Pierce Ranch Vineyards

I was recently made a trip down to Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey. Whilst in Monterey I was told I need to stop at Pierce since most of my friend know I enjoy good wine. I honestly was surprised I haven’t stumbled upon it on my other trips south and spending quite a bit of time in Monterey.

The place is very centrally located yet almost so covered in vines and tucked back that I wouldn’t have known it was there unless I knew what I was looking for. Like a little hidden gem away from the craziness of downtown. It was empty as I walked in but the women working was very welcoming. She was attentive and immediately ready to start pouring, which is my style.

Pierce Ranch Vineyards focuses on “Iberian varietals more often seen in Spain and Portugal, such as Temparanillo, Touriga and Albariño, as well as wines from rarely-seen-in-the-U.S. grapes such as Tinto Cão and Graciano. While the Iberians may be the main focus, Pierce’s deep bench of excellent wines also includes a few Rhone-style picks and tasty examples of New World wines such as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.”

They also have local musicians come , so definitely will try to get back a night where this is live music. Check out their Facebook to stay tuned: https://www.facebook.com/pierceranchvineyards/

https://www.seemonterey.com/blog/post/pierce-ranch-vineyards-the-wine-trail/

Tasting:

I was pleasantly surprised at the price of the tasting, only $5 for 5 wines and she was nice enough to pour the Rosé for us to try. Gals can’t get enough Rosé! Noticed on the menu wines range the mid-teens to the mid-twenties in price. FullSizeRender-2

We tried the following wines on the tasting menu: 

2016 Verdelho- White stone fruit  accompanied by notes of citrus and honeysuckle.

2013 Tino Cão- Notes of sour cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, and cranberry are accompanied by elements of earth, spice and florality.

2014 Zinfandel- Notes of berry compote, red cherry, and black plum combine with an herbal element and traces of spice.

2014 Touriga- Rich black currant and black cherry and plum are accompanied by traces of spice and florality.

2013 Petite Sarah- Aromas of blueberry, black currant and plum combined with a savory component and traces of spice.

To Sum It Up:

  1. Quaint space and inviting tasting room and staff
  2. MORE than affordable tastings (loved it)
  3. Unique Portugese grape varietials

Domaine Carneros

I have driven past Domaine Carneros while passing through Sonoma into Napa SO many times and always told myself I need to make a visit. The estate is absolutely stunning and I love sparkling wine so I am not sure what took so long but I finally made it!

We made reservations for a party of 2 and it is highly suggested, seems like the staff very much prefers it and this place can get very crowded. The wines offered are two varieties, sparkling wine and still Pinot Noir. My friend and I didn’t do a tasting we decided to just get a glass since we had already done 1 tasting that day and had 2 more after.

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“In water one sees one’s own face, but in wine one beholds the heart of another.” 

-French Proverb

Visiting & Tasting:

Tastings are available daily 10am-5:30pm.
Reservations are required
and can be booked up until 5pm on the day of your arrival.
Their tastings start at $30 and go up to $40
They have 4 options:
Sparkling Wine Sampler
Red Wine Sampler
Chateau Sampler
Grande Tasting
They have cheese plates and caviar as an add on if your trying to get real fancy.
I tried two wines:
2012 Estate Brut Cuvée- $35- Aromatic notes of fresh flowers, lychee, white peach and pear make this wine irresistible. The delicate nose belies the round, full palate and exceptionally creamy finish.
The Famous Gate Pinot Nior- $80- Aromas of anise, savory herbs, black tea, and hot brick. On the palate, we find sweet cherry and cocoa powder enriched by layers of pomegranate, grilled fig, and a wisp of cigar smoke.

“Champagne is a wonderful wine: one sometimes drinks too much, but never enough.”

Archbishop of Reims (1890)

To Sum It Up: 

  1. Prettiest Estate I have visited
  2. Highest quality sparking wines
  3. Expensive!

Barboursville Vineyards and Historic Ruins

I went to a wedding a few weeks back in Virginia and on the wedding day a few of us that weren’t apart of the wedding party was able to brake away before and head to a few wineries near the venue. I have been told about Virginia wine country and how amazing it is but really I was blissfully unaware of how many stunning wineries they have.

Our first stop was Barboursville Vineyards. This winery has some serious ties to history. In fact some presidential ties!

