suggest you take an opportunity and do so — you will be impressed.

Whetstone Wine Tasting Room — follow the link for information.  It is a fun experience!


Posted in Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, Whetstone Wine Cellars Tagged: Healdsburg, Jamey Whetstone, Napa Valley, Restaurants, Sommelier, Whetstone Wine, Wine, Winery Review

Farmhouse Restaurant and Failla Wine: Great Combo

Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant located just off of scenic River Road in Forestville, California is an exceptional restaurant.  The drive from Sonoma took about 45 minutes and was both easy and enjoyable.  The scenery in this area is just fantastic — the Russian River Valley has a special place in my heart as so many fantastic wines come from grapes grown in this area.  Upon our arrival, Christopher Fohner (the Maitre d’) welcomed us as if we were family presenting us with our menu that included a “Happy Anniversary” message.  I confessed that it really was our 25 1/2 year anniversary (people who know me know I love to extend celebrations) and he presented us with an updated menu congratulating us on such a joyous occasion.  The personal touches throughout our experience make this a restaurant that I highly recommend  — go out of your way to experience this gem of a restaurant.
Farmhouse Inn:  2008 Michelin one star recipient

Farmhouse Inn: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 Michelin one star recipient

Fohner’s wife, Jenn, did an outstanding job in answering our questions about the menu that ultimately led my wife to try the “Duo of Heritage Berkshire Pork” and I had to have the “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” which I had heard is a signature dish.  Geoff Kruth, the Master Sommelier, suggested the 2006 Failla Estate Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast) to pair with our meal and as it was a wine we had never had our trust in his recommendation was greatly rewarded.  You can follow Failla Wines on twitter @faillawines. The Duo of Heritage Berkshire Pork is a combination of Pancetta wrapped tenderloin and a crispy Kurobuta belly along with a steamed corn flan and fresh shelling beans and this combination put a smile on my wife’s face that I know means she enjoyed.
Duo of Heritage Berkshire Pork

Duo of Heritage Berkshire Pork

The Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit consists of an applewood smoked bacon wrapped loin that is fantastic as the combination of flavors works perfectly and is a taste that is not only enjoyable but unique in every way.  Next, in the center of the photo below is the confit of leg that is covered with a whole grain mustard sauce and to the right you see the roasted rack.  This combination of rabbit is outstanding and, even though my expectations were very high, was even better than expected.
Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

The 2006 Failla Chardonnay Estate (Sonoma Coast) wine paired very well with our dinner and is a highly rated wine crafted by Failla Wines being a winery that we had not heard of prior to this dinner.  The wine itself has hints of various tropical type fruits (I noted “hints of pineapple” especially) with a fresh crisp finish that went perfectly with our selections of food throughout all courses and for that I thank Geoff Kruth, the Master Sommelier, for his recommendation.
2006 Failla Estate Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

2006 Failla Estate Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)

From my perspective, the restaurant at Farmhouse Inn is one of the best places to enjoy a nice relaxing meal as you will enjoy fantastic food, a very nice selection of wine to choose from (and expert advice if you desire) and outstanding service.  Go there!  You will enjoy it! Farmhouse Restaurant:  7871 River Road; Forestville, CA 95436
Posted in California, Chardonnay, Restaurants, Sonoma County Tagged: Failla, Forestville, Restaurants, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County

Return to Sonoma County: Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

In July 2009 we returned to the Sonoma / Napa area for our 2nd year in a row  — the first trip was great but this trip was even better.  We arrived in Sonoma late afternoon and had made an appointment to enjoy a stone massage at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa.  We arrived an hour or so early to enjoy the “bathing ritual” as it gave us the opportunity to enjoy both the warm and hot mineral soaking pools, the herbal steam room and the dry sauna.  After all of that, this kid was almost completely relaxed and we sat in the lounge enjoying flavored teas and fruit — I was in heaven.  Next, we enjoyed a 90 minute stone massage — now that is the way to begin a vacation!  Completely relaxed, we were ready for our hike the next day as our plan was to go to the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve: The hour drive from the Mission Inn was easy and relaxing and once we arrived at the Reserve we parked on the roadside and began our hike — starting out on the “Pioneer Trail.”  Completely surrounded by beautiful redwoods and other vegetation, I was completely amazed  — no photograph I have seen has captured the beauty of this place.  You just have to experience this to truly appreciate the beauty.  As we were walking the trail one of the locals pointed out the “Burbank Circle” which she explained is a grouping of centuries old redwoods that form almost a perfect circle. As we walked we veered off the common path and decided to climb up a bit as we knew that I had a trusty map in my pocket (we forgot that a map is only as good as the one using it!).  Fortunately, I did not have to use my map reading skills as we easily found our way around as the trails were well marked.

