Lodi Wine Tasting : Way More Than Zinfandel

Bokisch Vineyards, a favorite Lodi Wine Tasting destination

Bokisch Vineyards

Do you realize what a wonderful place Lodi is for wine tasting?  We’re not just talking about Zinfandel: Lodi also produces many impressive white wines. In fact, Lodi grows more than 100 varietals. On some recent Lodi wine tasting trips we discovered outstanding Albariño, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grenache Blanc, Moscato, Picpoul Blanc, Roussanne, Symphony, Verdejo, Verdelho, and Vermentino.  We expect to return many times to Acquiesce Winery and Bokisch Vineyards, and we found a delightful white wine blend from Markus Wine Company featuring the Kerner grape.

Michael David Winery

Michael David Winery

On the red wine side, our Lodi wine tasting efforts revealed tasty Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Cinsault, Grenache, Graciano, Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, and Touriga wines.  Our favorite California wineries now include Borra Vineyards, Fields Family Wines, Michael David Winery and Oak Farm Vineyards. We enjoyed delicious port wines at St. Amant Winery and our favorite Zinfandel was at McCay Cellars.  We also tasted wines crafted from the Souzáo grape for the first time at St. Jorge Winery and discovered we liked that varietal.

In addition to great wines, Lodi also has plenty of food destinations for a variety of moods. If you’re looking for fast and easy, the first frosty mug of A&W Root Beer was served here in Lodi in 1919 and the restaurant on Lodi Avenue is still serving up Papa Burgers, Fries and Root Beer Floats.  If a relaxing Brunch on an outdoor patio is more your speed, the Towne House Restaurant features premium wines, specialty cocktails, and dishes such as Banana Stuffed French Toast, Loco Moco or a Smoked Salmon Scramble.   You can also find delicious Scones, Salads and Sandwiches in the area.

A@W Root BeerKeep reading and we’ll tell you about some of our favorite places you may want to explore on your own.  For additional information, seek out the Visit Lodi! Visitor Center to read about the Lodi Wine Appellation and its 7 sub-appellations, view a historic postcard collection, and take a step back in time with the A&W Root Beer Mug collection.  Visitor Guides and other helpful information can be found at the Visitor Center for free.   open 10 am to 5 pm Tues – Fri, 10 am to 4:30 pm Sat, 25 North School Street, Lodi, 800-798-1810.

If you haven’t been wine tasting in Lodi lately, we strongly suggest you change that.
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Brasswood Estate: More Than Just A Winery

Brasswood Estate Tasting Room

Brasswood Estate

Have you been to Brasswood Estate in the Napa Valley lately?  If not, you should add this “lifestyle property” to your future plans. Want to go wine tasting and tour some wine caves?  You can do that here. In the mood to do some shopping? There’s an onsite Bottleshop + Mercantile store selling luxury goods, wine and liquor.  Need a place for dinner? The Brasswood Bar + Kitchen is here to help. Has your day just started, and you’re already desperate for a Bloody Mary or a Breakfast Burrito at 8 am?  Well, they can cover that too at the Brasswood Bar + Bakery. The concept here is to celebrate the local bounty by making elegant wines and delicious foods, and creating a warm and welcoming space where guests can relax and enjoy the finer things in life.

Some of you may recall the long-closed Napa Valley outlets on Highway 29 between downtown St. Helena and Calistoga. That’s where you’ll now find the 52-acre Brasswood Estate campus housing multiple tasting rooms, a custom crush state-of-the-art winery, and separate onsite restaurant and café establishments (each with a bar) which are collectively open from 8 am to 9 pm. This all happens at 3111 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena. There are also several spacious locations for rent if you’re planning a future event for personal or professional reasons.

Winemaker's Den at Brasswood Estate

Winemaker’s Den

The Tasting Room here is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and walk-in visitors are welcome to enjoy the Signature Tasting (although reservations are recommended). There are additional tasting experiences to select from if you make a reservation in advance. The Den Tasting offers a seated tasting in the charmingly rustic Winemaker’s Den where wines are paired with artisan cheeses. Or, a Cave Tour and Tasting includes a backstage tour of the winery and its 17,000 square foot caves as well as the Bottleshop + Mercantile as you explore the winery’s wines.
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Santa Lucia Highlands: Some Lovely Highlights

Santa Lucia Highlands

Santa Lucia Highlands

We’d like to tell you about one of our favorite appellations, Santa Lucia Highlands.  If the name “Santa Lucia Highlands” doesn’t automatically ring a bell, chances are the vineyards will. This AVA includes Doctor’s Vineyard, Garys’ Vineyard, Lone Oak Vineyard, Mer Soleil Vineyard, Paraiso Vineyard, Peterson Vineyard, Pisoni Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard, Sierra Mar Vineyard, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Smith & Hook Vineyard, Soberanes Vineyard and Tondré Grapefield Vineyard.  So, you may already be familiar with excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines made from grapes grown here.

