If you are hanging out in the town of Calistoga you might think about taking a day trip to check out a few wineries in Sonoma County. This is an easy drive along Highway 128 and perhaps one of the most beautiful roads in California wine country. The drive is about 25 miles from Calistoga to Sonoma County’s wine destination town of Healdsburg.
Hendry Wines AlbariÃ±o and Harvest Tours
We just tried an AlbariÃ±o wine made by Hendry winery. There are just a very few California wineries that make this wine varietal. AlbariÃ±o is a Spanish white wine, grown mainly in the Rias Biaxas DO (Denominations of Origin) in Spain. This area in Spain is in the region of Galicia and located just above Portugal next to the Atlantic Ocean. The area is a huge fishing area and the Spaniards love this wine with a variety of light seafood dishes. George Hendry’s AlbariÃ±o is wonderful and very unique among California white wines. George made very few cases, so hurry if you are interested in tasting some of his AlbariÃ±o. The wine is not exactly cheap at $19 per bottle. We have been buying Spanish AlbariÃ±os for $12 to $16 that are very good.
On another note, George Hendry is scheduling his harvest tours. We have taken the tour three years in a row. His tours are the best, bar none. The tours take place from September 7th through September 24. Total time for tour and tasting is about 2.5 hours. Contact the winery for the schedule and more information.
Hall Winery and Frank O. Gehry Team Up
The famous architect Frank Gehry has designed an amazing structure for Craig and Kathryn Hall to be built at the Hall Winery location on Highway 29, just south of St. Helena. Frank Gehry is famous for his very modern and far out designs that create instant controversy and criticism. We will be traveling to Spain in September and we have on our itinerary a visit to his highly acclaimed work, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. From the photos of the Hall Winery we have seen in the newspaper, this winery is going to be a stunner. It is sure to create a stir. You may want to check our previous review of the Hall Winery.
Sterling Winery – Summer Film Event
Sterling Winery is hosting the fifth annual outdoor summer screen series to benefit Stars & Vines Fund. The Sterling Silver Screen Series will feature classic titles in a variety of genres from the Universal archives. The series started on July 14 and will run through September. Ticket sales are $10 for adults and $5 for children (16 and under). BBQ dinners will also be available for $10, along with other movie snacks. More information is available at Sterling Vineyards, or by calling (877)-737-3788.
Last Friday, we booked a vineyard and winery tour with George Hendry, owner and winemaker at Hendry Wines. Anyone can arrange one of these tours as George really enjoys leading these for parties of six or less. There is no fee for the tour or the extensive tasting that follows. Total tour time is about two and a half hours.
George and his nephew and co-winemaker Mike Hendry have a well-defined style in which they make their wines. The focus of their winemaking is to make wines that match well with foods. That means wines that are not too high in alcohol, yielding soft characteristics. For example, the Block 19 and 20 Chardonnay is very balanced with good oak characteristics. George does not allow the Chardonnay to undergo a second fermentation that gives Chardonnay the butterscotch and heavier characteristics. He prefers a softer wine and thinks his Chardonnay matches very well with salmon, chicken dishes, and similar foods.
The vineyard tour begins at Lot 4, a Pinot Noir vineyard that is just a few days away from harvest. George describes how he decides when to harvest. “It is not just the sugar content but the taste of the seeds and skins in the mouth. These are things that give flavors and characteristics to red wine.ï¿½? He chews on the skins and grapes and indicates probably the next Monday for picking this vineyard.
We move on to another plot where George explains the soil and climate effects on the vineyards. We also get a quick rundown of how he grafts a vine onto a rootstock. The next stop is the winemaking area. We run through the entire process from crushing grapes to barrel aging.
Lastly, it is to the tasting room where we sit, smell, taste, spit, and discuss the characteristic of each of nine wines. It is wonderful to feel the passion that George has about each of his wines and how they are made to accompany food.
The winery is located on Redwood Road on the way to Mount Veeder Road, just 2.5 miles from Highway 29.
The Good: Fabulous educational wine tour and tasting with no fees. Excellent wines. Very low-key, friendly, and welcoming staff. We really liked Block 7 Zinfandel.
The Bad: Hendry is sold out of the Albarino, only 55 cases were made. We really want to try a bottle of this wine.
