While departing for our weekend got off to a rocky start (not going to focus on that) and ended with a somewhat rocky departure (also not going to focus on that), what was in between was a fun, fun time.
This weekend was the annual Barrel Tasting weekend in the Russian River Valley area of Sonoma. We started our day at the Village Inn in Monte Rio, which was right up my alley. It used to be called the Holiday Inn after the Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire movie, and part of the film was supposedly shot there, so there were pictures and autographs and scores from White Christmas in the bar area (anyone who knows me well knows I got a big kick outta this). Plus, our room looked directly out over the river, which was swollen from the tremendous amount of rain from this week and season. Watching the river could have kept me captivated for hours.
But onto the real reason we were there — around 11 am we headed out to the wineries. The first stop was Hop Kiln, which is now a new favorite of mine, though not merely because of the wine. First, the setting is amazing: beautiful countryside, with snow-capped mountains in the background, and the winery’s tasting room is indeed in a historical hop kiln. My second reason for loving this place: the staff. They were extremely friendly, chatty, *happy* people who were very helpful but not pushy. Then there was the food – condiments, actually. I picked up a tasty pear butter and jalapeno mustard here. And finally, the wine! The stuff in the barrels was good (I’m sure it will be superb in a couple of years when it ages) but I found 2 very tasty wines they are selling now: 2005 Thousand Flowers and NV Rushin’ River Red.
So from Hop Kiln we left with 3 bottles of wine in a case box (we were anticipating buying much, much more today), a subscription to a wine club, some tasty condiments, some hats (Got Wine?) and our two tasting glasses, which I felt odd sitting in the cup-holders in my car (is that really legal? they still had wine in them… just drops that we didn’t get a chance to rinse out, but still…).
Our next stop was Lambert Bridge, which had a very snooty air to it. I’m not sure if it was the “Reserved: Club Members only” signs that were posted here and there, the throngs of people that came together, or the $5.00 tasting fee on the current wines, but something was off here. They did, however, have some very cute trucks parked outside.
On the road again and our next stop was Unti Vineyards which was jam-packed with people. There were some nice watercolors on the wall by Linda Unti (who I can only assume is one of the proprieters) and I decided I really loved the Barbera here.
Then we were onto Nalle where we not only picked up some wonderful wine (needed to get started on packing that case again) but I got a fun sweatshirt as well that put a big smile on my face (4 out of 5 fruit flies surveyed prefer Nalle Zin — the 5th fruit fly is passed out).
Back on the road and our last stop (for wine) was an area with multiple wineries in one place (thank you Mark @ Village Inn for the recommendation). By this time in the day there were quite a few Barrel-Weekend-goers that were completely blitz-krieged, walking in the middle of the road carrying their wine glasses. We almost finished filling our case here with wines from Peterson Winery, Amphora (great petite sirah), and Papapietro-Perry.
We finished off the day in Healdsburg, and my only regret is that we didn’t go to Toad Hollow’s tasting room as we figured we would do it the next day. Sunday morning we were all revved up to hit Toad Hollow and Limerick Lane (saving our two favorites for last), despite the fact that it was pouring the rain. Unfortunately, we had a bit of car trouble, and once we got it started we decided it best to high-tail it home while the car was still running. Oh well, our case was full, so I guess that was devine intervention saying, “You have enough wine — go home to your dog!”