The wine producing estate was founded in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, an Italian winemaker from the Veneto. Part of an affiliated group of wineries owned by Zonin based in Vicenza, Barboursville Vineyards is its only American venture.

The winery is built on the grounds of Barboursville, the home of the 19th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, James Barbour, on an estate of 870 acres (350 ha) which is divided between Albemarle County and Orange County. The home was built from 1814 through 1822 and is based on an architectural design provided by Barbour’s political ally and friend, Thomas Jefferson, since 1969 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It draws approximately 80,000 visitors a year.

The estate is the first producer in the new era of Virginian wine history to plant Vitis vinifera since the failed attempts of Jefferson, initially through former vineyard manager Gabriele Rausse. Winery manager Luca Paschina first arrived as a consultant in 1990, now estimated among Virginia’s leading winemakers, has a stated goal to work to achieve quality consistently over several vintages.

Considered one of the leading wineries in Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards wine was selected to be served to the Queen Elizabeth II on her 2007 visit to Virginia.

Visiting:

The tasting room is open for walk-ins:

Monday – Saturday

10:00am – 5:00pm

Sunday
11:00am – 5:00pm

I did the standard tasting which was $7 for 21 tastings….THIS IS NOT A JOKE. 

There are quite a few tours and tasting options worth taking a gander before you go.

My favorites:

I am not going to go through all 21 wines but the highlights were the following:

CHARDONNAY RESERVE (2016) -$18.99- The wine is exploding with rich and complex flavors of pear, apple, and vanilla, a lavishly texured palate.

BRUT ROSÉ CUVÉE 1814– $24.99- 100% Pinot, dry (but not quite brut), nice flavor profile of lighter stonefruit and floral (along the lines of lavender / violets).

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015 -$24.99- Dark garnet core, brilliant clarity in the glass. Intense, effusively luscious flavors of ripe red berries with caramelised notes of fig, cherry, and plum, elegantly woven together in barrel. Long-finishing and tannically vivid, yet with a remarkably soft palate.

IMG_5967 (Free tasting glass with the tasting, having too much fun a broke mine, oops!)

To sum it up:

  1. High yielding winery with cheap tasting options
  2. Options to suite every palate
  3. Strong historical ties

Romeo Vineyards and Cellars

My husband and I headed up to the sleepy quaint wine town, Calistoga, only a day before the fires broke out. We stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast in town. As we were walking around town I was mesmerized by Romeo Cellars.

They have a rustic gate lead you to Jasmine and Rose adorned arches lead to the 1800’s Carriage House  – Romeo’s tasting room. They had wonderful staff members who were very kind and happy explain or let us try which ever we wanted since we were just buying a glass. The tables outside are shaded by century old Giant Redwoods and Cedars.

Tasting:

Choose from a selection of tastings from $20 for 5 x 1oz pours – the purchase of wine compliments the price of a tasting.

Check out their current wine selection

We just decided on two wines:

2012 Malbec-$45- Blueberry and raspberry notes rise out followed by cedar and vanilla

2014 Reserve Chardonnay- $38- I truly felt like I learned how to taste and smell the buttered popcorn that everyone talks about in Chardonnay. Given that I am a popcorn advocate it was weird enticing. However I can see why people don’t care for it. Although it was buttery it had a refreshing finish which was nice.

To Sum it Up:

  1. Most romantic gardens
  2. Quite expensive wines
  3. Grown and produced in Calistoga

Horton Vineyards

After our first tasting we headed to our last stop which was Horton Vineyards. Upon arriving there was this awesome sign (see pic below) that showed the distance to Horton from Napa and Rhone Valley.

Horton has deep Virginia roots and has both California and French influence in its wine.

“Wine lover and entrepreneur Dennis Horton began his winemaking venture with a small home vineyard in Madison County, Virginia in 1983.  It did not take him long to realize that, although the Virginia summers were warm enough to ripen almost any grape variety, the humid conditions favored growing grapes with thicker skins and loose clusters.  There began the search for varieties that would flourish in Virginia’s climate and had the capacity to produce some of the finest wines of the world.

