2012 Wine Tour - The Best Day

Wow, how do I even describe yesterday?  It was the best day yet on this trip and the best day we've had in a very long time.

I'll start with it was 70 and sunny in the wine country while pictures of snow and highs in the 20's at home were being posted on Facebook.

When we visited Jacuzzi, Dave got a recommendation for breakfast here in Healdsburg.  Considering how terrible our breakfast was on Thursday, we were pretty sure it couldn't be any worse.  The recommendation was for a little diner called Jeffrey's Hillside Diner just a few miles from our hotel.  We were greeted promptly and waited on immediately, a big step up from the day before!

I had an egg-white omelet with spinach, tomatoes, avocado, bacon and goat cheese.  It was served with a homemade biscuit (or toast, but who wants toast when you can have a homemade biscuit?) and breakfast potatoes.  Dave opted for oatmeal.

My omelet was cooked perfectly and the bacon was crispy just like I like it!  The star however was the goat cheese.  It was delicious.  It had a mild flavor and was as creamy as cream cheese!  I wrote down the name of it, Laurel Chenel, so I can look for it at home!  I was also served decaf coffee that looks just like Dave's fully leaded coffee in a very clean cup!  The biscuit was also delicious, definitely homemade it just melted in your mouth.  Dave helped me finish that, the omelet was huge!

And look at this bowl of oatmeal!  It was served with milk, golden raisins, dried cranberries and brown sugar.  Dave was a member of the clean plate club!

Our day was starting out great!

The next stop on our agenda was Chateau Montelena, another of our "Bottle Shock Tour" must stops.  We'd been there before, on our first trip out here.  That trip was in the summer of 2005, well before the release of the movie, and the tasting room was a zoo anyway.  I don't think we waited to taste but we did see the bottle of wine on the wall and the story of the competition in France so when we first heard about the movie, we had to go see it.  We were probably some of the very few that actually saw it in a theater!

This time we tasted.  Patrick, our tasting room host was very nice.  We started with their Riesling.  I was ready for a very sweet wine but that's not what I got.  It was a nice, fairly dry Riesling, I liked it!  Next was the famous Chardonnay.  I was expecting buttery (I don't really care for buttery Chardonnays) because that's how it was described in the movie, but it's not.  It's a very nice, complex chardonnay.  Not too fruity, not overly oaky, it's just a classy chardonnay.  Yes, I bought a bottle.

We tried several of their cabernets as well, all were good but the other bottle we purchased was the cabernet franc.  Dave and I love cabernet franc and we can't wait to try it.  We were lamenting how heavy our suitcases were going to be with the wine we were going to take home and Patrick suggested we buy a wine box from them and check the box.  He assured us it would be ok and that we should just write "fragile" on it.  I think that's just a way of telling the baggage handlers to throw the box harder but we're going to try it!

The grounds at Chateau Montelena are beautiful!  If you've seen Bottle Shock you'll recognize this first shot.

From Montelena we headed back down to Napa for our private tasting with Gustavo Brambila.  We got there a little early so we stopped back in the Oxbow Public Market to wander around.  I decided I wanted to know what a $3.25 cupcake tasted like so we picked out a chocolate one from Anna's Cupcakes.  It was good, as good as mine, not better I don't think.  I don't charge enough!

When we got to the Gustavo Thrace tasting room a beautiful spread had bee put out for us by Lacy, Gustavo's niece.  Like Kim, she was very nice and very friendly and she's a lab owner!

Gustavo was a little late.  Apparently Thanksgiving had run a little later than expected (dinner at midnight) because whomever was in charge of the turkey didn't get it in the oven on time!

We had a wonderful chat with "Gus" while we tasted four wines starting with his "Third Bottle White."  The wine got its name because it was produced to not be your first bottle of wine when having wine with friends.  It was meant to be the third bottle you open after your taste buds are a bit shot.  Personally I think it's a great first bottle!  He also had a "Third Bottle Red" which we bought and had him autograph for us.

Gus has a very reserved personality but he talked with us for over an hour and a half even though he was admittedly behind in bottling.  When people came in that wanted pictures or autographs he graciously agreed.

We learned about the mobile bottling trucks we'd seen around the area.  He explained that a lot of wineries use them, including himself, because that way he doesn't have to have the capital or pay all the taxes!  Each truck specializes in one or two different bottle shapes and you contract with the truck that fills the bottle shape you have.  He talked to us about how irrigation has changed how grapes are grown and about the different weather over the last few years and how that impacted wine prices.  The wine magazines went on and on about how much better 2007 was than 2008 so 2007 wines are much cheaper but in his opinion just as good.  Supposedly 2012 was a "perfect" year for wine so buy some and shelve it!

We also talked about wine glasses!  We mentioned we had tried the titanium ones because they were supposedly unbreakable.  We broke them.  He said his partner bought them for the tasting room.  Whatever glass is used in the tasting room is what they use in their lab so they bought some for the lab as well.  There is something in the titanium that changes the color of the wine.  It makes it dark, almost black!  That wouldn't work, the glasses were replaced!

Of course he also talked about the movie.  Many, if not most, of the wineries didn't want any part of the movie.  Gus explained that they didn't understand that it was good for everyone, not just those in the movie.  Even the winemaker at Chateau Montelena wanted nothing to do with the movie.  Recently Gus went to a reunion at Chateau Montelena.  He didn't really want to go because he thought they would just give him grief for being a "traitor" for being part of the movie.  He decided he would just say hello to Bo and Jim Barret and then leave.  When he got there they just chided him about "still making money off that movie" and admitted they were just bitter because his character was so much better done than Bo's!  Gus said the Chris Pine character looked nothing like Bo did.  He said "I knew Bo back then!"

