Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anderson Valley Tour

The Vin Van took a tour north to the Anderson Valley this weekend. What a beautiful drive and wonderful wines we enjoyed.
Our first stop was at Maple Creek Winery. To be honest, we stopped there because a friend recommended it and told us the winemaker was a lot of fun and single. To our dismay, the second part about being single was dashed when a beautiful blond woman walked in with him! And she was really nice too. Well, good for them, and all was not lost. The wine was wonderful, the tasting room manager an absolute gem, and the winemaker was a lot of fun.
I would recommend the 2007 Chardonnay. Clean, crisp and delicious. Especially wonderful on a hot summer day. They also served a wonderful Pinot.

Another noteworthy stop was at Goldeneye. This winery is first class all the way. For a mere $10, they serve you a tasting of top of the line Pinots with tasting card notes and a really nice horsduerves tray. Goldeneye is part of the Duckhorn family, and has all the sophistication you would expect from a well known Napa winery, but is located on a beautiful property just north of Booneville. Who would have thunk!

Until next time, drink in the beauty of the sunset with a glass of Northern California wine. Susan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sonoma Wine Tasting at Vintner's Signature

Vintner's Signature tasting room, located near Geyserville directly on Route 128, is a fairly new endeavor. Opened in mid 2010 by winemakers Michael Draxton and Randy May (a former a team member of the winemakers at Korbel), Signatures currently offers 7 different wines.

Three are marketed under the Elroy, a nod to his father. Two recently won awards at the San Francisco Chronicle's annual wine competition, held each year in January in Cloverdale. One of the judges, Michael Oveholt of Stryker-Sonoma winery, stayed with us and he gave me the scoop on the event. This competition is the largest in the US, and more than 5000 wines were judged this year. Michael said he tasted more than 130 wines per day! Draxtons Elroy malbec and their proprietary red blend both received gold medals this year. Quite a feat given the competition, wouldn't you say?

We tasted the Cult Pinot Noir, a pinot of rare distinction created with Russian River grapes. It hasn't been released to the public yet, and the phrase bottle shock was bandied about today by the tasting room manager, Michael Monahan. I'm not sure what that is exactly, but it can't be good...

Signature's business model differs from the traditional wineries. Draxton has commitments from 40 some odd winegrape growers, and hopes to create a bulk-wine market for the growers. Last year, Draxton successfully marketed 70% of its inventory, and this is good for the growers.

Who knows what will happen this year, what with the reduction in zinfandel production brought on by the mercurial weather. I sure hope that the growers succeed in finding a home for their produce so that they can live to fight another day. It's been a tough year for the zin-growers, with an estimated loss of more than 70% of the crop.

Until Later,

Sonoma Wine Tasting at Asti-Souverain

The weather was spectacular for Wine Road's Winter Wineland festival in Sonoma this weekend (Jan 15-16) and the first stop on our journey through north Sonoma wine country was Asti/Souverain, the winery closest to Auberge on the Vineyard. I have been wanting to stop in there to meet Gary Sauder, whose parents were the brainchild of the inn, which at the time was known as Ye Old Shelford House. I was not disappointed as Gary was there. He was CUTE!

He poured us a couple of chardonnays, made in my favorite style. Their 2009 Souverain chardonnay comes from a brand new appellation called Sonoma/Napa. I guess if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and some of the grapes for this lovely wine do come from Napa. A great value at $16 per bottle, it was on sale for 40% off during the festival (making it a SCREAMING deal). All the participating wineries have great sales on their wines this week-end, and I was sorry that Susan couldn't be here as she was home with Cecil (her son) who is suffering with a concussion. Hopefully she maintained her sanity, and will be here again soon.

But, I digress.... we also tried their 2009 Reserve Chardonnay and it was fabulous too, although, as reserve wines tend to be, a bit pricier. The gift shop and tasting room at Souverain is lovely, with memorabilia and photos of the original Swiss Colony vineyards. They've come a long way, baby!

In early October, Asti plays host to the Asti de Vine (, an absolutely gorgeous bike ride that meanders through wine country at its most striking time of the year, when the grapevines are most flamboyant. We had guests who participated in the ride and they raved about the experience at Asti. The winery fed them breakfast and lunch at the winery, and offered terrific discounts on their wines to the participants.

Growing up in Colorado, a state famous for its fall color as our aspens turn, I thought I'd experienced more than my share of fall's visual treat. I was not prepared for the beauty of wine country in fall, and it is definitely my most favorite (and busiest) time of year here. The hills are alive with the fall palette, and the leaves of the vineyards turn at different times due to the varietal, soils, and geographic positioning. An absolute riot of color is the result, and Cloverdale Cyclery is a great place to rent bikes when visiting.

Interestingly, the Alexander Valley vineyard that surrounds our property seems to be one of the last ones to turn, with color holding well into December this year. I can't begin to tell you how much we enjoyed over two months of color change in Sonoma this year; our hills and valleys a patchwork of greens, golds, bronzes, and reds. Simply stunning! The almanac predicts another wet year for north Sonoma and perhaps our fall will once again be extended. Not so great for the wineries as they must labor later into the year; our friends at Bob Dog (Tim and Kandi Ward), whose vineyard sits at the highest elevation in Sonoma, didn't harvest their petit verdot varietal until mid December this year! They said it felt like being pregnant two months longer than normal....

Visit Asti/Souverain on the web at Until next time, Roxanne


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sonoma Wine Tasting at Frick Winery

Recently we had the unusual pleasure of tasting at Frick Winery. Located about a mile off of Canyon Road, this winery was founded in 1976 by Bill and his late wife Judith Gannon.

With annual production of approximately 1400 cases, this small winery specializes in Rhone varietals, including several that are fairly rare in this area; counoise, carignane, and cinsault (hmmm, all c words....)

