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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What wine with Girl Scout cookies?

Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for those delicious, fattening, and over-priced cookies being sold by the cutest little darlin's.

This, of course, begs the question, "What wine to have with your favorite Girl Scout cookie?"
Image from

Well, there are lots of different kinds and everyone has a favorite. I'm partial to Samoas (caramel, coconut, chocolate) and Tagalongs (peanut butter and chocolate).

I believe there are two main categories of wines that should cover most of the different cookies--Sparkling and Port-style. I'm thinking the Samoas are made for Port; the Tagalongs should work with either Sparkling wine or a Port. Maybe go with the bubblies if you're eating them before dinner--definitely if you're eating them for breakfast. After dinner go with the Port. The Thin Mints might be a bit of a problem. Maybe a Cabernet with those or you beer lovers could have a Porter.

There, another food/wine pairing dilemma solved!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Wine Storage Option

Who needs to rent space for a wine collection? Who needs to build a wine cellar?

There's this rich guy winery owner--he's from Charleston SC and he owns a small winery in Napa Valley--like many rich guys do. He's experimenting with "ocean aging" of wine. This idea apparently came about after some lucky folks sampled wines brought up from shipwrecks and the wines were--different.

So he's buried four cases of wine offshore from his home and will bring them up in three months to see how they taste. If he likes what happens to the wine I assume he'll go with longer ocean storage next time.

No one seems to know if it's the water pressure, light, temperature, salt water, the swaying with the currents or what. But the French have already done this and have sold "ocean aged" wine--I assume at a premium.

Okay, so this may not be too convenient if you live in Nebraska. But I'd like to see an experiment comparing the five Great Lakes. I'm pretty sure Lake Erie would lose. Other options might be the Great Salt Lake, but that's in Utah, and Crater Lake, but that's a National Park.

Article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm so happy I could just sh#t!

The Atlantic magazine has just done a geographical survey (such as who's the fattest, smartest, richest, best place to be a single woman, etc). This one is about who's the happiest.

Louisiana is the unhappiest state I'm unhappy to report. Hawaii is the happiest (I could have figured out on my own). 

Looking at cities Napa is the happiest city in the country with Santa Rosa, in Sonoma County, at number seven. They both are wine centers. Hmmm. Napa Valley is known as "Disneyland for adults" and Disneyland prides itself on being the happiest place on earth. For kids maybe. Adults apparently prefer wine.

California has several other cities near the top. But it's not just the weather as Green Bay is in the list too. Maybe people there were interviewed during football season.

The List from The Atlantic

 Ellen Degeneres' take on it all

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February in Dry Creek Valley (photos)

February 21, 2013 along Westside and West Dry Creek Valley Roads in Sonoma County. Another lousy winter's day.  :)

(Click on photos to enlarge)


The mountain peak you see in several photos is Mount St. Helena, 4400'
(not to be confused with Mt St Helens, the volcano in Washington).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spring 2013 events in Sonoma County

Major events for March, April and May of 2013 in the Sonoma wine country.
A great time of year to visit!

Spring growth in the vineyards


1-3 and 8-10 Barrel Tasting. This event has gotten so big it takes two weekends and is still crowded. An open house of northern Sonoma County wineries. Some smaller ones that aren't normally open to the public show off their wines; other wineries just use this as an excuse to throw a big party. Some actually provide barrel samples and sell futures (the original intent of this event). It's Mardi Gras in Sonoma County. If you don't believe me then check out Healdsburg about 3 pm on Saturday afternoon. My advice: Make it a long weekend and start on Friday when it's much less crowded (but not all wineries participate on Friday). Info

16-17 Savor Sonoma Valley. Not to be outdone by the northern Sonoma County Barrel Tasting event Sonoma Valley has its own the weekend after. This one isn't all about drinking, but has food too, so the tickets are more expensive, but the crowd is a bit more subdued. Info

18-24 Sonoma County Restaurant Week. Fixed-price three course meals at some of the best restaurants you'll find anywhere. Info

22-23 Pigs and Pinot. Chefs and local Pinot Noir producers get together at Hotel Healdsburg. Info

22-24 Artisan Cheese Festival. The town of Petaluma is in the middle of a great cheese making area. Learn how to make cheese, cook with cheese, and cheese pairings. Bad place to be if you're lactose intolerant. Info

31  Easter Sunday. Many wineries will be closed. Call ahead to see who is open.


2-8 Tall Ships in Bodega Bay. Re-creations of old sailing ships available for boarding and cruises including a battle cruise. Info

Pick of the Vine. A benefit event with food, wine and music. Info

Battle of the Brews. People's choice beer competition at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. Info