St. Supery Winery offers one of the best self-guided wine tours in the Napa Valley. We are both former teachers so we appreciate the information that is clear and easy to understand. Visitors who take the self-guided tour at St. Supery will certainly be enlightened in the basics of wine and winemaking. The self-guided tour consists of many exhibits. There is one station where one can smell the various aromas commonly found in a glass of wine. Another station contains a cross section of a large soil sample revealing the sub-layers of soil typically found in the Napa Valley. The self-guided tour also includes a walk out to the vineyards. In addition to this permanent exhibit, St. SupÃ©ry also offers several wine education events throughout the year. In August and September, the winery offers an old fashion grape stomp on Sundays. The cost is $30 per person and this event fills up quickly. Visit the St. Supery Web site for a complete list of their wine events. The winery also offers two guided tours daily at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm for $10 per person. When you go, don’t miss the gardens and the old Atkinson House
St. Supery Winery is on Highway 29 on the east side of the road. Watch carefully; the winery is between Oakville Crossroad and Rutherford Road. When you pass Turnbull Winery, start looking for the entrance to St. SupÃ©ry.
The Good: Great self-guided wine tour, wine events, good wine, old Atkinson House
The Bad: Tasting fee of $10, no picnic area, the tasting room and winery look more like an office building.
The Culinary Institute of America offers wine and food classes at its campus in the historic Greystone building in St. Helena. What an adventure to combine a trip to the wine country with a wine or a cooking class. If nothing else, a traveler to the Napa Valley should wander in on this lovely historic building that was once the winery and monastery of the Christian Brothers.
Besides food and wine classes, there is a first class restaurant, the Wine Spectator Restaurant. The Campus Store is loaded with gourmet items and a great selection of books on food and wine. One can browse the barrel room, take a tour, or just walk around and view the old stone winery building that was built in 1889. This building is one of the most beautiful landmarks in the Napa Valley.
The CIA courses are aimed at the person who is in the food and wine industry or those seeking a career in this area. There are plenty of introductory courses that anyone who wants to develop and improve their knowledge of food and wine can take. Check CIA Web site for their “Enthusiast” line of classes.
In checking the CIA calendar at Greystone, we see that Robert Parker is scheduled for a Pinot Noir seminar and tasting in October. The cost is $500 per person and limited to 100 guests.
Copia offers the visitor many opportunities to learn about wine. We visited Copia when it first opened five years ago. Frankly, we were not that impressed. The price of Admission was $12 each and there were few exhibits that really “caught our eye.” We recently returned and had a much better experience. The first thing we noticed on this visit were the informative wine exhibits stationed around the halls. There was also the Wine Spectator wine bar that highlights a different varietal or region of the wine world each week or month. They provide good tasting notes and the host is quite knowledge and willing to share information. Copia has several food and wine classes scheduled each week. The main purpose for our visit was to take a two-hour class on Spanish wines.
For the entire month of March of this year, Spain was the theme at Copia.
The Spanish wine class was $32 per person and this included admission to Copia, which is now a more reasonable $5. The class was well taught. Burke Owens, our instructor and a wine director at Copia, provided us with practical information on the wines of Spain. The handout was informative and contained tasting notes to accompany the six Spanish wines we sampled. We were also presented with appetizers prepared for each of the wines served. All in all, it was a good experience and we learned a great about the wines of Spain.
The Copia website can give you full details of their scheduled their events. They also have an email list that alerts subscribers to coming major events at Copia.
What seems “hotï¿½? right now is an interest in taking wine classes or participating in activities centered on wine education. We have noticed a recent increase in emails from visitors to our Wine Country Getaways Web site requesting information on how and where they can learn about wine. We thought it to be a worthy Blog topic and so here is the first of a few articles on learning about wine. These are based on our own experiences in the Napa Valley.
Our first recommendation is going wine tasting! The more wine you taste, the more opportunity to train your brain for recognition of wine types, wine characteristics, and the quality of the wine.
One of the easiest things to do when your wine taste is to work with the tasting notes provided by the tasting room. Most tasting rooms have them available, but sometimes you have to ask. Add your own comments to the tasting notes. Note the color, the aroma, and the taste. Be descriptive in your own words. Even if you cannot recognize any specific smells or tastes, try and describe what your senses are telling you. Finally, rate your impression of the wine, in other words, how well you like it.
It is always helpful to take a wine tour. The best kind is one that ends with a private tasting. Any time you can taste wines in individual wines glasses and have a chance to compare and contrast the differences in each wine, the more you will learn. When you visit the Napa Valley, try and schedule a tour and tasting of this type. Here are a couple of our recommendations in the Napa Valley.
Chateau Montelena has a tour for $25 per person which includes at walk in the vineyards and a private tasting.
Peju Province Winery has a food and wine pairing sessions Monday to Friday, at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm for $40 a person. Call to reserve a spot.
Watch for our next post on this subject when we discuss Copia, the American Center for Food & Wine.