Most of the wineries that didn't want anything to do with the movie were upset at the "poetic license" that Hollywood took with the story.  They wanted a documentary. Again, Gus realized you had to have people want to watch the movie!  And he admitted it was pretty close to reality.  There were some games played with the timeline.  He only worked at the winery for a year and it was after the big win in France.  Sam, the "hot intern" as Dave calls her, didn't show up at the winery for a year after that.

When Gus met Freddy Rodriquez, the actor that would play his character, he told his manager "give me 10 minutes with him then pull me out, I have work to do".  On the flip side Freddy had told his manager "give me 20 minutes then pull me out."  Four hours and six bottles of wine later they finally parted ways!  Gus was laughing when he told the story because he didn't realize that Freddy was studying him.  Gus said that when he went to the premier and saw his character for the first time he started laughing.  That's when he realized Freddy was studying his mannerisms.  He said Freddy swirls and sips just like he does!

Dave asked if Gus could really taste variety, vintner and vintage and Gus said when he was young, yes, now everything is so intermingled he can tell you variety and vintage but not vintner.

We also learned that Chris Pine was completely unapproachable through the entire filming.  His manager wouldn't let him talk to anyone.  He was filming Star Trek at the time and apparently they didn't want him to give anything away!  So now we know Chris Pine can't keep a secret!

Gus started getting calls for his wine even before the movie was released.  Apparently Bottle Shock was being shown on transatlantic flights before the premier!  After the movie came out, he had to give up distribution of it because he couldn't keep up and needed at least some wine for his tasting room!  So now you can only get the wine in the tasting room or over the internet.

We had so much fun talking with him.  It was the highlight of the trip.... and then Seghesio!

From Napa we hopped in the car for the hour ride up to Healdsburg.  We had reservations for a "Family Table" at our favorite winery, Seghesio.  The tasting room was packed.  Healdsburg goes all out on Black Friday, the town was buzzing!  It turns out we were the only two for the tasting!  Did they cancel on us?  No, we got a private dinner made by Chef Janiak. 

But first our hostess Christina gave us a tour of the winery.  We've been wine club members here for 5 or 6 years and have never had a tour!  She did a great job.  We didn't realize that all that wonderful wine is made right there!  We'd never been "out back" before.

From there we were taken up to the Founder's Room.  This room is beautiful!  The ceiling is inlaid with bricks from one of the original buildings that was destroyed by fire.  The table on which we dined was made from redwood that was reclaimed from large redwood barrels that were used very early in the wineries history for making bulk wine.

On the table was the most beautiful setting, and I say that not just because there were 5 glasses of amazing wine poured.

Christina kept us company as we enjoyed the food prepared for us by Chef Janiak.  The first tasting was Mendocino Chanterelle Risotto with Parmesan Reggiano paired with the 2010 Costiera Pinot Noir.  I'm not a fan of mushrooms, more because of the texture not the flavor but this I loved.  Oh and the pinot wasn't bad either!

Next was a Cider Braised Pork Belly with Arkansas Black Apple and a Petit Fennel Salad served with the 2010 Pagani Zinfandel.  Ok, so I've never eaten pork belly before.  I would never order it in a restaurant but I was here and I had to try it.  I ate my first truffle on this trip why not my first pork belly?  It was delicious.  I was expecting it to just taste like a big glob of fat and have about the same texture but it didn't.  It had great pork flavor and a texture more like, well, tofu maybe?  I ate the whole thing!  And the sauce under it, oh my god delicious!  While Home Ranch is my favorite Zin of all time, this Pagani is probably my number two.

The third tasting was Cavatellli with Family Recipe Sausage, Rapini and a white cream sauce.  The sausage was delicious, not hot spicy but spiced for really good flavor and the cream sauce, well it's a cream sauce!  How could it possibly be bad?  This was served with the 2003 Aglianico.  Christina was nice enough to teach us how to pronounce that, the "g" is silent!

Then what was probably my favorite thing on the plate, Short Rib-Stuffed Yukon Gold Potato with Horseradish and Beet Relish.  I so have to make this at home!  It was little bites of heaven!  This was served with the 2006 Defiant.

Finally "dessert" which was a Rogue River Bleu with Pomegranite Syrup and a yummy little cracker/cookie.  The bleu cheese was amazing.  I love blue cheese and this one was very good, great bleu flavor and very creamy, perfect with the pomegranite syrup and 2007 Dionigia!

I'd say we liked it!

We had a fantastic time eating and drinking and talking with Christina. 

We went back to the tasting room for "one more" and were lucky enough to see Andy again.  Andy was in the tasting room on our very first visit to Seghesio.  He got us hooked!

Everyone at Seghesio is so nice, everyone!  They take very good care of their guests and when we win the lottery and move to Healdsburg they will get very tired of us!

The day didn't end there.  When we come to Healdsburg we have to stop at Fideaux and get the kids a present.  Downtown was buzzing with Black Friday events.  We saw horse drawn carriages and carolers!  We picked up a couple things for the kiddos.  Cider is getting a new stuffed toy (that we're sure Cabby will eventually unstuff but we'll try to protect it for him) and Cabby got a rope toy we're hoping she will take more than an hour to destroy!

We also picked up a little something for us!

Back at the hotel we just had to open a Seghesio Home Ranch Zin and watch Bottle Shock again!  It was so much fun watching it for things in the background we'd seen on this trip and yes, Freddy Rodriquez did mimic Gustavo Brambila pretty well!

Today started at Worth Our Weight but that will be part of the next blog entry.... this vacation is going way too fast!

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