A grape day

30 09 2011

It’s Fondo Eve, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few butterflies tickling the insides of my belly.

Good thing we’re in wine country.

And if our first full day in Sonoma, Katie and I dived right in.

Our quaint loft cottage in rural Forestville is right at the edge of the renowned Dry Creek Valley where there are more than 60 wineries and 150 grape growers. Vineyards crowd the valley flats and crawl up the hillsides, occasionally punctuated by the odd palm tree. As it’s harvest season, most of them are busy with pickers and tractors hauling the bins of grapes to the adjoining wineries for pressing.

The Dry Creek Valley is wine country in Sonoma.

At the center of it all is the little town of Healdsburg where upscale boutiques and posh tasting rooms are cashing in on wine tourism. Maybe a little too much, it seems; the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper had a front page story Thursday that the Healdsburg locals are getting a little concerned about all the rampant alcohol consumption going on in town with more than 30 tasting rooms in the town’s half-dozen blocks.

Of course, it’s lost on them that it’s pretty tough to get drunk on the sip or five you might get at a tasting room, and with most of them charging $5-10 to sample five varieties or vintages, it would be a heck of a lot cheaper and way more efficient to plunk down once for a bottle of good plonk and get drunk in the town square.

When it comes to wine, Katie and I have no real idea what we’re doing. We usually buy a bottle based on label or name and hope for the best. We’ve developed a preference for lighter, smoother wines, although a good Malbec or Chianti has its place as well. So when it came to selecting wineries to sample on our tour of the Dry Creek Valley, we just steered the rental SUV wherever our mood took us.

When in wine country, visit the vines.

By the end of our day we had visited a half dozen or so wineries, and returned home with one absolute favorite, a silk smooth 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Zichichi Family Vineyard. We also enjoyed everything we sampled at the Roadhouse Winery tasting room in Healdsburg and we had a good time chatting with the proprietors and checking out the artifacts at the Raymond Burr Winery.

Enjoying a sample at Zichichi winery, on the deck overlooking the family's vineyards.

All the winemakers we spoke with were passionate about their product and proud to be serving it. They endured with patient smiles our dumb questions and occasionally clumsy attempts to put words to the flavors in our mouths. Along the way, we did manage to learn a few things; we actually like Cabernet Sauvignon and a nice Zinfandel would go well with pizza margarhita.

 

Friday is our Santa Rosa day, registering for the ride and hopefully acquiring some worthy swag, sorting the logistics for Saturday and visiting the Charlie Brown museum.

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