Good Laughs and Port Good Laughs and Port

As wine enthusiasts, I’m sure by now you have seen the movie Bottle Shock and the event that put California wines and the Napa Valley on the map. Since that time, Napa has evolved into a major wine destination, with busy tasting rooms and weekend traffic heading north through Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Personally, I love the area, the food and the wines. However, on your next trip to Northern California, don’t forget Sonoma County.

Every year (at least once a year) I take a business trip to the Bay Area to market Vintage Cellars to wine shops, storage facilities, interior designers and architects. It’s a whirlwind tour to market custom cellars, wine storage cabinets and cooling units in 2 days. Why do I work so hard on Thursday and Friday? So I can spend Saturday and Sunday in wine country. This year was a little different as I invited some friends from around the country join me. I was going to play wine tour guide on a weekend adventure in wine country.

I live life by a couple of simple rules and one is to never miss a chance to eat at the Rutherford Grill, just north of Napa. I had to stop by a couple of wineries on the way there, to set the mood for my friends and because the Rutherford Grill does not charge a corkage fee (an almost unheard of practice these days).  I'm a self proclaimed BBQ aficionado, and these ribs live up to my standards.  Wait, I went off course to hit this place but Sonoma County is just over the mountains to the west.

Sonoma County just feels like home when you get there. Sure, it has a fair share of big corporate wineries and stuffy shirts charging a $25 tasting fee for 1 oz of the estate grown Cab, but we hit the back roads to find some real small market gems. Sonoma offers a wide variety of regions perfect for a wide variety of grapes. The Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley are just a few must drive through places. Even on a Saturday, in tasting rooms no larger then your kitchen, my friends and I found a warm and inviting environment. We tasted amazing wines in all different varieties: Pinot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot, Blends, Sav Blanc and Cab.

What I like about this atmosphere is many times the wine maker is available (if not the one pouring the tasting) for questions, comments and thoughts about the wine. Many of these wine makers are bold enough to do different styles like a 50/50 Cab/Zin mix or a straight Cab Franc. I like out of the ordinary and people willing to try something a little different even though it may not be popular in the market place. I met Alex Davis, wine maker at Porter Creek, a certified organic winery. I also met Virginia (owner) at Yoakim Bridge, a dry farmed vineyard. There is nothing better then a personal touch to a wine tasting. Oh, and ask any of them “what is the best place to grab dinner tonight?”…you won't be disappointed.

My friends can’t wait to return as there are miles and miles of uncharted territory we have yet to discover…