We learned something new today about winemaking methods. As he uncorked a bottle of his nouveau chateau-neuf blend, we noticed a crystal like residue on the cork. He is a traditionalist and does not believe in "freezing" the wine to rid wine of the natural "tartrates" that occur in the aging process. He believes that it impacts the true flavor of the wine. It took a bit of getting used to as we had never seen anything like that before, but his wines were certainly flavorful and we bought two cases of his "Red Red", a blend of syrah and merlot that was such a good value I couldn't pass it up.

In an area that is most well known for its robust red zinfandels, tasting wines finished in the Rhone style was a nice change. So, if you're ever in the mood to try something a little different, check out Bill Frick and his winery, where handcrafted, naturally made unfiltered wines are the specialty of the house.

We enjoyed it tremendously! Roxanne and Sarah

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sonoma Wine Tasting at Fritz Winery

Greetings from Sonoma and the Auberge on the Vineyard Bed and Breakfast!

Today I’d like to share with you how an experience with people involved at the wineries can make all the difference in the whole wine tasting experience. I recently sent a honeymoon couple over to see Bob at Fritz Winery. This couple tried in vain to set up a tour at another winery, and because it was a rainy day, had not had any luck getting something organized. So, I sent them over to Fritz Winery to see Bob, who took them on a tour that they will be talking about for years. Their experience was so positive that they ordered several cases of wine from Fritz. Bob went the extra mile to insure that they had a memorable experience.

The beauty of Sonoma County is that there are lots of wonderful wineries to visit, and many superb wines. The experience that our guests have at the wineries they visit is an important component of their vacations. We strive to find the best wineries with the friendliest and most informative tours and tastings in the county. Bob at Fritz is just one example of this. Please visit us at Auberge on the Vineyard, and we will customize your wine tour for the ultimate tasting adventure.

On Saturday December 11, from 12 to 3 pm, Fritz will be hosting their Cold Cracked Crab Fest. For more information, visit their website at

Until next time…eat, drink and be merry! Susan

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sonoma Wine at Lambert Bridge

Greetings from Auberge on the Vineyard! Hope life is well with all of you,
I recently had the good fortune to visit with Raelynn Ross at Lambert Bridge
Winery, and what a treat that was. This is a wonderful place to spend a
rainy afternoon, which was the weather the day of my visit. They had a
warm fire crackling and a nice quiet atmosphere, I wanted to curl up with a
good book, some great cheese and a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon from
Lambert Bridge.

This is a place you go to linger over some very fine wines, while talking
their merits with one of the two wine makers. I met one of them, Jennifer
Higgins, who was as warm and elegant as the tasting room itself! I also got
pretty acquainted with a very cuddly couple, Bernadette, (Bernie) and Gus.
Bernie is a young and loving Saint Bernard, who likes to lay at your feet and
entice you to get down on all fours to give her a good belly rub, which I did.
Gus is a handsome Yellow Lab who can get you to give him anything he
wants with that soulful gaze, even your very last breadstick.

Lambert Bridge is for the serious wine drinker and collector with a
discriminating palette. They still harvest their grapes by hand with lots of love
and attention to choosing the very best fruit for their wines. I tasted a 2006
Cab that could easily be set down for at least ten to twelve years.

Tastings range from the Classic, consisting of four varietals to wine pairings
for $30 to $50 to my personal favorite, a mini Blending Seminar for
$50.00. All of these only take between 25 to 45 minutes and are well worth
the time and money. Visit Lambert Bridge on your next trip to Sonoma
County, and please check out Auberge on the Vineyard for your
accommodations, We would love to welcome you.

Until we meet, stay healthy, wealthy and “wined up”! Susan

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sonoma Wine Tasting at Sbragia Winery

Hello it's me. I've thought about you for a long, long time! Oh, stop, that's a song, not what I am to blog about today. Today, I finally got up to Sbragia, and what a treat that was! Who knew that Joe Montana and I have such similar tastes? I'm a Bronco fan, I'm Irish, and I am sooooo much younger than Joe since I wasn't even born until November of 1957!

Anyhow, back to Sbragia. I tasted a lovely 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from the Schmidt Ranch, which was a refreshing mix of flavors, including banana and pineapple. This is an ideal wine for old Aunt Matilda who only wants that "white zin" from a box! She will love you forever, remember you in her will and come stay for long visits once you introduce her to this delight! You may want to rethink that idea, and load up on some Boones Farm apple wine. That way she will keep you in the will, just visit less often!

The Home Ranch Chardonnay is very clean with a nice citrus finish. You can also smell some floral scents in this easy to drink Chardonnay.

Ok, so I am not a big white wine drinker. I try them out once in awhile just to make sure that my business partner Roxanne has something to enjoy after a long day's work at out inn.

While I do like some of the fresher summer wines, my real loves are the Zins and Cabs, and here I was not disappointed. I do not pretend to know all about the wines...well, yes, I do, but that's beside the point! I just know what I like, and I like everything I have ever tasted from the Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder Appelations. The Wall is my all time favorite to date. The dark berry and chocolate silk finish had me salivating. If Joe's wine is anywhere near this good, I may have to wear a Montana jersey to the next Bronco game!

Thank you, Ed Sbragia, for producing some really wonderful wines and sharing them with the rest of us! And we can't wait to savor the 1st vintage of the Montagia when it's released next February. Speaking of Montana, when he's here for the party, please let him know that he'll always have a pillow to lay his head on here at Auberge on the Vineyard. You know he shouldn't drink and drive, and we're just a hop skip and a jump from Sbragia.

Visit Sbragia while staying with us at the Auberge on the Vineyard. You can also visit us both, virtually, through our websites: and Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Susan Ondack