Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Travel Report: California Vineyards

This is the time of the year to venture to the US West Coast, rent a car and experience the winelands. On this trip we went to world famous Napa but focused more on the lesser known district of Dry Creek. Dry Creek is around the corner from the charming town of Healdsburg. We checked in to Hotel Healdsburg right in the center of town.

Our room at Hotel Healdsburg. The hotel is charming and casual in a bohemian luxurious way. It feels like the perfect match when visiting the wine country. It is also a plus to stay in the middle of town. In the afternoons one can explore more than 20 tasting rooms by foot not having to worry about who's driving...

On this trip our mission was to find the best Zinfandel. Zinfandel is a grape which produces a fruitful red wine, and in the Dry Creek region the grape is plentiful. Our first stop was at the not so known vineyard Mazzocco. It appeared they were a Zinfandel specialist with many options on the tasting menu. And the Zins were just as we like them, fruit forward!

Down the road from Mazzocco lies Mauritson. The two housedogs served as the main attraction and at least for us they were more interesting than the wine :-)

Who can resist the cute blonde labs at Mauritson?

Mother and daughter on duty at Mauritson.

Next stop is Preston Vineyards.

Preston is a pioneer in organic farming and their tasting room and its surroundings are an experience. In the lush gardens olives, herloin tomatoes, Sharon fruits and more are grown and farmed. Several cats walk the grounds and play with guests. The wines were not our favorite but the vineyard itself is a unique experience and a stop you must make.

Just on the outskirts of Healdsburg we found this old bridge. The green foilage embracing the rusty iron created a beautiful sight.

After a long day trying more than 100 different wines we went for a relaxing dinner. A bottle from Owl Ridge was our companion for the meal.

Today we have scheduled a private visit to Robert Biale Vineyard to meet with the winemaker himself and see the production methods. We are on our way to Napa driving through charming towns. Our favorite stop along the route was the Dean & Delucca shop by the highway just outside of St Helena.

Welcome to Biale. We are taken straight to the massive tanks where the crushing of the grapes take place.

Viewing the industrial area of the vineyard. The wines at Biale were lovely, but the Zin did not quite live up to Mazzocco.

On our way back to Healdsburg we stopped at our favorite Vineyard Cline Cellars
located in the Carneros district. This producer is an expert in Zins and exports a lot to Sweden for example. Our favorite was the Big Break Zinfandel 2008 & The Live Oak Zinfandel 2008. Both are complex but also straight forward with a mouthful of red berries such as lively black cherries.

Another recommendation is the Small Berry Mourvedre. Ok it is not a Zin but its charachter is so bluntly unique that we couldn't resist its appeal. The wine tastes clearly of fresh eucalyptus and fruity jammy flavors and quite strong tannins. It tastes like no other wine we have ever tried. It is amazing how the grapes adopt the eucalyptus flavor from the nearby trees.

Our days in the winelands of California have been magical, enriching and relaxing. And the winner in our Zin competition is Mazzocco. What a find!

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