If you love and miss all things Italian, then you’ll definitely feel like you’re in Tuscany at Viansa. Styled like a Mediterranean villa, Viansa is one of the closest Sonoma wineries to San Francisco. Located 40 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, Viansa sits on a hilltop providing views of the Sonoma Valley, olive groves and wetlands. In fact, there’s 97 acres of beautiful natural habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, and native plants. For a truly unique experience, Viansa’s custom outlooks provide a treehouse-like perspective over the vineyards.
The name “Viansa” is a combination of Sam + Vicki Sebastiani, husband and wife team who started Viansa in 1990. Sam and Vicki Sebastiani are the third generation heirs to one of California's most noted and historic wine families, Sebastiani Vineyards. The winery was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani, who had immigrated from Tuscany and settled in the Sonoma Valley. Viansa has been sold and resold over the years, but is now controlled and managed by Sam’s sons, Jon and Christopher Sebastiani. Now that you’ve got a bit of history, let’s talk about the wines!
My personal favorite is the Pinot Grigio, White Blend and Barbera. The aromas and flavors of dried cherries and vanilla comes through immediately with the Barbera. All the wines are meant to be drank young and some don’t need to be aerated. Easy drank alone or with cheese pairing. The wines are sold only through their memberships so you’ll have to visit them or buy online. The prices are reasonable ranging from $22-$54 (retail). Make sure to check out their marketplace too. You’ll find gourmet food items, unique gift baskets, wine accessories and even home décor! Great wine, great food and great people!
There are 400+ wineries in Sonoma and this IS one of my favorites. If you are an oenophile and art enthusiast, bookmark this post and follow me as we take a trip (virtually) to Donum Estate in the next several days. Located in the Carneros region, Donum Estate sits on 200 acres of vine against an impressive art collection that sits beautifully inside and outside of the estate. This year marks Donum’s 20th anniversary since it was founded in 2001 by Anne Moller-Racke who was formerly the Vice President of Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California. In 2011, the Moller-Racke family sold the estate to Allan and Mei Warburg who started a new chapter for Donum. Their vision was to intertwine art, nature and humanity within the landscape. In 2014, they began commissioning and acquiring sculptures from artists across 18 nations. The estate now has 40+ works scattered across the property.
Let's talk about their wines! These highly rated wines are beautifully crafted and really showcase the ripeness of Pinot Noir. They’re so good, I left with a case of the following below. There’s <5,500 cases produced annually and sold directly through the winery so you’ll have to visit or buy online. Cheers!
1) 2017 Pinot Noir: a classic, balanced ruby wine from the Carneros estate with the aromas of black cherries, raspberries and plum. It’s spicy yet lightly sweet with agave undertones. You can drink it young or let it aged in cellar.
2) 2018 Chardonnay: a light gold color, this Chardonnay opens up with bright aromas of lime and apple flavors. It’s complex yet soft on the palate with hints of butterscotch and ending with a zippy finish.
3) 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé: a complex, crisp, structured sip! Aromas are expressive with fresh peach and apricot on the palate. Produced from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir grapes and aged in 100% French oak, there are only 400 cases produced annually.
Life is a balancing act even when it comes to winemaking. Today, I’m featuring Anaba Wines, the first northern California winery to utilize wind power to generate electricity for their office operations, irrigation pumps, wine storage and tasting room. In 2013, the winery installed two more wind turbines and solar panels to support the creation of a new winemaking facility on the property.
Let’s talk about the wines! Anaba sits on a 16-acre estate on the western part of the Los Carneros appellation where cool Pacific breezes and sloping vineyards help slow down the ripening process. This allows grapes to develop robust flavors and distinctive varietal characteristics. If you prefer Rhône-style blends, this place is it. The Anaba team was gracious to host me this month to sample a tasting of their wines. Below are my tasting notes.
1) 2017 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast: lovely notes of tropical fruit, vanilla, citrus with hints of lemon meringue. On the plate, this medium-bodied wine carries a zippy finish.
2) 2019 Turbine White, Sonoma Valley: this is White Rhône blend of 30% Viognier, 28% Grenache Blanc, 26% Marsanne, 16% Picpoul Blanc. On the nose, you can smell jasmine and honeydew and pairs well with grilled chicken or fish.
3) 2018 Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap: this wine is intense on the nose with aromas of blueberry, dark cherry and ash, gentle on the palate and smooth on the finish.
4) 2018 Petit Sirah, Dry Creek Valley: this is a deep red wine with bold flavors of plum and spices, but integrates well with the cherry flavors for a silky finish.
5) 2018 Turbine Red, Sonoma Valley: this Red Rhône-style blend is named for the iconic image of the wind turbine on the label and comprised of 44% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 24% Mourvèdre, and 4% Petite Sirah. It tastes earthy, spicy and fruity making it a complex wine to pair with grilled NY steak.
