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May 13, 2008 11:45 AM

Please critique my wine country itinerary...

We are staying at the Inn at Sonoma Friday night, and dining at The Girl & The Fig. sat am, we are driving from Sonoma to windsor, where we are staying the duration of the weekend. We plan on driving through kenwood and Glen Ellen to Santa Rosa and then to RRV. We would like to stop at 3-4 wineries and had planned on: (1) dutton Goldfield, (2) Iron Horse and then (3) Woodenhead before traveling to our hotel. Other options for this day are: Imagery, Eric Ross, Dutton estates, and Siduri. alredy done: J. Swan, Lynmar, Martinelli, etc. Melas we have done include: Santi, Farmhouse Inn. Unfortuantely, mirepoix and Odyssey are both closed Sun and Mon. We love pinots; also like cab and syrah and sparkling. Husband loves port. We like the family owned vineyards with small production/high quality wines we cannot find at home in Chicago. Sat night, we are doing a wine dinner in the vinyeard at Hartford. If snakc is req'd: Underground Bar and Bistro.

Sunday: Dry Creek Valley. we will grab picnic supplies at Windsor Market (I love their fresh smoked salmon) and then head to W. Dry Creek Rd, picking up other suppiles at DCV Gen Store, if necesary. Stops include: (1) A. Rafanelli, (2) Fritz, (3) Unti, and (4) Williamson for F/W pairing. Other options: Quivira, Lambert Bridge (to picnic), frick and Mauriston. We have alredy done: Bella, Michel-S., Preston, PPP, Ridge. Monday night, possibly dinner at Barndiva after Williamson d/t.

Monday: Alexander Valley/Calistoga. jimtown to grab sandiwches, travel Q/V Rd to 128 south thru A/V to Calistoga. vineyards: (1) Hanna, (2) August Briggs, (3) Frank Family, (4) Ladera (noon aptmt), and (5) Pride Mountain (1:30pm aptmt to picnic). May want to take a vineyard out of this equation--which one? dinner again in Hburg, Willi's.

tues: Westside Rd. Hburg/Bovolo to start, wak around hburg, vineyards--not too sure, possibly Selby and then the Front St stores--Davis/Sapphire Hill, then Westside Rd to Rochioli, Davis Bynum...down wohler Bridge Road to head toward OAK airport...maybe late lunch at the FARM.

Other than this being ambitious, any thoughts as to better vineyards on the paths we are taking, better restaurants, or other fun things to do we are missing?

thank you!

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  1. On Monday, maybe we should go to Meadowood for an early dinner outside on the terrace after the vineyards in St. H/Calistoga?

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. For Dry Creek, skip Frick. . .check out Caffaro. I like Quivira. . .

        I'm a big fan of August Briggs (can't beat a free tasting in Napa), but was underwhelmed with Frank Family (although, can't beat a free tasting in Napa). Also, if you plan on staying a bit longer in Napa, Prager makes port.

        Was at Hartford Family last weekend and really liked their Zins. Let us know how the dinner goes.

        I didn't care for Selby, but that was probably more because our group of 5 was completely ignored by the people behind the bar. Check out Chateau Felice, which is right next door.

        Also, make sure Davis Bynum is open- drove past it a few weeks ago and it was closed. For Westside Rd., Porter Creek is also good (although increasingly expensive).

        3 Replies
        1. re: VenerableBede

          thank you! what type of port does prager do? do you have other favorites in northern napa over frank family and august briggs? did not think I wanted to do schramsberg, but given the warm weather, maybe we will! I love brut rose and heard theirs was good...

          1. re: ljero

            anyone else? we leave today! so excited!!

            1. re: ljero

              Prager makes general port-style wine- no vintage or LBV or 20 years so to speak. I do like their port, and they also make a white port that I like very much.

              As for the northern part of the valley, I don't mean to dissuade you from Frank Family, but as SteveG notes, it might just be better to stay on the mountain than go down to the valley.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Did you like some of the wines at Joseph Swan? Lynmar? Those are two of my favorite Sonoma wineries, and Davis Bynum is possibly my least favorite, based on style of vinification and fruit growing.

              Frankly, if you liked some of the wineries you've already been to in years past, I'd repeat the visits to see how the current vintage is.

              I like Rochioli, but their better wines all seem to be allocated to the established customer list, and all you'll get to taste is the base cuvee, still certainly an enjoyable wine, but not what put them on the map. The up side is that you can be in and out fast since they only pour one wine, and you can sign up for the customer waiting list...which is probably so long that I'll get access to the good wines when I hit retirement.

