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A Not To Miss Tasting In Sonoma? Balletto!!!

They hadn’t been on my list. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before! A staff member at Gloria Ferrer (who’s become a friend because I visit so often!) told me about her favorite rosé in the world. She told me that she just couldn’t get enough of it! So … I had to check them out!

Balletto Vineyards is a family owned winery located in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. Started as a successful vegetable farming company, in 1999 they started the shift from vegetable farming to vineyards. Today they sell 90% of their grapes to other wineries, using the other 10% producing their lovely Balletto Vineyard wines!

So, the day after visiting Gloria Ferrer last month, my husband and I stopped by Balletto for a tasting. I couldn’t wait to try their rosé! This pretty pink wine (made of 100% Pinot Noir) has strawberry, a touch of rose and lively acidity to balance it perfectly. I can see why my friend finds it difficult to not finish the bottle in one sitting!

Rosé, however, is not all they do at Balletto! I also made sure to buy a couple bottles of their lovely (not too oaky) 2014 Sexton Hill Vineyard Chardonnay. They also make some rockin’ Pinot Noir (we bought some Burnside that tasted like Strawberry Twizzlers!), Syrah and Zin! A super nice bonus is that their prices are very fair!!!

Looking back I’m surprised and disappointed that I hadn’t heard of them before, but boy oh boy I’m thankful that I know them now! I also want to spread the word about their really nice wines and great tasting experience!

Don’t only PUT them on your list … bump them to the TOP of your list!


I Love Rock ‘n Roll … and Cliff Lede!

This is why you wait.

There are wines to be drunk young, and there are wines that need time. Too many people drink a beautiful bottle way too early. Okay, they bought it, they like it young, fine! But I do question if they KNOW what the wine will become if they just hold it for a few years.

My husband and I just got back from Napa.  We did our usual tour of some new (to us) wineries as well as hitting some of our favorites.

One of the favorites is Cliff Lede, who has great wine and a great tasting experience! Their tasting room is fun and cozy at the same time! The crackling fireplace is perfect on a chilly spring day. Add the fun wine pros, the great tunes filling the airwaves, the beautiful grounds full of rock and roll artwork and blocks named after Cliff Lede’s favorite rock n roll songs, and you’re in store for a very special time!

We tasted some of their wonderful current releases and bought a few. We also bought one of their library wines, and cracked it open tonight!

The 2006 Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is SINGING! I am in love with this wine! It still has lots of dark fruit and a velvety texture with smooth tannins. Prune, tobacco and a little spice lead to a nice long finish of dark chocolate. Oh, if only I’d bought a case.

Definitely check them out the next time you’re in Napa. The tasting experience is special, and the wines rock!

Did You Know that March is Taste Washington Wine Month?

March is Taste Washington Wine Month so I thought that I’d join in the festivities!

I’m not able to get to the fine state of Washington this month, so I did the next best thing! I cracked open a bottle of Washington wine!

A few years ago my husband and I made a really fun wine trip to Washington State. We flew into Seattle and started the wine journey in nearby Woodinville, a delightful little town full of fun tasting rooms and restaurants. From there we headed to the Cascade Mountains and spent a few days in the adorable and wine friendly Bavarian town of Leavenworth. We hit the road again and hung out in Yakama Valley for two days and then on to Walla Walla, where we spent the majority of our time. We ended our trip in Spokane and flew home from there!

It was in Woodinville that we discovered Mark Ryan Winery. When we were there six years ago this was a small, quiet tasting room with a friendly and knowledgeable gal named Kyra pouring their fabulous wines. Considering the quality of the wine my guess is that this tasting room is no longer small or quiet, but I’d put my money on the fact that the wines are still fabulous!

Sadly, the bottle I pulled from our cellar last night was the last of the Mark Ryan wines we bought on that trip. It sure was lovely, though! The 2008 Mark Ryan Winery Water Witch is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Malbec. All of the fruit is from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, a warm sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley.

Dark ruby in color, this Bordeaux blend has cherry, currant, some vanilla and baking spices on the nose. There’s some violet there too! The palate is cherry cola, cherry cola, and cherry cola!!!!! The vanilla and baking spices are there as well, along with some chocolate and sweet tannins. How can you go wrong with chocolate covered cherry cola???? The finish is long and graceful!

The ’08 Water Witch is drinking absolutely beautifully right now. Do you have a case of this wine in your cellar? If you do … I’ll be over ASAP! If you don’t, but you are curious, you can check out Mark Ryan Winery here:



Gramercy Cellars’ “The Third Man” Is a Winner

I love the state of Washington, and I also love their wines.

A few years back my husband and I made a 10-day journey throughout the state’s wine regions.  We started in Woodinville at the many tasting rooms scattered around the cute suburb of Seattle. Next we headed to Leavenworth, a wonderful little Bavarian town set in the Cascade Mountains, also full of tasting rooms. From there we ventured to Yakima and then finally on to Walla Walla. We obviously tasted a lot of wines along the way and I fell in love with many of them.

I’ve been back to the land of Washington wines quite a few times since that visit and have discovered some new gems, one of them being Gramercy Cellars.

Founded in 2005 by Master Sommelier Greg Harrington and his wife Pam, Gramercy Cellars focuses on wines made in the Rhone and Bordeaux styles. France’s Rhone Valley is perhaps my favorite wine region of all, and who doesn’t love Bordeaux? Washington is great for both, and I’ve never had a Gramercy Cellar wine that I didn’t like!

The other night my husband and I opened a 2009 “The Third Man” from Gramercy. A blend of 50% Grenache, 28% Syrah and 22% Mourvedre, (all varietals that perform very well in Washington) this is a fabulous wine! On the nose are lavender, tobacco, garrigue, mocha and dark fruit. The palate has loads of lush fruit, and yet is oh so complex. There’s also tomato, spice, soft tannins and the finish goes on and on and on. I sure do wish we had some more of the ’09 in our cellar.

I’ve tasted with Greg a few times now. He’s full of lots of knowledge, yet humble as can be! So … with wine this great and a nice guy to boot, I can’t recommend these wines enough.

Check out Gramercy Cellars here:

A Breakfast Beer??? Yes!!!

I may be a wine educator, but I’m also a lover of good beer. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, so it’s pretty much a given that beer runs through my blood. While growing up there was always a plethora of beer flowing at most social functions to quench the thirst of me and my fellow Wisconsinites!

I have some favorite craft breweries from my homeland, but there are so many great beers being brewed in all parts of the USA. Colorado is one of the hot spots and is ranked third in the nation for number of craft breweries located there. My husband was raised in Denver, so we visit quite a bit and are always sure to try some of their fine brews while there.

One of my favorites in Colorado (Denver, in fact) is Great Divide Brewing Company. While watching NFL football today I cracked open a bottle of their Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. Wow. Pouring it into the glass it looks black in color with a dark brown foamy head. On the nose is lots of strong coffee, some dark chocolate and cocoa, vanilla and roasted barley. The palate has burnt coffee, chocolate, oaky vanilla and some caramel notes. The alcohol is 9.5%, but it’s nice and smooth and I certainly couldn’t tell! This is one darned good beer! In fact, I’d call it excellent!

The brewery suggests pairing this ale with cinnamon donuts with crème anglaise. OH MY!!!!!! That sounds truly heavenly! Another pairing they suggest is Chorizo breakfast burrito! I agree with them when they say “you can now have Yeti with breakfast”!

So … if you need to cleanse your wine palate with a beer break, or if you just love great beer, try Great Divide Brewing Company. You can check out this stout and all of their beers here:

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