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My July Wine of the Month

Gloria Ferrer
2005 Brut Royal Cuvée
66% Pinot Noir
34% Chardonnay

José and Gloria Ferrer, owners of the successful Spanish Cava producer Freixenet, established Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in 1986.  This was the first sparkling wine house to open in California’s famous Carneros region.  The Carneros AVA is actually located in both Napa and Sonoma counties, with Gloria Ferrer sitting solely in Sonoma County.  The winery uses their Spanish traditions and centuries-old winemaking practices to create some wonderful sparkling and still wines.

The inaugural vintage of “Royal Cuvée” was first served to King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain during their visit to California in 1987.  It has since been poured at the White House, and consistently receives very good ratings with the many wine publications.  Not to dwell on ratings, because I believe YOUR nose and palate are what counts, this ’05 vintage received 91 points from Wine Spectator and 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.   This is impressive for a $30 to $35 bottle of sparkling wine.

The Wine – Gloria Ferrer’s Brut Royal Cuvée has long been one of my favorites, and the 2005 is absolutely lovely.  On the nose are apple, raspberry, brioche and a touch of ginger.  The palate begins with a pleasant eruption of bubbles and acidity, followed by lemon curd, apple and pear.  It is well balanced and has a nice foamy mousse and creamy mouth feel.  It paired beautifully with some Brie cheese I was enjoying, and definitely shows characteristics of both the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay grapes used in this well made bubbly!

Visiting the Winery – Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards is always our first stop when visiting Napa and Sonoma.  This is not the typical California tasting room.  Here you actually purchase a glass (or bottle!) of sparkling or still wine at the bar when you walk in.  You then head outside to sit at a table and a friendly tasting room attendant brings the wine out to you. They serve you these really yummy, spiced almonds and you sit on their patio and look at the UNBELIEVABLY gorgeous view of the vineyards and the valley.  It’s always a great way to start the Wine Country experience.

The Journey – Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards is located 40 miles north of San Francisco at the southern tip of Sonoma County.  It’s the perfect first stop from the San Fran airport heading into either Napa or Sonoma.  They are located right on Carneros Highway 121.  This is also called Arnold Drive, which is the street name you should plug into your GPS.  Once you pull onto their driveway you will have a lovely drive through the vineyards, with their expansive winery awaiting you above.  In my opinion, this is a must visit spot on any Napa/Sonoma adventure!

Check them out at:

If you see this wine in your favorite wine store, be sure to grab some!

My April Wine of the Month

HANNA Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon
Red Ranch
Alexander Valley

The 2010 HANNA Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a steal of a deal.  I’ve been buying cases of it for the past few months and fear that the ’10 is probably not going to be available for much longer.  Oh well, I sure have been enjoying it and still have a case in my cellar.  I’ve been finding it for between $20 and $25 per bottle, but it drinks more like a $40 or $50 bottle.

The Wine – On the nose are licorice, black cherry, black currant, vanilla, baking spices, a little bit of smoke, and lots of cola.  The palate reinforces the nose, and has nice soft tannins and a long lovely finish. The fruit was sourced from Hanna’s estate vineyard “Red Ranch” in Alexander Valley.  It contains 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and a splash (1%) of Malbec.  It was aged for 27 months in barrel, 60% of which was new oak.  I like to decant it for an hour before drinking, which really helps mellow out some of the oakiness.

Visiting the Winery – HANNA Winery has two tasting room locations.

I first visited the winery at their Russian River Valley home.  This is the original “Home Ranch of HANNA WINERY and is surround by their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyard.  The tasting room is sweet and cozy, with a very friendly feel.  They also have a picnic area outside where one can enjoy lunch and some Hanna wines.

My most recent visit to HANNA was at their Alexander Valley location, which is a completely different experience.  This large tasting room sells lots of wine themed souvenirs and different condiments, but also offers lovely views of their “Red Ranch Vineyard” from the wrap-around deck.

The Journey – If you want a more personal experience in a lovely setting, visit the location in the famous Russian River Valley.  If you’d rather visit a big tasting room with shopping, and views for days, head to Alexander Valley.  For directions to each location, check out their website here:

If you see this wine in your favorite wine store, be sure to grab some!

My March Wine of the Month

Dutcher Crossing
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cooney Vineyard
Alexander Valley

The Winery – Owner Debra Mathy and I have something in common; we’re both originally from Wisconsin.  That may be what first intrigued me about Dutcher Crossing Winery, but it’s certainly not the reason I go back every time I’m in Sonoma Valley.  No, I keep heading back because of the lovely wines!!!  Winemaker Kerry Damskey does a bang up job with Dutcher Crossing’s wines, and although I’ve chosen the 2010 Cooney Vineyard Cab as my “Wine of the Month”, I could have used any of the wines I tasted in their tasting room when I visited last month.  Why?  Because I pretty much love them all!!!

