Tesoaria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing

I admit I’ve been a wine club member and even longer a fan of TeSóAria wines. Recently they have started offering vegan tapas on their daily tapas menu to accompany their dozen or so wines that are available at any one time to taste or purchase by the glass, in flights, or in bottles, and many of those wines are award-winning. At the time of the brunch, they were up to 97 medals!
Award winning wines at Tesoaria Award winning wines at Tesoaria

And now, starting today they have set aside every Thursday for what they call Vegan Thursday: Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables night where all the tapas will be vegan – the menus are available starting at 5 PM. They also will be offering a vegan brunch with wine pairings by reservation only (one seating)  every few weeks. It’s not often that you see vegan food paired with wines, and it’s worth highlighting for my vegan friends out and there – and even if you’re not vegan, the Tesoaria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing is so good you will want it anyway.
Tesoaria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing at a vegan brunch - owner and winemaker John Olson describing the wine Tesoaria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing at a Vegan Brunch - yes pairing vegan food and wine- owner and winemaker John Olson describing the wine
The name for TeSóAria Vineyard & Winery comes from combining Terra (earth), Sol (sun), Aria (air and music) which are three important parts that make their wines so unique. Owner and winemaker John Olson and his family love music, and it is part of the TeSóAria experience. At their wine members pick up parties I’ve often enjoyed hearing his children play music and sing, and they host live music in the Portland Tasting Room on Saturdays. While aging the wines in the barrels, TeSóAria plays music through Bose speakers to keep the wine moving – as well as possibly imparting a little extra terroir.
Music is part of the Terrroir of Tesoaria Wines

The TeSóAria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing Brunches will be offered every few weeks as a special event  – aka, they will not be weekly so check their events listing on the website and sign up for their mailing list to be in the know. The next Vegan Brunch at the Portland Tasting Room is Sunday, July 24th, 11am $45, tout compris. Limited seating, RSVP required to events @ tesoaria.com

The food is inspired newly each time so expect to see new creative additions all the time by Chef Max Germano and Sous Chef Daniel Escalle (seen here preparing the Vegan Cassoulet during the vegan brunch) for what will be on the menu.
Tesoaria Vegan Brunch - Sous Chef Daniel Escalle preparing the Vegan Cassoulet.

Here’s a look at the inaugural vegan brunch I attended to give you an idea of what the experience could include with the 4 courses with the wine pairings.

Tesoaria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing: Vegan Brunch

1st course

Chicory Salad with Roasted Apricot Vinaigrette and croutons paired with 2015 Vermentino Secco and 2014 Field Blend #1. The greens in this salad included endive, frisee, arugula and interestingly some wasabi greens to add a hint of spiciness.
TeSóAria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing Brunch 1st course Chicory Salad with Roasted Apricot Vinaigrette and croutons paired with 2015 Vermentino Secco and 2014 Field Blend #1 TeSóAria Vegan Brunch 1st course Chicory Salad with Roasted Apricot Vinaigrette and croutons paired with 2015 Vermentino Secco and 2014 Field Blend #1

Candied pepitas with radishes and macerated apricots add additional texture and flavors to the plate that I thought were best brought out by the Field Blend #1 since each dish gave me a chance to go a White vs Red: Who Did It Better comparison.

The Field Blend is the red wine that is a tribute to old school wine making where winemakers are more focused on the flavors then getting hung up on specific varietals. TeSóAria, by the way, cultivates more than 25 different varietals from the Southern Oregon Umpqua Valley, Celestina Vineyard in Medford Rogue Valley, riesling from Willamette Valley, and some from Northern California.