10-14 Sonoma International Film Festival. "Break bread, lift a glass, see some flicks." Info

13  Taste of Olivet. Open house at nine Olivet Road wineries in the Russian River Valley just west of Santa Rosa.  Info

20-21 April in Carneros. An open house for over 20 wineries in the south end of Napa and Sonoma Counties--an area known for sparkling wine, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Info

20-21 Apple Blossom Festival in Sebastopol. The 67th annual parade and festival. Info

27-28 Passport to Dry Creek Valley. A pricey, but well-done, event at most Dry Creek wineries. Food, music, car shows, vineyard tours, etc. From the info on Manzanita Creek Winery, "Enjoy Tuscan style USDA prime New York steak grilled over hardwood paired with our 99 point Dry Creek Zinfandel." I'd love to!  Info

27 Butter and Eggs parade and festival in Petaluma. Celebrating the agricultural past. Info

27-28 Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival. The 40th annual, with everything from a boat parade to wine tasting. Info


5   Cinco de Mayo Festival and Tomale Cook-off. Music and tomales (bring your own tequila). Info

9-12 Bottle Rock Napa Valley festival. No, it's not in Sonoma County, but it's right next door and it sounds pretty cool with bands like Alabama Shakes, Black Keys, Blue Traveler, Flaming Lips, Primus, Wallflowers, and more. Tickets will go fast. There will, of course, be wine available. Info

18 Santa Rosa Rose Parade. The 119th parade and festival. Info

18-19 Taste Alexander Valley. A weekend in a beautiful area known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Over 30 wineries with food and wine pairings. Info

18-19 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival at Sonoma Raceway (aka Sears Point, aka Infineon Raceway) celebrating 50 years of the Corvette. No, it's not wine-related, but you will be able to find a glass of wine somewhere. Lots of old, loud, smelly cars. It'll be awesome. Info

19  Amgen Bicycle Tour of California. The final stage is from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. Two things to note: (1) The Golden Gate Bridge will be closed early Sunday morning at the start of the race. (2) The route takes them through western Sonoma County to Santa Rosa where there will be road closures and a big crowd downtown for the finish. Info

25-27 Memorial Day Weekend. The first big weekend of the summer means lots of crowded tasting rooms in southern Sonoma County (closer to the SF Bay Area) and, of course, Napa will be a zoo! Late Saturday and Sunday afternoons will be the busiest--plan accordingly. My advice: Head for the more remote regions of western and northern Sonoma County.

Memorial weekend in Napa Valley     (just kidding)
Image from

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What wine with pancakes?

In case you're not up on the major holidays (because your employer probably isn't giving time off for this) Feb 10-16 is National Pancake Week. This same week is also National Flirting Week. I'm not sure of the connection.

Anyway, we should look at wine matches with pancakes, right?

As with most any food/wine pairings it depends on the preparation--any sauces, herbs used, etc. For me pancakes can be served two ways:

With fruit: strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries
Or maybe bananas, apples, and even a bit of real whipped cream

This works well with sparkling wine. Try a rosé.

With maple syrup: Real maple syrup, not the corn syrup-based fake syrups.
Next time you try to go cheap and maybe healthier with your syrup check out the ingredient list (not to mention the flavor). Lite syrups contain stuff like Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, etc.
Or plain and simple

Try this with a sweeter bubbly or better yet a muscat or late harvest sauvignon blanc (sauterne-style wine) or other late harvest white wine.

And of course, if this is actually breakfast, rather than dinner-for-breakfast, you can always make mimosas using a not too dry and not too expensive bubbly. Here's a good champagne cocktail recipe list sponsored by Korbel.

Friday, February 8, 2013

We have 8,000 wineries to choose from

Per there are now 8,000 wineries in North America. There has been substantial growth in the last three years--even with the recession.

This 8,000 number includes over 1,000 "virtual" wineries meaning they have a name, and hopefully a winemaker, but no facility of their own. It totals up as about 7,500 U.S. wineries with 550 in Canada and Mexico. Over 3,500 are in California. About 6,000 of the 7,500 U.S. wineries make less than 5,000 cases a year so the majority are very small and you've never heard of most of them.

Every state in the U.S. produces wine with California making almost 90% of the juice. New York, Washington and Oregon produce another 5% with the remaining 5% coming from the other 46 states. In number of wineries California is followed by Washington, Oregon, New York, Virginia and Texas all having over 200 wineries each (along with British Columbia).

In 1975 CA had 330 wineries. WA and OR each had just 16.

Along with that there are over 2,000 craft breweries with new ones opening at the rate of one per day.  I hope you're thirsty!

