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Jan 1, 2008 12:31 PM

Any thoughts about Winter Wineland - January 19 & 20, 2008

Looking through events calendars for wineries a lot of them mention Winter Wineland.

Is this a madhouse or worth it?

For $40 you get access to 100 wineries, some of them not normally opened to the public. Some wineries will also have food pairings.

It sounds good in theory. Who has been in the past?

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  1. Hmmm … the more I look at this the better it sounds. Eliminating all the flowery wording and superlatives here’s a few of the more interesting food-wise wineries. A lot of places didn’t get specific only that the winery chef was whipping up something special.

    There’s lots of award-winning chilies, famous soups and dishes, cheeses, breads, sausages, etc. At one place you can toast marshmallows and hot dogs over an open fire. Lots of places will be televising any games that weekend.

    This might be worth fighting the possible hoards of people. Also it seems a nice chance to try some wineries that aren’t usually open to the public.

    Sounds like a better and more fun use of my January food dollars than what has become the dreary DAT. Hope to get some comments and tips from people who have attended in the past.

    Acorn Winery - limited-production, garagiste wines paired with 'Kettle Cooked Chicken Gumbo with Zin's Homemade Andouille Sausage

    Amista Vineyards - Zinfandel…and truffles from “In the Doghouse Chocolates”.

    Armida Winery - "Tailgate Party".AFC & NFC play-offs with tailgate fare and deep fried Willie Bird turkeys

    Balletto & Dutton-Goldfield - reds and whites paired with barbeque and artisan cheeses

    Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves - Zinfandels and Syrah paired with paella

    Camellia Cellars - zinfandel paired with Turkey Mole.

    D & L Carinalli - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines paired with local artisan cheese

    DeLoach Vineyards - Zinfandel Braised Chicken with Olives, Capers,Shallots & Celery, prepared by chef Cyndicy Coudray!

    Dry Creek Vineyard red wines with BBQ pork sandwiches.

    Dutcher Crossing Winery - picnic area 2005 Reserve Cabernet paired with beef bourguignon.

    Everett Ridge Winery - winter stew paired library Syrahs.

    Family Wineries D.C.V. Tasting - Six boutique wineries, Collier Falls, DasheCellars, Forth Vineyards, Lago di Merlo Vineyards, Mietz Cellars andPhilip Staley Vineyards Seafood Cioppino.

    Huntington Wine Cellars - 2006 Pinot Noir with Cassoulet with Duck Confit. Jazz pianist Eric Muhler

    Hop Kiln Winery - 2006 Zinfandel paired with slow cooked, Love Rubbed Beef. Marketplace offers over 80 foods for sampling.

    Korbel Champagne Cellars – champagne and food pairings Saturday morning early mimosas from 10:30am-11:00am.

    Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate – wines from 100% Estate grown & organically farmed fruit paired with Latin American food & music.

    Passalacqua Winery - 2006 Russian River Valley Zinfandel paired wit Ribollita soup. This winery was voted best winery of 2007 by viewers of the show Wine Country

    Preston Vineyards - pizza, olives, wine. Preston makes some good bread and is one of my favorite wineries of those I’ve visited.

    Quivira Vineyards & Winery - Jazz Creole Jambalaya with 2005 Vineyard Designate Zinfandels.

    Russian River Vineyards - barrel tasting with their Greek cheese (Saganaki).

    Selby Winery - barbeque, live music, 2006 Zinfandels

    Simi Winery - If the post season is on TV, Simi will have the games. Meatball sliders

    Stryker Sonoma - cabernets, paired with Costeaux Bakery’s potato leek soup.

    Sunce Winery - Barrel Taste 05 Cabernet Sauvignons & 06 Nebbiolo Polenta Soaked in Beef Ragout 2007 Riesling & Viognier. \

    Taft Street Winery - White chili, red wines and blues. Sonoma County’s St. Jorge
    Cheese with Pinots and Zinfandel with the chili. On Monday find out how
    almond/chocolate bark pairs with Chardonnay and Cabernet.