Dennis’ search concentrated on the warm growing regions of southern France, and before planting any additional grapes, Dennis traveled to the Rhone valley in France.  There he was struck by wines he felt had beautiful texture, grace, and finesse.  In his research, one grape in particular seemed to keep coming up as perfect – Viognier.  It was a grape of wonderful potential – it had a thick skin and loose clusters, perfect for the Virginia climate.  And most importantly, it made some of the world’s finest wines – those of the Condrieu and in particular Chateau Grillet.

In California Dennis learned of only a few producers working with and producing Viognier in limited quantities.  However, new plantings were going in all over the state and enthusiasm was high.  So the decision was made to plant Viognier, along with lesser amounts of Marsanne, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and several other grape varieties like the native grape Norton, which enjoyed so much success in the 19th century in nearby Charlottesville.  In the late 1800’s, central Virginia was declared the “Capitol of the Eastern Wine Belt.”  Some of the Norton had survived prohibition in Dennis’ home state of Missouri, and he was intrigued by the idea of reviving this historic grape with its incredibly rich, fruity flavor, soft tannins and inky color.

In 1988, Dennis and longtime business partner Joan Bieda acquired 55 acres for the beginning of Horton Vineyards.  The task of establishing the vineyard was given to Dennis’ wife Sharon, a nurse by trade, whose meticulous nature was reflected in the manicuring of the East Coast’s most unique vineyard.  Utilizing the “open lyre” training system, which promotes ideal ripening, and drip irrigation for ideal soil moisture conditions, the vineyard was established with quality in mind.  In 1991 the first small crop was harvested, and made into wine at Montdomaine Cellars, a noted Cabernet producer.  With his wine aging in the cellars, it was a natural transition for Dennis to take over the management of Montdomaine Cellars, and produce Chardonnay and Cabernet under that label, in addition to his own line of Rhone Varieties.  The 1992 wines were very well received in national competitions and construction was begun on a new underground winery.  Stunning stone underground cellars, views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a wonderful vaulted ceiling tasting room are the highlights of this beautiful winery.  1993 saw the first crush at the new Horton Cellars and in 1994 additional acreage came into production with plantings of Bordeaux, Portuguese and Spanish varietals as well as additional varietals of the Rhone Valley.  The national success of these wines has demonstrated that if the right grapes are planted for the climate of Virginia the results can be stunning.  In the future, Horton Vineyards will continue to explore new varietals to discover the best that Virginia viticulture can produce.”

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Tasting:

The tasting bar was super small and crowded but it was a Saturday afternoon on what I believe was their Fall Fest. They only had two people to serve which was hard on the servers given there was loads of people. Also you can choose from any 10 in no order so I am sure each group was doing all different. My friends and I stuck to the same 10 to keep it easy and the wine flowing.

It was a $9 for 10 wines to taste. And you get to choose a tasting glass (stemless, stemmed, dog or cat). I am loving the Virginia prices compared to Napa and Sonoma!

My Favorites:

So I can’t put my finger on what I tasted in some of the Virginia reds but it was a almost cheesy or mushroom taste. I didn’t care for it as much as my Napa Cabernet’s but there were some that stood out to me.

2016 Viognier – $20.00- Exotic honey and tropical fruit aromas jump from the glass. Full bodied, viscous mouthfeel. 95% Viognier, 5% Roussanne

2015 Norton – $18.00- Has a dark, rich color and an intensely fruity aroma of plums and tart cherries. Ageing in oak for 14 months has given this wine a long, flavorful, spicy finish.  93% Norton, 7% Touriga Nacional

Rojo Xoco – Red Wine with Chocolate Essence – $16.00 (500ml bottle)-It’s like licking a Raspberry Tootsie Roll Pop!  88% Touriga Nacional, 8% Syrah, 4% Norton with a very small percentage of dark chocolate essence.

Sum it up:

  1. Super affordable tastings and you get to keep the glass (a very cute one at that)
  2. Interesting wine assortment. First time I got to try Norton (Virginia grape).
  3. Beautiful grounds to roam around and frolic through the vineyard.

 

 

Kunde Family Winery

I’ve been told for months from fellow wine lovers to go to Sonoma and visit Kunde. Last weekend I finally made my way over to Sonoma and stopped by for a walk-in tasting. Kunde is a beaut with its rolling hills with perfectly lined vines surrounding the spectacular estate.