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As we strolled back onto the path leading to the Redwood Forest Theater we noticed tables set up for those participating in a Wine walk — what a great idea!
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Redwood Forest Theater

The Colonel Armstrong Tree is an amazing sight as it is about 1400 years old and is the Reserve’s oldest tree and is 308 feet tall with a diameter of around 15 feet.
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Colonel Armstrong Tree

The beauty of the Armstrong Redwood Reserve is well worth the effort to enjoy and experience. Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve:  17000 Armstrong Woods Road;  Guerneville, CA 95446
Posted in General, Sonoma County Tagged: Armstrong Redwoods, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Sonoma County

Ferrari-Carano Winery: A “Special dessert”

Ferrari-Canano Vineyards and Winery (located in Dry Creek Valley). My wife and I had talked about going to the Sonoma County / Napa Valley California wine country for quite some time but we just never made the time to do so.  It took a fund-raiser Gala event to turn that tide as one of the items was a private tour, tasting and lunch at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg, CA.  The item came up for bid and I thought, time to just do this.  We won the bid and I thought it would be great for our 25th anniversary celebration and it was even better than we could have imagined. I have written about the other wineries visited in previous posts as this is the last winery we visited during our July 2008 trip — we wanted to save this special experience for last — kind of like a special “dessert”.
Our first view of the winery:  outstanding

Our first view of the winery: outstanding

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery will treat you to fine wines and will overwhelm your senses with beauty throughout the entire winery.  You will be overwhelmed with the beautiful gardens, the tasting room, the wine cellar and the views and how the design of the winery compliments the beauty you will see all around you. Upon arrival, Patrick Mukaida (Director of Hospitality) greeted us and took us on a private tour, where we met Sara Quider (white wine winemaker), followed by a private tasting and lunch which all combined to be perfect to help us celebrate our 25th anniversary.
The view is simply amazing

The view is simply amazing

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Patrick Mukaida takes on the tour of the vineyard

Patrick Mukaida takes us on a tour of the vineyard

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Downstairs: "Enoteca Lounge"

We walked through the cellar and the great smell of wine, it is just something that I will always remember and hope to experience again and again.  The cellar itself is beautiful as is the downstairs limited release and reserve wine tasting room (the “Enoteca Lounge”).  Shortly after tasting a few of the select wines we moved on to the private lunch at “Villa Fiore” as provided by Chef Joseph Costanzo.  The entire experience was just amazing and gave us the chance to experience wine and food pairings that were outstanding.  Chef Costanzo gave us many hints and did a great job in teaching us how he paired wines to compliment the food served. We started out with a Chilled Avocado Soup with a Tomato, Shallot and Mango Crab Salad paired with the 2005 Tre Terre Chardonnay.  Next, we had a Pan-Seared Herbes de Provence Marinated Lamb Loin topped with Goat Cheese paired with the 2006 SIENA.  The Siena is mostly made up of Sangiovese (about 75%) blended with about 25% Malbec and the pairing was perfect.  Next we had Blackberry Sorbet paired with the 2006 Eldorado Noir.  The Eldorado Noir is made from 100% Malbec and is styled as a “late harvest” wine.  I had never thought of such a combination and was amazed at how outstanding it was.  Just as a note of information, Ferrari-Carano’s web site has a wine and food pairing guide along with all kinds of fun recipes which you may find useful.

After lunch, we walked outside to enjoy the gardens and said goodbye to our host Patrick.  Ferrari-Carano was the last winery visited on our trip in July 2008 and absolutely was fantastic.  The sights, the wines and the friendliness of the staff left an impression that will last forever.

