Hidden Wine Country: RYME Cellars Turns Eclectic Grapes into Some of the Most Exciting California Wine You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Photos by Steve Mort

When you imagine California wine country, you probably don’t picture the Sonoma County town of Forestville.

It’s less than half an hour west of bustling Santa Rosa and the same distance south of upscale Healdsburg, but Forestville feels a world apart. Its downtown main street is only about three blocks long, hosting a handful of casual restaurants, a strip mall with a coffee shop and a laundromat, a county park with a friendly cat, a hardware store, a pharmacy, and a gas station.

Forestville Cat
Forestville cat welcoming me to town

There are also a few tasting rooms on Forestville’s main drag, but RYME Cellars is not one of them.

In this installment of Hidden Wine Country, I venture off the main street to a simple tasting room at the terminus of a dead-end road. I step inside what used to be RYME’s production facility (scroll down for a photo) and discover surprising wines made by a husband and wife team who aren’t afraid to go beyond the usual grape suspects.

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Hidden Wine Country: Napa’ School House Vineyard Keeps Things Quietly Classic

All photos by Steve Mort

Napa and Sonoma, the two counties at the heart of California wine country, are famous for lavish tasting rooms, Michelin star restaurants, and deluxe accommodations. Drive even a few hundred yards along Napa’s main thoroughfare, Highway 29, and you’re likely to pass five or six big name wineries ready to put on an impressive, pricey, and often thoroughly enjoyable show for you.

But hidden behind them, there’s another world — a place that’s more about passion than money, more about soil than manipulation, more about history than trends, and more about experimentation than safe bets. You have to look a little harder for this hidden Wine Country, drive a little farther to get there, and pay a little more attention when you arrive. But it’s well worth the effort.

Part 1 of this series takes us to School House Vineyard, a Napa stalwart making elegant wines that remain largely unknown, even to many of the Valley’s most ardent fans.

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Willamette’s Cristom Vineyards Picks Orlando’s Wine Bar George for Exclusive 25th Anniversary Tasting

I’ll admit I’ve always felt a twinge of sticker shock at the prices for the events and tastings at Wine Bar George. I know, I know, it’s at Disney Springs, and it’s helmed by a Master Sommelier. But still, it’s tough to part with $70-100+ for a tasting (plus a hefty Lyft fare), when standard tastings at most local wine establishments cost half that amount.

Earlier this month, however, Master Somm George Miliotes and his team invited me to attend an event as their guest, and I can tell you, this was no standard tasting.

Cristom Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The festivities include a road show featuring an exclusive tasting with owner and winegrower Tom Gerrie comparing multiple vintages of the winery’s single vineyard pinot noirs.

When I say “multiple,” I mean we sampled nine pinot noirs from four single vineyards and six vintages.

When I say “exclusive,” I mean Cristom is presenting this tasting in only six cities around the country, including New York and San Francisco. Orlando was the only city in Florida to make the list.

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Walla Walla Wanderings: Beyond Downtown

Note: It is customary for wineries to waive tasting fees and host complimentary events for wine writers. Some wineries mentioned in this post extended that courtesy.

Last week, we toured tasting rooms in charming downtown Walla Walla, Washington. Turns out, there’s much more to this hub of Washington State winemaking than just the downtown core.

I was in the area last month to attend the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference, and while I didn’t have much time to explore beyond downtown, I did venture out to a few special spots.

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Walla Walla Wanderings: Downtown

Note: It is common practice for wineries to waive tasting fees for wine writers. Some of the tasting rooms reviewed in this post extended that courtesy.

Washington’s wine regions sprawl widely across this diverse and beautiful state, but when it comes to wineries and tasting rooms, there are a few main centers of gravity.

Walla Walla is one of the biggest.

I just returned from my first trip to this small-town-turned-major-wine-destination. I was there to attend the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference, but I spent some time checking out a few of the area’s 120 wineries too.

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Orlando Wine Blog tasting to feature wines of Missouri, a piece of America’s wine history

I’ve made little secret of the fact that I’m fascinated by wines that are outside the mainstream. Don’t get me wrong – I dearly love great Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and even a few California cabs. But give me a grape I’ve never heard of from an unlikely location, and my eyes light up.

When the Missouri Wine & Grape Board invited me a on a press trip exploring the state’s vineyards and wineries last month, I jumped at the chance. I’ve written about Missouri wines in the past, and readers were intrigued.

This time, I was inspired not only to write about the wines, but also to bring some bottles back to Orlando and give my readers an opportunity to try them. I’m partnering with Digress Wine in College Park to host a tasting two weeks from today, on November 8 at 6:30pm, where we’ll sample and learn about these unique wines that rarely make it out of their home state. They’re not distributed in Florida, so this may be your only chance to experience them. Seating is extremely limited, so reserve your spot today!!

Want to know more about the wines we’ll be tasting? Read on!

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England’s Camel Valley Vineyards Pulling Back from US Market

On a stone terrace in the county of Cornwall, overlooking rolling hills blanketed with vines and fields, Camel Valley Vineyards founder Bob Lindo beams with pride as he shows off award after award to visitors sipping on the tasty fruits of his labor.

This winery is one of England’s most decorated, at the forefront of the country’s surging wine business. Producers here are winning plenty of awards, particularly for their bubbly, which has come out ahead of Champagne on enough occasions to make a Frenchman blush.

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Founder Bob Lindo welcomes guests on the terrace at Camel Valley Vineyards in Cornwall.

In 2016, the UK wine industry made a collective commitment to a tenfold increase in exports over five years, and American wine lovers are starting to reap the benefits. Just under two years ago, Camel Valley wines were part of the first full shipping container of English wine ever sent to a foreign shore; they were bound for the US.

Here in Orlando, though, you still have to look hard to find British bubbly. Wine Bar George serves a brut from producer Digby Fine English; Tim’s Wine Market Orlando has Ridgeview in stock.

But Camel Valley is not available in Florida, and sadly, that’s not likely to change. Bob Lindo says he’s pulling back from the US market.

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