I was unaware how big of a deal Kunde is. The winery was established in 1904 as Wildwood Vineyard and in 1989 was reestablished as Kunde. It is currently one of the largest family owned wineries in Sonoma with over 1,850 acres. Also fun fact: Bottle Shock, a movie explaining the story of how Napa/Sonoma were put on the map by the Paris blind tasting, was filmed at Kunde. Many familiar scenes right there on the premise.

I enjoyed the stories the staff member told us during our tasting and I appreciated the passion she has towards the wine. My husband and I each got a tasting and we each picked different wines so we could try each others.

Tasting:

There are quite a few tasting options. We walked in and found a place at the inside tasting bar but if you wish to do a different tasting I would suggest making reservations as it can get crowded.

“Tastings are $15 per person for our Main Bar Tasting, $30 per person for our Kinneybrook Room Tasting, complimentary for Wine Club members (up to 4 people) and $50 per person for our Mountain Top Tasting, $30 for Wine Club members up to 4 people.”

We strayed a bit from the $15 tasting menu with trying some of the reserve wines and I do suggest trying and comparing.

My Favorites:

2014 Meritage 202 – The blending of five Bordeauxvarieties forms a distinct nose of dried cranberries, nutmeg and walnuts. This pleasing bouquet is enhanced by opulent, full mouth flavors of black cherry, red currant and cinnamon.

2014 Dunfillan Cuvée – Named after the original winery built on the Kunde Estate in the late 1800’s, our Dunfillan Cuvee is a bold Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend.

Wine Club Exclusive Cinnamon, dark chocolate and blueberry aromas meld with flavors of cassis, mulled spice and lavender.

1904 Dessert Cuvee– my favorite part about this was it went so well with the dark chocolate and sea salt they give you to pair with it. It’s a match made in heaven

Sum it up:

  1. large spacious winery with 360 views of hillside vines and mountains in the distance
  1. Club membership
  2. Awesome passionate staff

Grgich Wine Estates

Last weekend my best friends visited from DC and South Carolina. Unaware the heat wave was going to be at its peak on Friday, we decided to head to Napa. We arrived in the valley around 10 am and it was already in the 80’s. We did a tasting at my usual V. Sattui and Mumm Napa. We were heading south on St. Helena Hwy and decided to make one last stop at Grgich Hill. It was too hot to roam around for longer than a few minutes so we heading straight into the tasting room to get down to business. The tasting staff was busy but we had a nice VERY enthusiatic guy wait on us.

He was very excited to tell us about the wine and was very a very animated fella. We decided to go with the Summer Flight because it was the most refreshing wine options.

I was really surprised by the history of Grgich Hills. I have heard about the “Paris Tasting” of 1976 but I was unaware the winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich crafted the Chardonnay that won! Mike Grgich is known by many in the wine world as a legend. He is currently 94 and still passionate as ever about wine.

While visiting I saw their Grape Stomp area and it was super tempting. Here is some details:

Grape Stomp-August 18 until Oct. 29

You’ll create a unique keepsake by putting your grape-stained feet on a white “I stomped at Grgich Hills” t-shirt. All guests 21+ will also enjoy a glass of Grgich Hills Estate wine in a monogrammed GoVino wine glass that you can take home as a souvenir.

In 2017, grape stomp is available August 18 to October 29 daily from 10 am to 4:00 pm.

  • Cost is $35 per person
  • $25 for wine club members
  • Minors/non wine consuming stompers: $25
  • Reservations required for groups of 8 or more. Cost is $40 per person.

Tasting:

 

Summer Flight– $25

2016 Rosé

2015 Napa Valley Essence, Sauvignon Blanc

2014 Fume Blanc, Napa Valley

2014 40th Anniversary Chardonnay

Paris Tasting “Commemorative” Chardonnay

My Favorite:

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2014 Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay

This wine is $94 because this wine is priced for Mike Grgich’s age. He is 94 today and going strong and each year he grows older the wine will increase one dollar in price. Get it while its cheapest.

This wine is a copy cat of the the winning  1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. This wine makes your mouth very happy with flavors of cooked apple, butter and a mineral character. Its a layered with flavors that coat your mouth in the perfect way.

Sum it up:

  1. Passionate staff
  2. GREAT chardonnay
  3. World renowned winemaker