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View from "Villa Fiore"

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Garden View

Garden View

Recommendation:  A must visit winery! If you are going to be in the Healdsburg area, the wines and the views will be worth the effort to visit. You will need an appointment to take the winery tour which I highly recommend. Tasting Fee; $5 (No appointment necessary) — fee refunded with purchase of $25 or more Location:  Ferrari-Carano; 8761 Dry Creek Road; Healdsburg, CA 95448 Follow on Twitter:  @ferraricarano

Posted in Ferrari-Carano, Sonoma County, Winery Review Tagged: Dry Creek Valley, Ferrari-Carano, Healdsburg, Sonoma County, Wine, Winery Review

Stryker Sonoma Winery: Beautiful “room with a view”

We included Stryker Sonoma Winery on our list of wineries to visit for two reasons: (1) to taste the award-winning wines and (2) as Stryker’s design won the 2002 Architectural Design Award for Northern California from the American Institute of Architects we thought it would be great to see and experience a design that achieved such an accomplishment. As you walk towards the entrance of the tasting room (the “room with a view”) you will experience how the design of the walkway focuses your eyes towards the beauty of the vineyards, the landscaping and the winery structures.  As you walk along the pathway, the vine canopy above assists in framing the picturesque view.  The view is enhanced by this design and it is amazing how such beauty has been enhanced!  It truly is impressive and you will see why the design of Stryker won the noted award.  The attention to detail is apparent and the design integrates the natural beauty of the vineyards with the inner workings of this small winery.  Additionally, the picnic area has a wonderful view of the vineyards, providing a great setting to relax and have lunch (if you brought one with you).  Impressive views and this is only the walkway; we haven’t even gotten to the “room with a view yet!”
Styker: Walkway towards tasting room

Stryker: Beautiful design

As you open the door into the tasting room you will be welcomed with spectacular views. The glass pavilion design gives an open feeling allowing you take in the view of the valley as you enjoy the nice wines offered.  You will see why this tasting room is called “the room with a view”.  During our tastings, we felt almost as if we were in the vineyards tasting the wine.  During our visit, we had the tasting room to ourselves mainly due to the fact we visited during a week day in the last week of July.  Since we do not enjoy being part of a huge crowd, we have found timing our visits for the last week of July to be an excellent choice.
Stryker: Tasting Room with a view

Stryker: Tasting "Room with a view"

View of the tasting room as you walk in

Entrance into Tasting Room

At the time we visited the following tasting fees applied and should give you an idea of what fees you can expect: Complimentary tastings: 2005 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley; the 2005 Merlot, Alexander Valley Estate; the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County $5 tasting fee taste all of the noted Zinfandels: 2004 “Old Vine”, Alexander Valley; 2005 Russian River Valley, Alegria Vineyard; 2004 Speedy Creek Vineyard, Knights Valley $10 tasting fee to taste all of the following: 2004 Merlot, Rockpile Vineyard; 2004 Cabernet Franc, Russian River Valley, Alegria Vineyard; 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Two Moon Vineyard; 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, Monte Rosso Vineyard. Recommendation:  If you have the time, swing by and visit as you will be impressed by the beautiful tasting room and the views you will be able to experience. Location:  Stryker Sonoma Winery:  5110 Highway 128; Geyserville, CA 95441 Next time:  We head to a winery in the Healdsburg, CA area!

Posted in Sonoma County, Stryker, Winery Review Tagged: Alexander Valley, Stryker, Wine, Winery Review

Chez Roux: What a great dining experience

Chez Roux Chez Roux opened in the early part of 2009 as part of the of the LaTorretta Del Lago resort located on Lake Conroe in Montgomery, Texas.   For those who live in Houston or the surrounding areas, the drive to Chez Roux will be rewarded with a dining experience that will both surprise and amaze you. Chez Roux is an outstanding restaurant that provides a unique setting on Lake Conroe with exceptional food making for a dining experience that you will truly enjoy.  From the outside, the stand-alone building is not impressive as it looks very stark and uninviting.  However, once you walk inside you see the floor to ceiling glass encased wine room that is both impressive and appealing to the eye.  Then as you look forward you see the view of Lake Conroe and the large outside patio that is ideal for having a casual drink while enjoying the Lake — an inviting setting that welcomes you to stay and enjoy yourself.  As you walk further into the dining room and look to the right you will see the open kitchen which may be viewed from almost anywhere in the  restaurant.  We were seated to the far left room that is a somewhat separated from the main dining area and from there we could view the happenings in the kitchen.  Overall, the entire staff works hard to ensure you have an enjoyable experience and they succeeded in doing so for us. Our entire group decided to go with the Pre Fix menu, complete with a starter, the main course, dessert and 1/2 bottle of wine priced at a very reasonable $65. Portions were sized as you would expect and the food presentations were impressive.