    Trentadue Winery - 2005 Sangiovese paired with Gnocchi Gratine

    Woodenhead - 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir paired with Tortilla Espanola con Chorizo from Aioli Gourmet Delicatessen.

    1. This may be a silly question, but is the food included in the event fee? And do you need to make a reservation at the ones you wish or is it more open house style? Thanks for the info by the way, it sounds great. I am thinking about the crowds as well as I think it is MLK weekend.

      3 Replies
      1. re: laurenb

        According to what I read it is. I'm guessing it may not be huge portions sort of the food proportion of a taste of wine.

        Looking at the website it seems you pick a winery to check in and they give you a wristband and a glass (or a mug if you are a designated driver). From there I think you can wander where you want to. I hope someone who has attended will confrim.

        No children or dogs allowed.

        1. re: rworange

          RW - yep that's the procedure. We've done Winter Wineland twice (last time was 2 years ago). Generally, if you stick w/ the smaller wineries and the ones that don't allow buses you should be ok. Armida was our check-in winery, but it's gotten more and more popular, so we checked in at Hanna (Alexander Valley) last time. The Alexander Valley side is less crowded (though it also has fewer wineries - in addition to Hanna we like Robert Young.) Saturday has also seemed to be busier than Sunday - so when you go will also impact the experience.

          You can really only reasonably do 3-4 wineries in a day. We did 6 in one day the first year we went, and by then pretty much lost our taste buds and and felt vaguely hung
          over by the time dinner rolled around.

          We did Barrel Tasting in March last year and it was definitely crowded, but not to the point where it was unpleasant. I think it helped that they actually do that event over two weekends. A lot of the same wineries participate and many have food - you might consider going then as well.

          Hope that helps!

          1. re: kivarita

            Key thing is to bring a spit cup. I know it's not ideal, but you can taste more wines if you want and not get drunk. I ended up doing 10 wineries for barrel tasting weekend since many of the Healdsburg wineries are so close together.

      2. I could swear it was only $25 either last year or the year before... maybe with a $40 fee, the crowds will be smaller (they were pretty bad the year I went) and the food of higher quality (lots of stuff drying out in chafing dishes the year I went). There was a weird sense of near-desperation, like when you're at an event with an open bar that's only open for a few hours, and everyone's trying to get their money's worth. I didn't like it.

        I'd only go if you're interested in the wineries not normally opened to the public. I'm going to guess that the quality of the food isn't going to justify the ticket price.

        1 Reply
        1. re: daveena

          Thanks for the input. And it sounds like they are tagging the des. driver so you can't even get a sip in. The only reason I mention this and question the food is because I would end up being the driver.

        2. Maybe I am a detractor for these things, but having done too many of them "as a professional," I am definitely burned on these multiple tastings as being too crowded often with too little food or food that is specifically prepared to be re-heated so as to be old.

          1. Having been on the winery/tasting room end of it, both up in Healdsburg and out in the Sonoma Valley, I can tell you that events like this are a necessary logistical and creative nightmare for the wineries.

            Just as an example, when we were involved in the Heart of Sonoma Valley Open House a few weeks ago, we had lots of traffic (often all at the same time...), but not a lot of sales. While you do these events hoping that people will come back at another time and purchase, you know that most never will. It's exposure at a high price.

            Plus there's the food aspect. How do I outdo my fellow wineries without losing my shirt on it? At open house, we saved money by having some local food companies (ie cheesemakers) do demos, but it certainly didn't sell much of the food in our marketplace.

            And then, you'll always get people clustering right in the middle of things, chatting away, when you want them to move on and make way for others. And the ones who are just doing it to get snockered at a bargain price...

            Just some input from the other side of it. However, despite all this, do check out Winter Wineland. Since it's an off-season event, the crowds are usually not as bad, and it sounds like the food will be good.

            1 Reply
            1. re: cmvan

              Thanks. Actually that is my concern with wine tasting in general. I'm one of those people who tastes and like to think in over and come back. But I always feel it is polite to buy a bottle and not just swill and run. It is rare that a place blows me away so much that I really want to buy a bottle so I find myself stuck with a bunch of ok bottles of wine. I was starting to think this was going to cost me dearly in terms of being a good winery guest