J. McFarland Wines

J. McFarland Wines Blanc de Blanc

The Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area (AVA) is located in Monterey County on the eastern side of the coastal Santa Lucia Range of mountains.  About 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, it is slightly under 18 miles long and has approximately 6,000 acres of grapevines.  There are 50 vineyard properties currently, primarily planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, at elevations ranging from 300 to 1,400 feet. The next most common varietals in the region are Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Viognier.

This is a cool growing region due to its proximity to Monterey Bay and the earliest Vinifera plantings were at Mission Soledad in the 1790s by Spanish missionaries.  The first commercial plantings for the area were completed in the 1970s by local pioneers such as Nicky Hahn (Smith & Hook), Rick Smith (Paraiso), the McFarlands (Sleepy Hollow) and Phil Johnson (La Estancia).  Since then, local winegrowers continue to test new clones, trellising systems and farming regimens in the pursuit of excellent wines.  Conscientious viticultural standards, whether organic, biodynamic, or sustainable, have long been the norm here.
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Travel Advice: Stags Leap District

Regusci Winery

Regusci Winery

Appellation Name: Stags Leap District

Where: Napa County in California

Officially Established:  January 27, 1989

Location: In southeastern Napa Valley, centered along the Silverado Trail. The appellation is roughly bounded by Yountville Cross Road on the north side, Oak Knoll Avenue on the south side, and is only about one mile wide. For an exact, 8-step description of the official boundaries, please go here. To see a map of the area, please go here.

Stags Leap Wine Cellars SLD Cabernet Sauvignon

Stags Leap Wine Cellars 2014 SLD Cabernet Sauvignon

Background: The Stags Leap District has been growing grapes since the mid-1800’s, although the first Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines weren’t planted until 1961, by Nathan Fay. In 1976, the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon took first place at the famous “Judgment of Paris,” surpassing Bordeaux wines. This brought much attention to Napa Valley and the Stags Leap area. The unofficial but very popular reason for the name of the region arises from the legend of a stag who successfully eluded hunters by leaping to freedom across the District’s landmark peaks.

Wines/Varietals known for: The Stags Leap District is most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and over 80% of the grapevines here are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red Bordeaux varietals, and Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay also do well here.
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Taste of Howell Mountain: Wines, Auctions and More

2017 Taste of Howell Mountain PostcardCelebrate the end of Spring at the delightful Taste of Howell Mountain, a Wine Tasting and Auction event in upper Napa Valley on Saturday, June 17th. This is one party you should definitely RSVP for because the festivities include premium wines from the Howell Mountain appellation along with gourmet food pairings, live entertainment, and both Silent and Live Auctions. We’re talking about wineries such as Aloft Wine, Arkenstone, Davis Estates, Dunn Vineyards, Lamborn Family Vineyards, Robert Craig Winery and Round Two Wines all pouring tastes in one location, at Charles Krug Winery (2800 Main Street, St. Helena).

Between noon and 3 pm at the 2017 Taste of Howell Mountain you’ll enjoy a Walk-Around Wine Tasting, Food Pairings, Prizes, a Silent Auction and Live Music from The Hummingbirdz. Then, from 3 pm to 5 pm you can sit and enjoy even more Howell Mountain wine and Dark Chocolate Brownies as you watch (and hopefully participate in) an active and festive Live Auction.

Robert Craig Winery

Vintner Bob Craig and Winemaker Stephen Tebb from Robert Craig Winery

Howell Mountain is well known for its incredible Cabernet Sauvignon and you’ll find many wines crafted from that varietal. But, there’s more to Howell Mountain than just Cabernet and in prior years we’ve particularly enjoyed the Arkenstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Notre Vin Rosé, O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery Merlot, Bravante Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Howell Mountain Vineyards Petit Verdot, Robert Craig Winery Zinfandel, and Retro Cellars Petite Sirah as well.

