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Thursday, September 17, 2009

A few Napa & Sonoma stops

Disneyland vs. Regular Folks with Real Wine

"The Castle" (Castello di Amorosa)

Daryl Satui has made a mint from his very popular winery, V. Satui. Great place for a picnic. There are usually lots of buses in the parking lot. He's made so much money if fact that he decided to drop a few million on a castle on the hillside in Napa.

Yeah, it's a real castle. Should you visit? Yes, do it once, but don't come for the wines, come to see the castle and the views of Napa Valley. I tried all their wines and there's nothing I would spend $15 on (they run about $20 to $75). Some would not show well against two buck chuck.

Apparently Daryl Satui got so caught up in his Italian castle building he started calling himself Dario.

Benessera Winery

Not too many left like this in Napa--a working winery with no fancy pretenses for the tourists. OK, I don't know who the owner is, but it doesn't look like it would belong to Fosters or Constellation.

Solid wines, semi-reasonable prices. A great Sangiovese.

Deloach Winery

Deloach has been just outside Santa Rosa in the Russian River Valley appellation for a long time. Cecil Deloach started the winery about 30 years ago. He turned it over to a son who got the place in financial trouble and they sold to a French family. The Deloach family has started Hook & Ladder Winery just up the road.

The French folks set them down the biodynamic trail. OK, I get the organic farming and taking care of the land, but I don't quite understand burying a cow's horn in the vineyard based on lunar cycles.

Anyway, what's more important is the wine and it's good. Several different Pinots from the $20's to the $40's. Their display said the least expensive one, the Russian River Valley labeled, got 90-some points from some writer, but I didn't like it so well, but try it yourself as it's tough finding a good Pinot for that price. My favorite was the Van der Kamp vineyard Pinot at $42. It's a bit unusual in that it's a Sonoma Mountain appellation Pinot. That area is known more for Cabernet.

Zinfandel is their other "specialty" and their $20 Russian River was so-so, but the $32 Nova Vineyards (Lake County) was very good.

Deloach make lots of vineyard-designated wines.

Pellegrini Family

They have been growing grapes in the Russian River area for a long time. Several other wineries have made outstanding wines, most notably Pinot Noir, from their vineyards. For some reason they are not able to repeat that feat with their own grapes.

If they were in the $10 to $20 wine business I'd say OK, but they are priced with everybody else and pretty much everybody else is doing a better job of winemaking. At least judging by what I tasted at their facility. They weren't serving their Olivet Lane-designated Pinot, I've had it before and it's very good.


Now here's a family that's been around awhile--over 100 years on the same ranch in Sonoma Valley. They are a well-known and respected family in the area. In the last decade or two they've gone into attracting visitors with their tasting room, caves, and events area. They offer lots of options for tasting and touring. A good web site, too, explaining it all.

I tried their "standard" red wines, syrah, merlot, zinfandel and cabernet, and they were all very nice and reasonably priced. They also have vineyard-designated and reserves. I'll have to go back and try those sometime.