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My September Wine of the Month

Keating Winery
2008 Petite Sirah
Rockpile Vineyard
Sonoma County

Wow.  I love this wine.  If you visit my site on a regular basis, you know that I’m a sucker for Syrah.  Petite Sirah, however, is NOT Syrah.  This is a common mistake made by many casual wine drinkers.  These two varieties, however, DO share some similarities and perhaps some geographical history.  Petite Sirah vines have grown in California since the 1880s, and DNA research has suggested that this grape is likely Durif, a cross of the grapes Peloursin (an ancient Rhone varietal) and Syrah (another Rhone varietal), which was created in France in the 1880s.

The Wine – The color is dark and inky, as most Petite Sirah wines are.  This wine is very aromatic, with blackberry, cassis and licorice, along with wintergreen, rosemary and some wet dirt on the nose.  The palate has the cassis, currant and dark fruit, complimented by a nice earthiness.  The alcohol is at 15.1%, but the wine is well balanced and has nice complexity.  The finish is long.  Again, I love this wine!

My Experience Visiting the Winery – I visited Keating a couple of years ago, and remember that the woman walking us through the wines was not very warm and fuzzy.  She was okay, but seemed a bit bored and uninterested.  I’ve since read great compliments of others at Keating, so don’t let this stop you from visiting them.  The tasting room, on the other hand, was fabulous.  It’s large enough to accommodate many people, with a tasting bar as well as comfy looking lounge areas.  The décor is modern and very cozy.  It’s a great space to enjoy the Keating wines, which were all very good.

The Journey – Keating’s tasting room is located at Cornerstone in the Carneros region of Sonoma.  Cornerstone is an upscale shopping gallery with shops, markets, a gourmet cafe and winery tasting rooms.   Nestled around it are nine acres of gardens.  It’s actually a great first or second stop on your way into Sonoma County coming from SFO.  My first stop is always Gloria Ferrer for a glass of bubbly, and Keating is located right across the street, on Arnold Drive.  This will be my 2nd stop in February!

Check out Keating’s website at:

My August Wine of the Month

Ridge Vineyards
Mikulaco Vineyard Chardonnay
Santa Cruz Mountains

Ridge Vineyards was founded in the early 1960s, but wine production at the winery’s Monte Bello location has been going on much longer.  Osea Perrone, a doctor and Italian immigrant, planted grapevines here in 1885 and the first Monte Bello wine was produced in 1892.  After prohibition the winery had many owners, until it was purchased in 1960 by a group of Stanford Research Institute engineers David Bennion, Charles Rosen, Hewitt Crane, and Howard Zeidler.  In 1969 Bennion hired Paul Draper as winemaker.  Draper’s 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon placed 5th at the famous Judgment of Paris Wine Tasting in 1976.  Draper continues to be winemaker today, under different ownership.  In fact, one can often see him in the tasting room while visiting one of the winery locations.  His Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon is still considered to be one of the best California Cabs by many wine experts.

The Wine – 100% Chardonnay, the 2009 Mikulaco Ridge is very reminiscent to white Burgundy.  There is ripe apple and pear on the nose, with just a hint of nuttiness.  On the palate are white peach, lemon curd and a touch of oak.  It is very well balanced and would be fabulous with Brie cheese and a baguette!  This is a very well made wine.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – In 1991 Ridge Vineyards purchased the Lytton Springs vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.  They now produce wines in both this newer location as well as the Monte Bello location.  They have a tasting room in each spot.  I have visited the Lytton Springs location many times, and hope to stop at the Monte Bello tasting room next week!

I’ve always had great experiences visiting Ridge Vineyards.  The staff is warm and friendly.  The Lytton Springs tasting room is housed in a very modern and gorgeous building, with incredible views.  They have some very old Zinfandel vines right outside the building.  And the wines???  They are incredible.

The Journey – The Lytton Springs tasting room is not far from downtown Healdsburg, and is right off of the 101, using the Lytton Springs Road exit.  You can find directions on their website.  It’s hard to miss this eco-sustainable building and winery, which is built of straw bales and vineyard clay and is powered primarily by solar energy.