2nd course

Homemade Cashew Cheese Stuffed Peppers with Tabouleh, Sweet Romanesco and Mint Oil paired with 2015 Riesling (sourced from Willamette) and 2014 Bull’s Blood (a Hungarian style red wine). He has a specific way he tells the inspiration story behind the Bull’s Blood name though rest assured there is no bull harmed in the story or in the wine making. One new trivia I learned though is that the Kadarka grape they use for this red were smuggled vines from Hungary that he inherited (he’s a rebel, but didn’t smuggle them in himself, phew)!
TeSóAria Vegan Brunch 2nd course Cashew Cheese Stuffed Peppers with Tabouleh, Sweet Romanesco and Mint Oil paired with 2015 Riesling and 2014 Bull's Blood TeSóAria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing Brunch 2nd course Cashew Cheese Stuffed Peppers with Tabouleh, Sweet Romanesco and Mint Oil paired with 2015 Riesling and 2014 Bull's Blood

With the surprise spiciness from the peppers I thought the Riesling was the winner of this pairing to balance out the dish, though normally I like drinking the Bull’s Blood on it’s own!

3rd course

Vegan Cassoulet with Fava Beans and Maitake Mushrooms, Chickpea Croutons, Roasted Vegetables, White Miso, and Tahini paired with 2015 Bella Rosa and 2012 Vindetta Reserve.
TeSóAria Vegan Brunch 3rd course Vegan Cassoulet with Fava Beans and Maitake Mushrooms, Chickpea Croutons, Roasted Vegetables, White Miso, and Tahini paired with 2015 Bella Rosa and 2012 Vindetta Reserve TeSóAria Wine and Vegan Food Pairing Brunch 3rd course Vegan Cassoulet with Fava Beans and Maitake Mushrooms, Chickpea Croutons, Roasted Vegetables, White Miso, and Tahini paired with 2015 Bella Rosa and 2012 Vindetta Reserve

Cassoulet is traditionally a peasant dish with beans and meat, and I enjoyed here how the use of mushrooms and miso really gave an extra thickness to the cassoulet to make it meaty like without actual meat. For me the Vindetta Reserve red wine was my preferred pairing of the two.

4th course

Dessert came as a Rosemary Shortcake with Apricot Jam, Apricots, Lemon Olive Oil, Fried Rosemary and Muscat Agave Nectar. The apricots are macerated in the Bella Rosa that here is also paired with the dish (2015 Bella Rosa Secco).
TeSóAria Vegan Brunch 4th course Rosemary Shortcake with Apricot Jam, Apricots, Fried Rosemary paired with 2015 Bella Rosa Secco and 2015 Sparkling Moscato TeSóAria Vegan Brunch 4th course Rosemary Shortcake with Apricot Jam, Apricots, Fried Rosemary paired with 2015 Bella Rosa Secco and 2015 Sparkling Moscato

The other wine pairing here is the 2015 Sparkling Moscato, showing off their recently started TeSóAria Sparkling Wine Program – this particular Moscato just won a Silver Medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and they were confused/surprised when he entered the wine in a growler! You see, the sparkling wines of TeSóAria are on tap and you can purchase them by the (refillable!) growler here in the tasting room.

Other Excuses/Rationalizations to stop by the Portland Tasting Room:

  • On Tuesdays the Portland Tasting Room hosts Pizza Tuesdays where every Tuesday, housemade pizza is complimentary and certain wines are on special. Open house from 6 – 9 PM or until they are out of pizza.
  • They also hold Hangry Hump Day every Wednesday at The Portland Tasting Room. Chef Max’s complimentary yummies and Wine Specials vary based on the week which in the past can be as varied (and making for fun wine pairings!) as from fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, lamb gyros, chicken teriyaki, to chicken tikka masala or smoked chicken biscuits with mac and cheese and more. Open house from 6pm to 9pm or until the food is gone.

The vegan only nights are only on Thursdays, but they have also added vegan options to their always available tapas menu that includes choices like
Tasting Boards with the Tesoaria Sparkling Wine at the Sparkling Wine Release Party

  • the vegan Olive Tapenade made with Castelveltrano and Kalamata olives with herbs and toasted bread;
  • Cheese Board with house baked bread;
  • Charcuterie Board that includes Ghost Pepper Salami and housemade charcuterie items;
  • the vegan Mezze Board with Hummus, Lebneh, Marinated Olives, Roasted Almonds, Cucumber and Flatbread;
  • Focaccia Pizza (including vegan pizza option);
  • Smoked Salmon brined in TeSóAria Bella Bianca wine before being cold smoked;
  • House cured ham sandwich with brie and house made mustard, greens and lemon chive vinaigrette
  • TeSóAria Housemade Candy Bars with salted almond shortbread and vanilla caramel topped with dark chocolate and Maldon sea salt!

