Matty is the CWO, Chief Wine Officer, aboard Deep Playa and planned out an entire day and a half trip in wine country California. He had already planned to be in town on a Wednesday for work so he drove up to Sonoma where we met him and visited our first winery, Hanzell. The next day we had a full itinerary:
Hanzell is absolutely gorgeous and our host Zakk, who happened to be a Burner, was very funny and gracious in answering Dawn and my rudimentary questions. The tour of the property was amazing. We happened to visit while estate workers were 'netting' the vines to keep the birds from stealing the precious crop. It is always nice to witness the wine making process first-hand so we can learn. In particular, Zakk happily geeked out and educated us on soil composition, how the age of the vines changes the characteristics of the wine and how the vines are trimmed and shaped to protect and encourage the grapes to yield their best. Of the wines we tasted, I really liked the Chardonnay. It had a very big mouth feel for a white, something I like in my reds. I'm probably not explaining this correctly, but I believe this is due to the controlled secondary fermentation process used at Hanzell, which produces a very viscous and creamy mouth feel. This controlled fermentation was invented at Hanzell in the 1960s. If I got that right, Zakk gets the credit, if I got it wrong, blame me.
At Chateua Montelena, the vineyard famous for producing the Chardonnay that took first price at the 1976 Paris Tasting. Which put Californian wines on the map and raised its reputation around the world. We were lucky enough to meet with Jeff Adams, the director of marketing at Montelena. He gave a beautiful tour of the vineyard and private residence and we able to taste their Estate wines. Along the tour, we even bumped into and were introduced to Bo Barret!! He was quick with a funny quip about the movie featuring him and his wines (Bottle Shock). It was very nice of him to stop and take a second to say hello. The Chardonnay at Montelena was interesting because they do not intervene during the fermenation process as they do at Hanzell. They allow the natural fermentation to occur and let nature take care of the rest. It was very delicious, but so much different. I could feel my wine education beginning! The Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Henzell Chard would be great to taste side by side, but unfortunately, we downed the bottle we bought the night before. Our favorite red we tried was the 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a very big wine and had a nice smooth mellow finish on the pallete. This wine also has opportunity to mature even further as it ages. I hope Matty has some of these in his cellar!
We had some time before our appointment at Charles Krug, so we ran down the road to Inglenook. Inglenook is both famous for its history, its wines and its owner, Francis Ford Copolla. The property is straight out of the movies. It was stunning with lots of old world charm and sweeping views of the valley. We went here principally to look around the grounds, but we also drank a bottle of Edzionne Zinfadel, a wine we were familiar with. We enjoyed the film exihibits in the Chateau with a glass of wine... heaven!
The next in the massive lineup was Charles Krug. It is a special vineyard for me because Matty has been kind enough to share some of his older bottles when we went to dinner for my bachelor party. I was very excited to visit the tasting room. We did a very thorough tasting and in all honesty, I had to stop and dine on some water crackers and water several times because I was getting pallet fatigue and wasn't getting the same signals everyone else was getting. Throughout the day I learned that my pallet may not be ready for tanins and I definitely was learning that at Krug as well. Our host was even nice enough to warn me at one point about a wine she referred to as ole' Tannin-bomb. ;-) We did buy a bottle of the Zinfandel Port. We do like ports, and this was so unique we had to have on for our RoadTrip this summer.
Finally we visited Keever Vineyards, our host Ashley was the nicest person and I felt more like we were getting a tour of her family's passion and being invited into their home than a place of business. The tasting and tour at Keever were combined and we we able to linger more with each glass as we toured the production facility, the cave and the property. Much like Zakk and Jeff, Ashley indulged our questions and rolled with out jokes. At the end we all sat in the entrance lounge for a while as she and Dawn discussed different health topics and Matty and I plotted how many bottles of Keever's Inspirado we would buy! Many of the wines we tasted throughout the day were really glimpses into the wine making process and were meant to be stored for several years. Keever's Inspirado was ready to drink now, but could be cellered for some time as well. I wish we could have bought a case and watched it evolve over time. Since we'll be keeping ours in the barely temperature controlled Land Yacht we'll be enjoying our bottle much sooner than that!
Thank you so much to Matty, and the friends he hit up for favors, for making our first wine tasting in California so magical. We will definitely be back and we can't wait!