The Wine – The Cooney Valley Cabernet is dark ruby colored with prune, cassis, blackberry and some smoke and cedar aromas.  On the palate are the prune, cassis and blackberry, along with some black olive, earthiness and leather.  This Cab is drinking very nicely now, but will undoubtedly continue to improve for a few years.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – I’ve always had pleasant experiences visiting Dutcher Crossing’s tasting room.  This past visit was no exception.  I usually visit with just my husband or another couple, but this time I brought a group of ten people.  Mario’s approach was fabulous with our large group.  He didn’t rush us, but guided us gently and was always there when we were ready for the next wine.  He was also very knowledgeable and likeable!

The tasting room is very cozy with a lovely sitting area just off of the tasting bar.  They also have a lovely outdoor area for those sunny days that beg for a glass, or a bottle, while enjoying the lovely view of their vineyards and surrounding hillside.  They even encourage guests to bring picnic supplies to enjoy with their wines on their charming garden patio!

The Journey – The Dutcher Crossing tasting room is not far from the adorable town of Healdsburg, perhaps my favorite city in all of California’s wine country.  The entrance is on Dry Creek Road and, although it is near many other famous Dry Creek Valley wineries, it feels as if it’s in a world of its own!

You can find out more about Dutcher Crossing Winery and their wines here:

My January Wine of the Month

Long Shadows
Columbia Valley

The Winery – The brainchild of Allen Shoup, who is widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of the Washington wine industry, Long Shadows is a very unique winery.  Shoup’s idea was to bring well-respected winemakers from different wine regions around the world to make wine types from their home regions out of some of the finest Columbia Valley fruit.  The results have been stupendous.

For their Right Bank Bordeaux blend they have entrusted the famous globetrotter of the wine world, Michel Rolland.  A wine consultant based in Pomerol, Rolland not only has many of his own wine estates close to home on the “right bank” of the Dordogne river in the Bordeaux region, but also travels the world advising other wineries on their own winemaking techniques.

The Wine – This is one of my favorite Merlot wines of all time.  It is made up of 81% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The nose has plum, dark fruit, some cedar and a touch of oregano.  The palate is big and bold, but wonderfully complex with lots of dark black fruit including black cherry and black currant, some ripe plum, mocha, some spice and velvety tannins.  Although still a baby, this ’08 Pedestal is drinking nicely now, but will evolve beautifully for at least a decade.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – I visited Long Shadows back in March of 2011.  We arrived for our appointment about half an hour early, but Jeff (a Certified Sommelier who was in charge of guiding us through the wines) was great and let us come right in.  Boy oh boy, this place is special.  The building is beautiful, the views are stunning and the wines are spectacular.  It’s really difficult to find anything wrong with this tasting.  Jeff was perhaps the most knowledgeable person of the trip, and again, the wines …

The Journey – There are two tasting rooms in which to taste the wines of Long Shadows.  One is located in Woodinville, WA, a suburb of Seattle where many different wineries have tasting rooms.  I visited their other tasting room, located right at the winery on the outskirts of Walla Walla.  The building is a great example of stunning yet simple modern architecture and sits dramatically on top of a hill with spectaculars views of vineyards.  The inside of the tasting room is adorned with glass art works of Dale Chihuly, complimenting the sleek décor and the lovely wines.  Be sure to make an appointment prior to arriving.  Check out their website here:

My November Wine of the Month

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a great pairing with Thanksgiving dinner, so I though it would be an appropriate varietal for November’s Wine of the Month.  I also thought that since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it would be great to feature an American Pinot Noir!

The Wine – This wine is an equal blend of the Swan and the 828 clones.  It is medium ruby in color, with strawberry, cranberry and some smoke and pepper on the nose.  The palate provides the strawberry, cranberry and smokiness, with lovely notes of licorice and earth.  Nice acidity makes this a well-balanced wine and a great value at $35.

Visiting the Winery – Wrath has two tasting rooms.  The first is located in Soledad, CA with views of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the Salinas Valley.  I visited the second location in downtown Carmel in Carmel Plaza.  The very friendly staff and the great wines make this a must stop visit!

The Journey – Wrath’s Tasting Room in Carmel Plaza is located right in the downtown area of gorgeous Carmel.  It’s literally in a shopping mall, which provides plenty of parking.  Once inside you’ll find a very modern but comfortable spot in which to taste their great wines.  An added bonus is that right next door is The Cheese Shop.  We stocked up on lovely Wrath wines and then headed next door for cheese and crackers to stock up on supplies for our hotel room!

To read more about Wrath, visit their website at:

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