              Edited to add: I'm not a Sonoma county food expert, but we enjoyed our breakfast/lunches at Bovolo, Wildwood (same people as Underwood across the street), and to a lesser extend Underwood for dinner. Farmhouse Inn was nice too.

              For the day that includes Pride Mountain, that's quite a weird loop, logistically. Pride is located on a 20 mile road that connects Santa Rosa to St. Helena. Another road (Calistoga Road) connects to that road from just north of Calistoga. Were I you, I'd drop the Alexander Valley portion of the day, grab food supplies at Dean & DeLucca in St. Helena, keep the Pride appointment, and then from Pride take St. Helena Rd. to Calistoga Rd. (Left) out to Santa Rosa, hop on 101, and head a few exits north, which comes out close to Joseph Swan, which in turn is close to your dinner plans in Healdsburg. I'd also focus more on the Spring Mountain District around Pride than deal with the valley floor zoo, but I grew up at a (different) winery on Spring Mountain so that might just be my partiality talking. All the wineries in the Spring Mountain District are small and family owned, with the exception of Spring Mountain Winery itself, which is somewhat larger and the (private) owner is hands off, though I've heard the wines are great. Spring Mountain Winery represents the combined estates of Falcon Crest, Streblow Winery, Chateau Chevalier, Draper, and probably a few others. All of the above were good in their time, but they've fallen off the radar in the last 10+ years since they're now a combined mega estate.

              3 Replies
              1. re: SteveG

                Steve, I love that you're a former local boy, and that we share a love of Spring Mountain district wineries and especially Pride. The wines from Spring Mountain Vineyards Estate are wonderful -- with that characteristic clean, direct mountain fruit with its backbone of acidity -- and the grounds of the estate with the Falcon Crest mansion (where the tastings are) are stunning.
                It doesn't feel or seem like a mega-estate, contrary to what you write. Instead it feels warm, real and comfortable but with some elegance.

                I don't understand ljero's loop south from Healdsburg to Glen Ellen and back up to Santa Rosa, but perhaps there is a reason. Differ with you on the Alexander Valley/Jimtown store lunch drive into Calistoga and Napa Valley -- because it is beautiful.

                Were I having a picnic, I'd head straight to Sunshine Market in St. Helena and never D&D. Better selection and cost.

                I'd also be tempted to visit another Spring Mountain District winery. Ljero may unaware of the amount of driving and number of mountains she will be driving in one day.

                Little notes: Prager Ports are not at all Port-like and may be extremely disappointing. Way down on the "no" list for me.

                Dutton-Goldfield's winemaker makes some great swill, and just to be clear, Dutton Estate is a different winery and, unfortunately, the wines aren't as good.

                Small, family-owned wineries: Agree on the visit to Unti, and I very much like Frick. Admire the owner/ winemaker and the wines are unusual, flavorful and very well-priced. Also love Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga, amazing single-vineyard Petite Sirahs.

                If you don't like Brett in your wines, you won't like Siduri's wines, though Adam and his wife are wonderful.

                And all this may have been written much too late...sigh.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Yeah, Spring Mountain Winery doesn't feel like a mega estate, but they do own something like 2 miles of Spring Mountain Road frontage, and probably have an elevation gain of 1700 feet on the property from bottom to top. Even at $25 it might be a worthwhile tasting, because I'd imagine they'd be pouring quite a few varietals, and within each varietal a few styles from different vineyards on different soils and distinct elevations.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Maria: thank you for the email! we loved the drive from hburg to a/v rd, down 128 to calistoga--maybe my favorite route to date! we love seeing the countryside, which explains my strange route. we drove out 128, with frist stop that day at Ladera, second at Pride, then drove down 29--picked up picnic goods at The Model Bakery, drove all the way down to Ceja at southern end of 29 (someone had recommended this to us and we were SORELY disappointed), then drove back up Silverado Trail to Sinskey--all the way back up and then crossed over--lots of driving, but it was great.

                    I have to tell you, if youhave been been to C. donatiello yet on West side rd, you must go. They moved into the old Belvedere spot recently. Their pinots had been recommended to me at Rochioli/G. Farrell and it was my favorite stop--they are not cheap, but were so elegant. My favorite was the Maddie's vineyard...I liked it better than the Freeman and McDougal dutton I had for the price. Moreover, I really enjoyed Rochioli's single v pinot they are pouring for $48.

                    Side notes: We missed Scopa, as it was closed Tue night, but really want to try it--it had a great buzz, and good menu. You have to let me know how it is if you make it there!

                    Thanks for everything to everyone!