Where to Go in Sonoma: The Blockbusters

Note: The wineries in this post followed the common industry practice of waiving tasting fees for bloggers and other media. 

Is a trip to wine country on your list of resolutions for 2018? If so, Sonoma County should be on your agenda.

Sonoma is sometimes an afterthought – nothing more than a quick stopover between San Francisco and Napa. But this diverse county is a worthy wine destination unto itself, offering everything from stunning tasting rooms with breathtaking views to flip-flop-casual samplings in out-of-the-way vineyards. Most importantly, though, Sonoma offers plenty of good wine.

In this post, we’ll explore three blockbuster wineries that hosted me for tastings on a visit to Sonoma last fall. Next time, I’ll unveil a few of the region’s hidden gems.

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Successful test run for Jordan Winery’s new caviar & wine tasting

Jordan Vineyard & Winery occupies a rambling French-style “chateau” in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Since its founding in 1972, the operation has been almost as much about food and hospitality as it has been about its French-inspired wines. Each tasting experience at Jordan involves wine and food pairings, and the estate even has its own executive chef.

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Finger Lakes Wine: Much More Than Riesling

Orlando has been buzzing about New York’s Finger Lakes wine country lately.

Central Florida Women for Winesense sent a hefty delegation there in July for the national organization’s “Grand Event”; fellow Central Florida blogger Melissa Radley-McConnell of Time to Unwine-d visited the area this summer too.

So when I ended up there last week, I felt a little late to the party. But it was definitely better late than never – especially since I was there during harvest!

Frank harvest
Sorting newly-harvested grapes at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Whirlwind Tour

I had just one day to hit the highlights of this beautiful and prolific wine region, so I chose four wineries to visit: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Ravines, Hermann J. Wiemer, and Standing Stone.

My itinerary spanned two lakes, with stunning vistas and early fall colors around every turn, and a wide array of grape varietals and winemaking styles.

The Finger Lakes have won national and international acclaim for rieslings, and the varietal remains the regional specialty. But the area has diversified into many other varietals too; and while I’m a huge riesling fan – I even hosted a riesling tasting at my house recently – I was even more captivated by some of those other grapes.

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Colorado Wine – A Different Kind of Rocky Mountain High

Floridians travel to Colorado a lot. Only California and Texas send more tourists to this land of snow and yogis. If you find yourself heading to the Centennial State for some skiing or hiking or yoga (or, ummm, partaking of recreational substances) it’s worth checking out the local wine too.

In a state known – beverage-wise – for beer, and more recently for spirits, winemaking in Colorado has long played third fiddle. And it still does. But on a recent visit, I was pleased to find that the quality of Colorado’s wine is nothing to sneeze at. If you know where to look, you can find some lovely, cool-climate Old World-style wines, some of them even age-worthy.

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Meticulous to Metaphysical: St. Urbans-Hof’s Nik Weis

“I don’t make riesling,” winemaker Nik Weis said with a sly smile. “I make Mosel.”

Thus began a fascinating two-hour vertical tasting of six vintages of Nik’s St. Urbans-Hof Laurentiuslay riesling spatlese in Miami last month.

The small private event took place in a beautiful condo on Biscayne Bay, but it was organized by one of the newest members of Orlando’s wine community, Jean K. Reilly, Master of Wine. (More about Jean in a later post!)

st-urbans-hof-tasting-jan-2017
Winemaker Nik Weis of St. Urbans-Hof leads a private vertical tasting of his wines in Miami, Jan. 2017

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A Florida Oenophile in California Wine Country: Stony Hill, Domaine Carneros

About this series: After years of loving (and semi-seriously studying) wine, I finally took my first trip to Napa and Sonoma this summer. It was a wonderful week of sunny days, cool nights, beautiful views, and beautiful wines. These are the impressions, discoveries, favorites, and surprises from my journey.

Part 1: Montelena, CADE, Pride
Part 2: Frog’s Leap, Heitz, Mumm
Part 3: Y. Rousseau, Antica, Failla

Farewell Napa, Sonoma Bound

On Wednesday and Thursday, we said goodbye to Napa with one historic and refreshingly white (wine) Napa experience, followed by an iconic (and bubbly) one.

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Terlan pinot grigio: Proof that an open mind is key to enjoying wine

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I want to take a moment to rejoice with four (that I know of so far) friends from my blind tasting group here in Orlando who passed the Certified Sommelier exam in Tampa today! I’m so proud of them and of Orlando’s growing wine scene!

One of the things I love about wine is how often it surprises me – now that I’ve learned to let it.

A few weeks ago at my Tuesday night blind tasting at Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando, we tried a lovely white wine, with apple and white flowers on the nose. The palate was expressive with peach, pear, and mineral notes, a round mouthfeel, and good, balanced acidity.

I liked this wine a lot.

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