December 5, 2020 marks 87 years since Congress passed the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition. Why should we celebrate? The thirteen years of Prohibition (1919-1933) were a dark time for America. The criminalization of alcohol actually led to more organized crimes. Bootlegging and sneaking liquor around the country became a big business in 1920s. Ironically, the “dry” decade was also the Roaring 20s when clandestine nightclubs (speakeasies) became widely popular. Then again, there’s nothing more tempting than the forbidden fruit...
Through it all, some wineries managed to survive during Prohibition, including Buena Vista, California’s first premium winery founded in 1857 by the first Sheriff of San Diego, Agoston Haraszthy. Despite his abrupt death in 1869 in an alligator-infested river in the jungles of Nicaragua and through a series of owners, his beloved Buena Vista Winery has endured. Behind me isn’t just a stone-walled tasting room from the mid-1800s. It’s also a California Historic Landmark. The original property has since been renovated under new ownership of Jean-Charles Boisset of the renowned winemaking family from Burgundy, France.
Now let’s talk about the wines! We tasted the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Blend. My personal favorite is “The Sheriff.” This 2018 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, Petite Verdot, Mourvedre and Merlot. If you like sweet and peppery notes with bold black cherry aromas and long silky finish, this is a great wine to pair with steak. The wines are affordable with price ranging $35-$60 retail. Cheers!
I love dogs, I love history and I love wine. Visiting Larson Family Winery checks off all three. Located in the heart of the Carneros growing region of Sonoma, Larson Family Winery isn’t just family-friendly (hence the name), they’re dog-friendly! In fact, one of their adorable Labs followed me to the small petting zoo. From the labs running around to the photogenic tractors, this is the least-pretentious winery in the region and a fun one—they even have corn hole set up!
A little bit of history. The land on which Larson Family Winery now sits was once the Embarcadero. Passengers and freight traveling from San Francisco Bay transferred here to wagons for a ride to the Sonoma Plaza (Larson is a ten-minute drive to Downtown Sonoma). The tasting room to my left was actually a farmhouse built during the Civil War. Tom Larson’s great grandparents bought the original 120-acre ranch and farmhouse in 1899. The winery wasn’t just a farm, but also a rodeo! In fact, Tom’s uncle, Buster Millerick was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for his major racing wins as a trainer. Fun factoid! The rodeo used to be a training ground for Seabiscuit (the world's most famous racing horse). By 1977, the family started making home wine. Realizing they produced more wine than they could drink, they sold them. And so, the rest is history. The winery was founded that same year and the first vintage released to the public in 1989.
Let’s talk about their wines! You’ll definitely need to try their 3 Lab Chardonnay (that’s what they’re known for). I like their Pinot Noir most. You can also order a cheese and meat board to enjoy with the wine while sitting outdoor for the scenic views. The winery only sells exclusively through their club memberships and tasting room. For future reference, this is a great place to host family get-together or company event. And if you’re planning a visit in the future it's best to visit during the week as they get super busy on the weekends. Cheers!
What does wine and architecture have in common? Both involve creativity. Similar to winemaking, erecting a building involves careful design to produce a masterpiece. And you’ll find a great example of architectural beauty at Ram’s Gate Winery. The building was designed by famous architect Howard Backen who took a modern spin to a Carneros farmhouse. Known as the gateway to Sonoma and the Carneros wine region, once you’re here at Ram's Gate Winery expect to get a full sensory experience with stunning views of the architecture, gardens and vineyards.
Founded in 2011 and built on a hilltop across from Infineon Raceway, Ram’s Gate is surrounded by 28 acres of sustainably-farmed vines planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache and Syrah. Along the back wall, glass doors and windows open up to a patio that overlooks the rear vineyards and wetlands. Speaking of glass, out of the four wines I tried, the 2017 Pinot Noir stood out the best. A lovely, balanced Pinot from the Russian River Valley with cinnamon and peppery notes ending with a smooth long finish. While the Pinot Noir was good, there are better valued Pinot in Sonoma so I recommend coming here to enjoy the property and grounds more so than their wine. Cheers!
Rolling landscape, classic stonework, arched windows and a central piazza makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a quaint village in Italy even if you’re actually in California. More specifically, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is the perfect place to feel like you’re wine tasting at a Medieval estate right in the heart of Sonoma wine country!
If the last name sounds familiar, the Jacuzzi family is credited for inventing the famous whirlpool bath and spa that bears their name. Founded in 2007 by Fred and Nancy Cline, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards specializes in Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Lagrein and Barbera. If you’re a member of Cline, their sister winery, you can enjoy free tastings at Jacuzzi and 20% off at their gift shop. And there’s lots of choices when it comes to wine! An additional feature includes complimentary olive tastings. Enjoy!
There are close to 11,000+ wineries in the U.S. producing wines. And did you know Kendall-Jackson and its sister wineries ranks 13th?
