This week I got a special treat with an impromptu wine tasting at Riverbench Winery’s tasting room in Santa Barbara. Downtown Santa Barbara has an area known as the Funk Zone where there are vintage shops and 16 tasting rooms….all within walking distance of my hotel! Yippee! I wanted to find a good Chardonnay to take back to my hotel and put my trust in Google to point me in the right direction. Riverbench Winery came up with a review of a Chardonnay that will make anyone fall in love with the variety.
I wasn’t alone when I ventured into the tasting room, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome. My husband was with me, but so were Toddler D and Baby K. We were greeted warmly and told to bring the kids right on in. Another couple from Tucson were enjoying the Bubbly tasting menu with their adorable dog, Molly, who more than enjoyed having Toddler D as a playmate for a bit. I went for the Chardonnay tasting and each taste was better than the last. I started with the Rose of Pinot Noir and then had the Reserve Chardonnay, Chapel View Chardonnay, Estate Chardonnay, and the Bedrock Chardonnay. I ended up buying a bottle of the Chapel View which to me had the perfect slightly buttery taste and had me craving more.
The tasting room is beautiful with a long L-shaped couch and quarter wine barrels that have steel tops, which coincidentally make for perfect drums if you are a toddler. I can’t wait to go back and try their Pinot Noir and Sparkling Wines!
The weekend is upon us and if you’re in the Bay Area looking for something to do, I think it’ll be a perfect weekend for wine tasting! I know it’s not “Wine Wednesday”, but there should never just be one day dedicated to wine…it should be every day!
It’s hard to believe but one thing I haven’t done much of is go wine tasting. My husband and I are vowing to change that, especially since there are countless vineyards so close to us. A few weekends ago we ventured to Livermore and met up with our nephew and his family to try out 3 wineries; 3 Steves Winery, Garre Winery, and Wente Vineyards. We’ve tasted Wente wines before, but the other two were going to be brand new experiences. I reached out to the 3 wineries to let them know we would be visiting and they were all welcoming to us, our kids and the dogs!
We packed a picnic, all the kids, the dog, the stroller and headed out for the quick 45 minute drive to Livermore. Our first stop was 3 Steves where we were greeted by Steve Burman…one of the “Steves”! He was extremely welcoming and ready for us to start tasting. We had a large round table outside where the breeze was perfectly blowing and the sun was shining. There was an area for the kids and dogs to play and the view was gorgeous. We tasted 8 different varieties and every single one was memorable and noteworthy.
We started with the Brut Sparkling Wine, fermented in the bottle and not in the tank, which is the traditional Methode Champenoise style. This was a perfect and welcoming start. Next up was the Sauvignon Blanc which won the Livermore gold medal. This was so delicious! I came home with a bottle and am hoarding it for the perfect warm afternoon to relax with. We tried their club Chardonnay which is currently sold out. It was buttery but with a distinct crispness. Next up and so impressive was the 2013 Interino Chilean Blend. An incredible blend of Chilean Cab, Carmenere, Malbec, and Syrah. Each grape is hand de-stemmed by women in the local village which not only provides a softness to your palette…you bet I now have a bottle of this at home! We enjoyed the Three Cabs Blend and Cienega Valley Younger Vine Zinfandel which comes from 45 year old vines. Next was the Cienega Valley Ancient Vine Zinfandel whose vines were planted in 1906! I thoroughly enjoyed the Small Lot Cab and also came home with a bottle of that. If you are in the area, please stop by 3 Steves. We are looking forward to going back very shortly not just for the fabulous wine but also for the friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
Our next stop was Garre Winery which unfortunately didn’t blow our minds like 3 Steves did. We were greeted and asked about outside seating for the kids and the dogs and were shown where the outdoor patio was. That was the extent of our interaction with anyone at the winery. We got our own tastings to bring back outside and the wines were ok. They started us with their Sangiovese Rose which they refer to as their “patio wine” followed by 5 other reds. All of their bottles are under $20.
Our last stop was Wente Vineyards. Wente is a great wine which I’ve boasted about being able to find for really great prices at Costco. Their property is large with multiple areas to taste and have events. Their tasting menu offers two options so we went with the Winemaker’s Flight. As soon as you step onto the property you are offered a “welcome wine” which happened to be a Sauvignon Blanc and was a perfect welcome! We had two great tasting room employees who tag teamed our group. We tried the Small Lot Pinot Noir Rose, Nth Degree Chardonnay, Sonata, Duetto and Small Lot Petite Sirah. Every single wine was great. The Nth degree Chardonnay was crisp with a buttery aftertaste which I enjoyed.
Some fun facts for you…90% of the country’s wine is grown in California…only 4% of which is in Napa and the first Chardonnay grape was planted by Wente in 1912.
It’s Wine Wednesday so I know you’re thinking about wine and with the weekend getting closer, how about making plans to do something involving wine? Better yet, how about being able to give back while enjoying wine?!
November 7th marks the third annual Wine Tourism Day. Wine Tourism Day is designed to celebrate the many wineries and other businesses offering wine-related events throughout North America and beyond, promote the concept of traveling to wine regions on vacation, and highlight the economic impact of wine tourism. For this year’s Wine Tourism Day, many organizations will be donating all (or a portion) of their earnings for the day to a charity or non-profit of their choice.
Check out this list throughout the US for an event near you and be sure to visit Wine Tourism Day for more info.
A couple weeks back I went on a girl’s trip to Santa Rosa for my future sister-in-law’s bachelorette shin dig. It was a jam packed few days and wine tasting was most definitely at the top of our to do list. We visited Paradise Ridge (great art along the drive with stunning views), La Crema (in downtown Healdsburg) and Seghesio Winery (Healdsburg). I was most impressed with La Crema!
I’ve always been a fan and lover of La Crema Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which you can find in most stores and very reasonably at Costco, but what I didn’t realize is that you can buy more varieties directly from them (and they are over the top delicious).
My soon-to-be sis, Carrie made us reservations in their private tasting room, along with a cheese pairing. The room itself was beautiful. We were tucked in a secluded area and the large barn doors were pushed together to give us privacy. We had a wonderful, informative tasting room hostess who explained each wine and cheese pair and the fundamentals of pairing. We tried two chardonnays and two pinot noirs, which included their Nine Barrel selection. It’s called Nine Barrel because they only make nine barrels of it. To say the wine was exquisite would be an understatement. If you enjoy the La Crema available at your local store, then you will flip for the exclusive bottles!
The tasting itself was also very inexpensive considering we had a private room and the cheese pairing. It was $30/person, but if you join the wine club, it’s only $24. And yes, I joined the wine club! Your minimum commitment is 2 shipments per year of 3 bottles at $125 maximum per shipment. You also receive discounts on wine and invitations to their upcoming events, so it’s a win-win all around. Here’s to a wonderful weekend, delicious wine and the promise of more delivered right to my doorstep- cheers!