For the starter, I had the “Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison” which was perfectly prepared. The fine bean and caper relish that accompanied it balanced out the dish. The Parmesan Wafer was an unexpected treat that just rounded out a fantastic starter. Starting out like this, I knew that this experience was going to be one I would remember for a very long time.

Starter:  Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison

Starter: Rare Peppered Tenderloin of Venison

My wife started off with the Globe Artichoke with hazelnut crusted goats cheese surrounded by an artichoke and olive oil dressing.  You cannot go wrong by selecting either of these starters as they both are delicious.

Starter: Globe Artichoke

Starter: Globe Artichoke

As an added note, the 1/2 bottle of wine selection was either “Murphy Goode, 2006 Fume Blanc Sonoma California or the Jean Luc Colombo, 2005 Rouge Rhone Valley (France). I selected the 2006 Fume Blanc which paired very well with my food selections as it was crisp and with a light citrus taste.  The Fume Blanc is considered to be Murphy Goode’s “Flagship wine” and is made from fruit sourced out of the Alexander Valley (located in the northern part of Sonoma County, CA) and is a combination of Sauvignon Blanc along with a small amount of Sauvignon Musque.

For the main course I selected the “Butter Poached Breast of Chicken” which was exceptional. The hints of the aged parmesan along with the shiitake mushrooms that enhanced the asparagus risotto convinced me that Chef Albert Roux’s reputation is fully represented in this new venture.

Main Course:  Butter Poached Breast of Chicken

Main Course: Butter Poached Breast of Chicken

Chef Roux has an impressive reputation as does the executive chef, Matthew Gray and the food we enjoyed reaffirmed that to us. For dessert, I went with the homemade ice cream:  a scoop of white chocolate and a scoop of marzipan infused ice cream — I was offered more choices however I limited myself to selecting just two items.  Everyone else choose to have the selection of french and domestic cheeses that were offered. Honestly, we were surprised at the large variety of cheeses offered and I was happy to have been able to choose from 4 different ice cream flavors and 4 different flavors of sorbet.  Be it the cheese or the ice cream, we all enjoyed the dessert which topped off an exceptional meal making it an memorable dining experience.
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Marzipan infused ice cream / White chocolate ice cream

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Selected cheeses

Overall, a fantastic experience and a place I highly recommend!

Chez Roux Restaurant:  La Torretta Del Lago Resort & Spa; 600 La Torretta Blvd; Montgomery, Texas 77356  
Posted in Houston, Restaurants, Sauvignon Blanc Tagged: Chez Roux, Food, Houston, Montgomery, Restaurants

Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves

Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves is located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley and the drive along West Dry Creek road offers beautiful views of various vineyards along with plenty of opportunities to visit numerous wineries, so many it becomes overwhelming.  We decided to go to Bella as we had tried a bottle of [...]

St. Supery Winery: Tour and tasting creates great memories

St Supery Winery Follow on Twitter:  @stsupery (Keep up to date with special offerings and great information) St Supery’s Chardonney was our first experience with St Supery wines and that taste brought us back to drinking Chardonney.  Figuring if St. Supery could do such an outstanding job with Chardonney, we would enjoy their other wines so we joined [...]

Del Dotto Caves — learned about “toast”

Del Dotto Caves.  The second day of our winery tours began on Tuesday morning — July 29, 2008 — at 11 am with The Del Dotto Cave tour and Barrel tasting which is a tour I recommend to anyone visiting the Napa area.  The tour is fun, enjoyable, you can learn a lot if you [...]

Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun”) Winery: Enjoy the experience

Our next stop was Gundlach Bundschu which is the 2nd winery visit for the day: Monday: July 28, 2008 Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun”) is on twitter so follow @gunbunwine for tweets. GunBun is the oldest family-owned and operated winery in California as Jacob Gundlach christened the estate vineyard Rhinefarm in 1858. We heard that Gundlach Bundschu Winery, “GunBun” [...]