Tickets for this year’s event are $150 per person or $1750 for a table for ten. Proceeds from the event will help benefit the Howell Mountain Education Foundation. Last year, the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association (HMVGA) and Taste of Howell Mountain donated over $70,000 to the Foundation. But, please move quickly because this event will definitely sell out so just click here.
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Lake County Wine Adventure: Pirates, Pigs & Premium Wines

Lake County, home of the 2017 Lake County Wine AdventureThere are a lot of things happening the weekend of May 20-21 but if you’re not committed yet, we suggest attending the 2017 Lake County Wine Adventure.  On both Saturday and Sunday, between 11 am and 5 pm, you can enjoy award-winning wine, delicious food, music and more.  There are 27 wineries participating this year and the weather should be gorgeous (high 70’s).  If you get a little warm, the good news is you’re right next to Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California.

Lake County Wine Adventure tickets are only $55 for two days of fun (or $40 for Sunday-only) if you purchase them online by May 19. When you do, you’ll have your choice of places located all around the county to check in at (Clearlake Oaks, Kelseyville, Middletown and Upper Lake).  Those locations also provide early bird check-in on Friday if you prefer, including up until 8 pm that night (Lake County Wine Studio) or midnight (Twin Pine Casino & Hotel).  If you’re not already familiar with the area, then this map may help you get your bearings.

2017 Lake County Wine Adventure logoLake County wineries strongly believe in responsible celebrations so they also offer $15 Designated Driver Tickets for the Wine Adventure (DDs are invited to enjoy non-alcoholic drinks, food and entertainment at the wineries). You will actually be able to purchase tickets during the event weekend if you need to, but ticket prices will be $10 more at the door on Saturday (for the two-day pass), or $5 more on Sunday (for the one-day pass) so maybe you should just go here now.

Sangiovese from Rosa d'Oro Vineyards

Sangiovese from Rosa d’Oro Vineyards

You can find a wide spectrum of delicious wines during the Lake County Wine Adventure. The wines made here are crafted from the more commonly found varietals in California (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel) as well as less frequently found ones (Aglianico, Barbera, Charbono, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo).  We also strongly suggest you seek out local proprietary blends such as Rosa d’Oro’s “Trigrammaton” (Carménère, Tinta Roriz, Cabernet Franc) and Shannon Ridge’s “Cimarron” (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre).

Keep reading and we’ll tell you what kind of adventures you can expect during the weekend and some of the participating wineries’ most recent accolades.  Lake County wines have performed well at recent competitions, receiving Gold Medal ratings (based on the judges’ collective rating), Double Gold ratings (where each of the judges’ personal ratings equaled a gold medal), and even higher recognitions such as Best of Class, Best of Lake County and Best of California.
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Travel Advice: The Carneros Region

View of Carneros

View of Carneros from Truchard Vineyards

Appellation Name: Carneros, or Los Carneros

Where: Napa and Sonoma Counties in California

Officially Established:  September 19, 1983

Location: In southern Sonoma and Napa counties, along Highway 121, from slightly west of Arnold Drive in Sonoma to slightly east of Highway 29 in Napa. For an exact, 27-step description of the official boundaries, please go here. To see a map of the area, please go here.

"Love Me" by Richard Hudson

“Love Me” by Richard Hudson at Donum Estate

Background: The Carneros region was the first California American Viticultural Area (AVA) to span two counties, and the first California wine region to be defined by the characteristics of its climate rather than political boundaries. Vineyards were first planted in the 1830‘s, with the first winery established in the early 1870’s. Carneros achieved official AVA status in 1983 and a technical amendment from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTTB) in 2006 made it clear that both “Carneros” and “Los Carneros” may be used as the name for the area.  “Carneros” is Spanish for “Sheep.”

Wines/Varietals known for: Due to its cool climate, Carneros is best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines made from those grapes. Other varietals that do well here include Albariño, Roussanne, Pinot Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Recommended Wineries and Wines in Carneros

Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir from Schug

Pinot Noir from Schug

Two Guys From Napa recommend Artesa, Bouchaine Vineyards, Ceja Vineyards, Cuvaison, Domaine Carneros, Donum Estate, Etude Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Liana Estates, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards and Winery, Saintsbury, Schug Carneros Estate, and Truchard Vineyards

For details on the wineries, contact information, and our favorite wines, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through either Favorites in Napa County or Favorites in Sonoma County to the Carneros Region link.   Or, you can just click here.


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