There are two days I will never work…the MLK Holiday and the Friday after Aprl 15th. I will not work on the MLK Holiday for obvious reasons. I will not work the Friday after April 15th because I need tax relief. On April 15th, I always pay and I pay big. I don’t mind paying taxes, I just wish I had more control over what my tax money is being spent on. So, in an ongoing effort to bring the wine culture to African-Americans and people of color, I took Friday (April 18th) off and went to Dry Creek Valley to do some wine tasting.
I also wanted to take advantage of the VISA Signature complementary wine tastings on approximately 50 wineries in Sonoma County. As you may know, tasting fees can add up, so this VISA Signature deal is serious tax relief…check it out.
I had intended to leave San Franacisco and drive up Hwy 101 to Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. I wanted to visit 8 wineries in one day! Instead, I only made it to three: Trentadu, Michael-Schlumberger, and Montemagorre.
I’m a fan of the wine country in Sonoma County. I lilke the wines, the restaurants and the overall vibe of Sonoma. On average, the wines produced in Sonoma are typically not a good as Napa Valley, but value wise, believe they are actually better. With the large number, and proximity of restaurants and wineries in Napa Valley, you can get alot out of one day. The wine region of Sonoma is geographally larger, and it would take several days, and a lot of driving, to explore Sonoma Valley wineries. So, for a day trip to Sonoma, you have to choose your spot…for this trip it’s the Dry Creek Valley area.
Dry Creek Valley is about 80 miles north of SF. The traffic on Hwy 101 can be heavy, especially between Petaluma and Santa Rosa. Once you’re far north, near Healdsberg, it’s copasetic. The traffic, suburban sprual, and my stress level dissipate. This is my favorite wine region of Sonoma, from the Russian River to Geyserville. This stretch includes the Dry Creek Valley.
The Russian River excells in Pinot Noir and Savoignon Blanc. Zinfandel and Chardonnay grow well in Dry Creek Valley. I personally believe, that on average, the Zinfandels from Rock Pile Road, just north of Dry Creek Valley are the best in the world.
I mapped out my Tax Relief quest by looking at the wineries offering free tastings by VISA Signature. As always, I wanted to visit small family-owned wineries. My carefully chosen plan included: Clos du Bois, Trentadue, Sbragia, Michel-Schlumberger, Mounts Family Winery, Montemaggiore, Chalk Hill, and Gary Farrell. Yes, and ambitious plan…but like I said I paid BIG taxes and needed serious relief.
The reality: Trentadue, Michel-Schlumberger, and Montemaggiore. Followed by a late lunch at Willi’s Seafood Bar in Healdsberg. Reality did not dissappoint. Trentadue (family owned) was good, Michel-Schlumberger (family owned/organic) was nice; Montemaggiore (family owned/biodynamic) was exceptional.
I hit Trentadue at about 10am on Friday morning. Big place, nice place, but I was somewhat disappointed in the wine. The wines I tried were pored from half-empty bottles, that I assumed were opened the day before. The reserve Zin was bood, but overall, tasting day old juice just didn’t work. I did ask the folks in the empty tasting room to open a fresh reserve Zin, and they happily complied. I probably should have asked them to open fresh bottles of everything I tasted…but, they should know better.
The next stop was Michel-Schlumberger Vineyards, located of W. Dry Creek Rd. I had a pre-arranged personal tour and tasting. I toured the vineyards and learned more about organic farming. I spent most of my time, however, learning how to pronounce the name of this joint…Michel-Schlumberger, I thought he was a Formula One race car driver. The hospitality was fantistic, the wines OK. Across the board, the tasting was flat in profile. Nothing really stood out.
I ended my Tax Relief at Montemaggiore. Killa wines! My favorite wine producer in Sonoma is DuMol. Vision Cellars is a close second. Montemaggiore is the rising star. In my opinion, they produce the best wines in the Dry Creek Valley.
But man! Is this sucker was hard to find. It’s technically located in Dry Creek, but it’s sits at 7000′, on Jamenson Rd. off W. Dry Creek Rd. Montemaggioure is relatively small, family-owned, biodynamic vineyard and winery, owned by Vincent and Lise Ciolino. Vincent is primarily involved in vineyard management and his wife, Lise, is the winemaker. They produce a Syrah, Syrah/Cabernet Sauvigion blend, and a Rose. They also make olive oil.
I spent about 90 minutes on the property. The Montemaggiore Superiore 2002 is a Cab/Syrah blend. Nose: bing cherries, cassis, white pepper and plum. Palate: elegant, somewhat fruit foward, balanced with a solid body, and silky intergrated tannins. Excellent finish.
Visits to Montemaggiore are by appointment only. The wines are primarily available via the wine club and at select restaurants.
To end the day, a late lunch at Willi’s Seafood Bar in downtown Healdsberg.
I cannot wait until Tax Relief 2009.
The Road Home. (this photo was actually taken one early Winter morning, on Hwy 101, north of Cloverdale)