The company produces nearly 2 million cases of wine annually and exports to 40+ countries worldwide. That’s a lot of wine! Chances are, you’ve seen their Vintner's Reserve line at grocery stores, Target, Costco and drugstores. Today, Kendall-Jackson is still family-owned and operated focused on building upon the legacy of its late founder, Jess Jackson, who built the brand starting from his first vintage in 1982.
Known for their slightly sweet Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, this wine popularized nearly 60% of Americans’ palate for sweet and fruity Chardonnays. The Vintner's Reserve line expanded to include Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Riesling. Soon a new collection of wines, the Grand Reserve line, was introduced. The Grand Reserve line was made from the finest grapes from the finest vineyards— noticed emphasis on “finest.”
The Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens you see behind me went through a complete renovation to provide an immersive, educational experience focused on wine, food, and wine country living. Unfortunately, tours were closed when I came, but I look forward to visiting the winery again when it fully opens and take a wine cooking class on-site.
While Sonoma County has no shortage of grape growing areas, Dry Creek Valley (located just outside of Healdsburg) is one to visit if you’re a Zinfandel fan. Despite its name, Dry Creek Valley is not dry at all! You'll get a stunning view of the lake and if you keep driving, you might end up at the ocean. Here, you’ll find two roads, five stop signs and 10,000 acres of endless beauty. It may be only be 16 miles long, but there are over 70 wineries you can visit.
Now let’s talk about Kokomo Winery! Nestled in the hills of Dry Creek Valley, Kokomo is named after Erik Miller’s (owner) hometown in Indiana. After graduating from Purdue University with a stint in finance, Erik found his calling with wine. Kokomo Winery currently produces 5,000+ cases of mostly Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petite Sirah. The wines are produced exclusively from Randy Peters’ vineyard sites within Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Coast and Alexander Valley appellations. With their partnership, Miller can be selective in choosing the best possible grapes for his wines.
I got the Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon— both delicious and price affordably at $28 and $48, respectively. The 2019 Zinfandel received 92 points from Wine Spectator and well-deserved because it has a great balance of flavors (blackberry, plum, vanilla) and boldness. You’ll get a sweet profile upfront, but hints of smoky vanilla oak comes out mid palate. I have yet to taste the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon since it’s recommended to age for 10+ years. So I guess you’ll need to stay tune for my review MUCH later into the future. Cheers!
Earlier this week, I highlighted a young winery in Dry Creek Valley. Today is all about Ferrari-Carano, an iconic Sonoma winery less than a 10-minute drive from Kokomo Winery. Founded in 1981 as a small wine farm by Donald Louis Carano and his wife, Rhonda, the couple grew the brand to be a mainstay in the Sonoma scene. Today, the Carano brand spans 3,500 acres across five appellations and produces up to 26 wines, many of them vineyard-designated. Here visitors can stroll lush gardens and enjoy spectacular vineyard views (1,500 acres are certified sustainable vineyards).
Over the years, their wines have earned numerous scores of 90+ points from Wine Spectator including their world-renowned Fumé Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc). While known for their White wines, Ferrari-Carano also produce estate Reds including Pinot Noir. Scroll, which comes from three ranches in Anderson Valley. Medium-bodied with silky tannins, you can taste the juicy jammy flavors of plum, raspberry and cherry bursting on the palate. Balanced tannins and acidity, this well-structured wine carries a with a lingering toasty finish. Fun factoid: Pinot Noir is Rhonda’s wine of choice and in 2006.
Sonoma has reopened for in-person outdoors tastings so definitely schedule a visit and enjoy the picturesque vineyard views Ferrari-Carano when you’re there. Cheers!
Here’s another winery to visit when in Dry Creek Valley! Named for the nearby trestle bridge which spans Dry Creek, once you walk into the tasting room at Lambert Bridge you naturally feel relaxed. The décor features rustic wood finishes, vaulted ceilings and a beautiful stone fireplace complemented by tranquil grounds.
Established in 1975, Lambert Bridge is known as a producer of artisanal world-class, Bordeaux-styled wines. As a new world winery with an old world approach, their wines offer a nice balance of flavors, acidity and tannin structure. This 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, is an age-worthy wine to keep in your cellar, but could be enjoyed young. Make sure to decant an hour before sipping. To get your hands on this wine, you’ll need to purchase from their winery directly. Yet another reason to visit Healdsburg.
Are there second chances at true love? How to find a good man and keep him?
After a night of drinking and the dreaded walk of shame Katie needs a road trip and an intervention with her girlfriends. Four attractive, successful women yet they can’t find and keep good men. The high school boyfriend that wasn’t going anywhere opens up like a well-aged wine after it is decanted. Magic in the Napa air may lead to a second chance at true love. A humorous and heartwarming story about friendships, frenemies and understanding men. Sex in the City meets Crazy Rich Asians in this page turner.
When Sex and the City Meets Crazy Rich Asians in the heart of Wine Country.