Whether it's booking the flight, or planning my itinerary, I like to be spontaneous about my travel plans. Sure, I'll do some basic research before the trip, but planning out every minute detail is akin to watching all the trailers for the latest Michael Bay flick before heading to the theater, or reading CliffsNotes for Great Expectations before reading the novel.
Today I set out to visit one winery which was recommended to me by some people on Facebook, Siduri Wines Novy Family Winery. Driving up to the "winery" was like a scene out of Office Space; it's located in the middle of a corporate park. With only a small sign posted on the door of a beige warehouse, I gave up once and left. Still, the numerous recommendations I'd gotten about this place had me curious enough to give them a call.
As it turns out, the tastings are by appointment only, but they had room to squeeze me in right away. Walking into the sweltering office, I felt a bit like I was visiting my accountant. Did I go in the wrong door? The lady at the front desk (Catherine as I later found out) seemed to sense my unease and flashed a quick smile while she grabbed a wine glass. She led the way through a door into a giant warehouse space full of tanks, bins, and fermenters that was at least 10 degrees cooler and smelled of freshly fermenting grapes. Bingo!
The tasting took me through a flight of Pinot Noirs ranging in appellation from Chehalem to Santa Lucia and just when I started picking which Pinots I wanted (all of them), we moved onto another flight of Syrahs! Now I should first mention that I've never had a Syrah that I've liked. I tend to put Syrah's in the same bucket as Cabernet Sauvignons as too dry and too strong. These were full-bodied, loaded with dark fruit flavor, and yet were perfectly drinkable without a blue-rare steak in front of me.
After a tour through the winemaking area, Catherine offered a barrel tasting of a few 2010 Syrahs that won't be bottled until January. We went back into the barrel storage area with a wine thief and spray bottle of ethyl alcohol in hand. While young, I found these more agreeable than most bottled Syrahs from other wineries--something to look forward to next year!
Back in the tasting room, I was offered a dessert wine to finish things off, but it was only 11:30am and I was already feeling a bit tipsy, so I politely decline. Instead, I got a whole handful of free tasting cards at other wineries in the area along with her personal recommendations on a map of the Sonoma Valley.
As I was headed out from the winery, I spotted Rancho Mendoza supermarket. I can't pick get things like guajillo chiles and masa harina where I live so I loaded up my basket and headed to the checkout stand. There, I got a recommendation to try out Taqueria Mendoza down the street for lunch from a lady in line who was probably wondering why an Asian dude was buying so many Mexican chiles.
Four tasty meat filled tacos later, I was on my way to check out some of the places Catherine had recommended. My next stop was Lynmar Estate, which I was told had amazing Pinot Noirs. I opted for the $20 Reserve tasting. The wine was good for sure, but for the price, I would have rather gone back to Siduri and bought a few more bottles. They did however have a gorgeous outdoor space complete with a vegetable garden that made sipping each pour a joy.
Last up was Iron Horse. I've had some of their Pinot Noirs before and was looking forward to checking out their outdoor tasting room which I've been told has amazing views. The $15 reserve bought me a flight of wines unlike any I've tasted before. One tasted like pear juice, another like cherry cough drops, and a 1997 sparkling tasted like canned meat. Quirky would probably be the best place to describe this place, but the view certainly didn't disappoint.
Dinner was at SCOPA in Healdsburg, another recommendation off Facebook. I'd heard the place would be packed, and I couldn't get through by phone to make a reservation so I showed up around 9pm to find there were still people waiting outside. Luckily they had a bar seat open. I went for a pizza margherita, local boar bolognese, and a buttermilk panna cotta for dessert. Every dish from the brittle pizza to the soft tangy panna cotta was perfectly executed. Simple, fresh food at its best.