Wine Tasting in Sonoma County - Part 2

Grapes in the first fermentation stage.
We were on the search. Unbeknownst to me. We were on the search for the perfect burgundy-style pinot noir.

This is the second post in a trilogy about my recent trip to San Francisco and Sonoma County. If you missed it, the first post featured amazing sights and adventures. This post features wine tasting, and the third post will feature restaurants.

I am not a wine connoisseur. I love drinking wine, but I’m not too picky. I like a good bottle and can appreciate a great bottle, but I know very little about wine making and tasting the nuances of wine - at least I did before our trip.

My cousin’s husband, on the other hand, loves wine and had arranged for us to visit several very, very small wineries to taste some of their highly exclusive wine. I don’t expect to be able to find most of the wine we tasted in any store, but that won’t stop me from looking.


The view from Littorai winery.
This was our first wine tasting, and I was clueless. I had no idea what to expect from visiting these wineries. I had tasted wine when in France and one experience was in a store front and another was in a wine cellar - both very different from each other. This experience was different too. We had to punch in a code at the end of the driveway to open the gate. The winery was a building surrounded by vineyards. I learned that vineyards don’t necessarily have wineries and wineries don’t necessarily have vineyards. The two can exist together or separately. Littorai grows some of their own grapes and purchases some grapes from other vineyards for their wine.

Martin and I with my cousin and her husband tasting at Littorai.
Their wine was very good, but many 2011 bottles needed to be cellared for another 5 years before they would be great. Plus, this wine is expensive - about $70 per bottle. I did like that the wine was bio-dynamic; it’s always good to be conscious of the environment.

Walter Hansel 

Martin and I are prepping our wine glasses for an upcoming red wine tasting.
We tasted at Walter Hansel at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. This definitely set the mood for the rest of the day. This was also my favorite wine tasting. The owner and winemaker gave us the tasting. We tasted some chardonnay, and he pointed to the vineyard immediately behind us and said “This is where this wine comes from.” It was amazing. This didn’t happen at any of the other tastings.

All of their wine was great, and I’m especially looking forward to their 2012 North Slope Pinot Noir. We got to taste some before it had been bottled at it was already phenomenal.


Relaxing at Copain
This tasting room was also in the middle of nowhere and was beautiful. We spent a few hours after tasting just hanging out enjoying the view. I loved their shiraz! Copain also was the only place that had food with their wine tasting.


Trentadue's barrels of wine in the final fermentation stage.
We did go to a few other wineries that are more widely available. One of our friends is the head winemaker at Trentadue. Consequently, we drank plenty of Trentadue wine all weekend long. It is fabulous. I especially loved their Zinfandel and their Champagne.

We also got a back-stage pass at the winery. He took us on a tractor ride through the vineyard and showed us the grapes at various fermentation stages. The three-year-old in our group was obsessed with trucks and tractors and had a blast when he got to sit on a forklift. I witnessed pure bliss.

Miro, Trentadue's winemaker, stirring the grapes during fermentation.
I was also fortunate enough to taste a bottle of 2005 Zinfandel from the winemaker’s private label Miro that had me wanting to lick out the bottle when I was done. I had no idea wine could taste like that.


The view from Rochioli winery
We stopped by Rochioli tasting room and tried some of their wines, which I thought were good. I thought that the Walter Hansel wines were better, even though the Rochioli winemaker taught the Walter Hansel winemaker how to make wine.

La Crema
While visiting Healdsburg, we visited some wineries that are have an extremely wide distribution. La Crema is available in nearly every wine store in the US. I had tasted their Pinot Noir wine before and wanted to taste it again after tasting some really high quality wine. It was good, but not great.

After mentioning that we were from Minnesota at La Crema, we received a 50% off tasting coupon for Murphy-Goode, which is made by a former Minnesotan. Their wines were not good, and I would not buy them, even though they are readily available at every wine store.

Frances Ford Coppola

The view from Frances Ford Coppola Winery
This winery is more like a theme park. It has a pool, a bar, a restaurant, and a museum - all in addition to a tasting room. We went here because it is beautiful and because we were traveling with a couple of children who would love the pool.

We didn't taste any wine here, but we did have a fun time exploring the museum and enjoying the view. It is a fun winery to visit!

Martin and I trying to emulate the Godfather at the desk from the Godfather.
Going to all these tastings really did help develop my pallet. I love when wines have a really fruity scent, and I love when wines linger in my mouth. I also learned that I don’t like Pinot Noir as much as I thought I did, and I can appreciate a good Zinfandel much more that I thought I did.

Have you tasted any good wines in Sonoma or Napa Counties? 

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