This January, I squeezed in my third trip to California in the last five years. I find a week's escape to Golden State is an ideal mid-winter tonic.
This year, I feared that the entire endeavour might be washed away by the early January flooding in Napa and Sonoma counties. Thankfully, I was able to rejig my itinerary to minimize the chances of getting wet. The first few days were spent down in the Carmel area - only then did I swing back north of San Francisco.
I did get some tasting in the Carmel Valley. The most noteworthy stop was Bernadus. This is a fairly small operation whose premier bottling is the Marinus Bordeaux-style blend. I managed to pick up 2 bottle of the 2000 Marinus at 50% off the $40 list price. This is undoubtedly the greatest wine bargain I've managed to avail myself of.
Once we (travelling with my girldfriend on this trip) got back up North, we stopped by some wineries I'd visited on earlier trips.
I was looking to taste some of the RRV Pinot Noir bottling. I'd really loved the 2001 version. On this visit, the Pinot did not appeal - but the Zinfandel's had zing. I ended up puchasing a bottle of the 2002 Clopton Vineyard Zinfandel - an explosively flavouful wine.
I made a point of getting over to Summer's Winery just north of Calistoga. I remembered tasting their Charbono back in Jan 2001. Lo and behold, this wine has been hilighted in a New York Times article. Thankfully, the wine has not sold out! I acquire one bottle of the 2004 Estate Charbono
I'd never visited this winery before - and would not have had I had 100% voting right over the itinerary. Nevertheless, it was worth the stop. Alderbrook seems to be making a name for itself in Pinot Noir. I picked up a bottle of the 2003 - a complex, well-balanced wine that shows Pinot character despite the robust 14.2% ABV.
We also visited Sterling. This is most impressive winery from a physical perspective - too bad the wines didn't measure up.
We didn't have the chance to get to Guilliams on Spring Mountain - nor to Raymond Burr in Sonoma. Nevertheless, the vacation and wines were most enjoyable. Despite the 'winter' and the heavy rains, our California hosts - at lodgings, restaurants and wineries - seemed in a uniformly cheery mood.