Yes, that was a lot of numbers. The Wines & Vines article has some nice tables that make it easier to see.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ten Reasons to Love Sonoma County

It's not just the wine, but it's also the food as they go together. Lots of artists are drawn to the area. Winemakers and chefs are artists, too.
Vineyards in the summer

weather. It's a Mediterranean climate meaning it's dry for six months and will rain on-and-off during the winter. It's about the micro-climates: If you don't like the summer temps then drive 15 minutes to find a cooler or warmer place. In the Santa Rosa area the average high temp. is about 80, plus-or-minus five degrees, from May through Oct. The diversity in climate (and so many different soil types) is why Sonoma can grow so many different premium wine grapes so well.

. The Pacific on the west; Napa Valley to the east. San Francisco is south. Hills and valleys everywhere. If you prefer straight and flat roads this is not the place for you. A great place for a sports car or motorcycle.

It's Sunday afternoon and you're bored? Well, there's over a hundred
tasting rooms to check out (okay, maybe you should visit just three or four of those). If that's not what you're looking for there's always a walk on the beach or through a thousand year old redwood forest.
Outside dining at Healdsburg Bar & Grill
Rated as having one of the best burgers in America
Image from

You can go to the little town of Healdsburg for dinner, pop. 11,000, and have a choice of over a dozen great restaurants--
or just go to a favorite locals joint, the Wurst Grill, for a sausage and beer. Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County, is ranked as one of the top cities for foodies. Heck, even Graton (pop 1,800) has a couple very nice eateries.

community college will teach you how to grow grapes and make wine. It's hands-on, not theory. The college even has a vineyard. But you can get some wine education by visiting the wineries or even listening in on conversations in local restaurants and watering holes as you can often overhear someone talking about crop sizes or sugar levels. Sonoma State University has a Wine Business major.

Free thinkers (an artistic part of the culture). California isn't very old as there wasn't much interest in it until gold was discovered in 1849. There's not a lot of tradition to hold people back. If there were then we'd never have New World style wines or people talking up biodynamics and Muscato. Sparkling red wines? Check. Syrah/Zinfandel blends? Check. The area has lots of high-tech start up companies, too. More innovative thinkers.

The brewpubs all have wine lists of a dozen or so local wines available by the glass just in case someone in your group isn't a beer drinker. By the way Sonoma County is home to one of the highest rated pubs in the country and a beer that received a perfect 100 point score--that's Russian River Brewery. The Bear Republic and Lagunitas breweries are also rated among the best in the country.
Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma County
Airport (prop-driven airlines only) will let you check on a case of wine for free. I wonder if folks in San Diego and Seattle realize they're just a couple hours away from all this?

Outdoors. Since the weather usually cooperates you can spend lots of time outside. There are nearly 50 county parks and a dozen state parks. These include everything from the Pacific Ocean to ancient Redwoods to an old Russian fort to views of the Golden Gate.

Okay, so it is about the
wine. There are over 300 wineries making everything from sparkling wine to late harvest zinfandel. Many are available to sample before you buy. Some large and spectacular, some operate by appointment only out of a warehouse. So many choices.
Carol Shelton Winery. Ain't much to look at but the wines are dee-licious

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Best Hotels in Napa Valley?

Per the U.S. News & World Report Travel Section some of the best hotels in Napa Valley are in Sonoma! Maybe they could use some help with geography; maybe they figure their readers don't care.

Under Hotels > USA > California are several popular destinations such as Napa Valley, Disneyland, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, etc.

Under the Napa Valley listing at number six is the Gaige House, a 19th century home-turned-hotel nestled in the tiny village of Glen Ellen in, um, Sonoma Valley. Number nine is MacArthur Place, another 19th century estate turned luxury hotel and spa--in the town of Sonoma. Three more in the top 20 are in Sonoma County, also.

The Sonoma Mission Inn -- in Napa!?
 Image from

Per an article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat when the owner of the Gaige House called and tried to explain they weren't in Napa the person on the other said, "You're either in Napa or you're not on the list." So for now we're all in Napa!

The list

Dear travel writers, here's a reference map for you all. 
Image from

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's a big day in Santa Rosa

A few years ago the BeerAdvocate named Russian River Brewery's Pliny the Younger, a triple-IPA, the best beer in the world.

The bad news is this specialty beer is only available for two weeks at the brewery with a few kegs going to other places. They run out of Pliny the Younger some days.

Feb 1st is the release date. Here's what it looked like an hour-and-a-half before opening time on the first day.

The front of the line
These folks from Colorado arrived at 3 am