The Monte Bello tasting room is located about 20 miles west of San Jose, CA.

Visit their website at:

My July Wine of the Month

Domaine Roger Sabon
2005 Les Olivets
80% Grenache
10% Syrah
10% Cinsault

Yesterday was Bastille Day, the French National Day known as Fête Nationale in France.  To celebrate, I opened a bottle of Domaine Roger Sabon from Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone Valley.

The Sabon family has been in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for a very long time.  The descendants of the family have been making wine in this region since at least 1560, and Roger Sabon began estate bottling with the 1921 vintage.  This is truly a family operation, with Roger’s sons, grandsons and granddaughters and step-grandson being the heart of the operation today.  The domaine uses the best traditional techniques along with modern technology to produce some wonderful wines.

The Wine – The 2005 Les Olivets has baked red berry fruit, sandalwood and some heat on the nose.  The heat does not show up on the palate, which does have ripe bing cherry, plum, earth and spices.  This nicely balanced wine is peaking right now and drinking beautifully.

Visiting the Winery – Domaine Roger Sabon is located right in the town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.   The modern tasting room is located at the winery and is very inviting.  The gal who was pouring for us was very friendly and knowledgeable, but did not speak English.  I was thankful to know enough French to get us by with no problems whatsoever!  They have a very nice small store in the tasting room, where one can purchase T-Shirts and other souvenirs, wine accessories, and of course bottles of their wines.

The Journey – Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a lovely village in the Southern Rhone Valley of France.  Domaine Roger Sabon has a driveway right off of one of the main drags, making it very easy to find.  It is a short distance from the village’s main area where we stayed.  You can find out more about them at:

My June Wine of the Month

Sleight of Hand Cellars
Columbia Valley

My husband and I visited Washington wine country two years ago.  A favorite spot of ours was Walla Walla, a delightful town surrounded by the beautiful Blue Mountains, which greeted us as we entered this growingly well-respected wine region.  There are a lot of great wineries and vineyards located here.  One that stood out for us was Sleight of Hand.

The Wine – The Sleight of Hand “Levitation” is 100% Syrah.  On the nose are black raspberry, blackberry, smoke and a perfume of lavender.  This wine has a creamy mouth feel with plum and smoky bacon on the palate, along with a hint of Cherries Jubilee!  The finish is long and lovely.  This wine is a winner!

My Experience Visiting the Winery – We had no expectations upon arriving at Sleight of Hand for a tasting.  My stepson is a magician, so we were intrigued by the name.  Little did we know we were walking into a REALLY fun experience.  As soon as we entered the tasting room the co-owner and winemaker, Trey, greeted us with a question:  “What do you want to hear?”   I was a little confused; until I saw the row of albums he had lining the back wall.  I suggested Bryan Ferry, and by gosh if he didn’t have some Roxy Music!  So he put on the album, (yes, VINYL!!!) and we started tasting.

The Journey – Sleight of Hand is located in a beautiful area of Walla Walla with open areas of vineyards and beautiful views.  I can’t help but think that it may be similar to Napa Valley many, many years ago.  Their original tasting room had been in the quaint downtown area of the city, but had just moved into the beautiful current location when we visited.

If you’re looking for some “magical” wines, check out Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla!  We fell in love with many of them, and they all have magic themed names!!!

Visit their website at:

My June Wine of the Month

Gloria Ferrer
Blanc de Noirs
Sonoma County
90% Pinot Noir
10% Chardonnay

Yesterday was the first official day of summer, so I decided that an appropriate Wine of the Month would be a refreshing sparkling wine.

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 Wine – This sparkling wine rocks for the price, coming in at about $20 per bottle.  The color is a light salmon.  The nose has strawberry Creamsicle.  The palate explodes with its lively, fine bubbles, creamy cherry, raspberry and some red apple.  There is just a touch of yeast to complete the lush palate of this wine.

I love many of their other (and more expensive) vintage sparkling wines, specifically their Royal Brut, their Rose, and their Carneros Cuvee.  This Blanc de Noirs, however, has been my mainstay everyday bubbly for years!  The quality is consistent year after year and I seem never to tire of opening another bottle.

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 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!

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