On the Thursday Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables Vegan Takeover day, a recent visit yielded for me choices like

  • Samosas with curry cauliflower and potato with a spiced tomato sauce, suggested pairing 2015 Riesling but you can try whatever wine you’d like, I prefer red wine to white myself and there are plenty to choose from, many are award winning as you can see from the 100 medals Tesoaria has won with their wines
    Tesoaria's Thursday Portland Vegan Takeover Menu - Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables, Samosas with curry cauliflower and potato with a spiced tomato sauce, suggested pairing 2015 Riesling though you can do whatever pairing you choose - I prefer red wine to white myself and there are plenty to choose from, many are award winning as you can see from the 100 medals Tesoaria has won with their wines Tesoaria's Thursday Portland Vegan Takeover Menu - Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables, Samosas with curry cauliflower and potato with a spiced tomato sauce, suggested pairing 2015 Riesling but you can try whatever wine you'd like - I enjoyed a red because I prefer red to white wine
  • Portobello Sandwich with house made that day ciabatta, romesco, pickled peppers, roasted fennel greens, suggested wine pairing 2014 Bulls Blood though here I tried the 2014 Primitivo which was just as excellent!
    Tesoaria's Thursday Portland Vegan Takeover Menu - Shut Up and Eat Your Vegetables, Portobello Sandwich with house made that day ciabatta, romesco, pickled peppers, roasted fennel greens, suggested wine pairing 2014 Bulls Blood though here I tried the 2014 Primitivo which was just as excellent!
  • Som Tam Salad Rolls with a charred peanut and black garlic sauce, suggested pairing 2015 Vermentino or 2015 Bella Bianca; the charred peanut and black garlic sauce provide a savory and funky taste to mimic fish sauce but in a vegan way
    "Tesoaria's
  • Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with macerated apricots, strawberry rhubarb compote, and fresh cherries, suggested wine pairing sparkling muscat, one of the sparkling wines of Tesoaria that you can get to go in a growler!
    "Tesoaria's Sparkling muscat in a growler bottled for you from the tap at the Tesoaria Tasting Room on North Williams

Their tasting menu also includes 5 flight options that include tapas paired with three glasses of wine – cheese, charcuterie, the wine maker’s flight with chef’s choice (1 of the wines will be the live barrel), or a library wine flight with chef’s choice of tapas to pair with the wine.
Open house at Tesoaria with a dozen wines to taste Open house at Tesoaria with a dozen wines to taste

Suffice it to say you will not lack for choice for types of wine to try at TeSóAria. Usually there are a little more than half a dozen white wine and a dozen red wines to choose by the glass or to make a wine flight, plus 2-3 sparkling wine you can try. Purchase a bottle of wine from the live barrel and they will hand bottle for you and write a custom message.
TeSóAria offers live barrels in their Portland Tasting Room for you to taste and will hand bottle if you puchase a bottle TeSóAria offers live barrels in their Portland Tasting Room for you to taste and will hand bottle if you puchase a bottle

TeSóAria wines are only available directly from the winery through their tasting rooms, mailing list, and wine clubs.

Locations of TeSóAria Tasting Rooms:

  • The Portland Tasting Room: 4003 N Williams Ave, Portland, OR 97227
  • The Roseburg Tasting Room & Winery: 512 N Curry Road, Roseburg, OR 97471

Tesóaria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A Look at Muselet Portland

Muselet has closed

In the South Waterfront, a restaurant named Muselet (a muselet is the wire that holds the cork and that you twist off to open a Champagne bottle – it’s pronounced “Muse-LAY”) opened in May last year, and has been a hidden dining destination gem. I felt like it was my duty to share this secret with you.

While Muselet may or may not be new to you, it has already racked up many awards by those who are in the know. It is listed on OpenTable’s online reservation site by diners as among the Top 10 Best Overall Restaurants in Portland as well as Top 10 Best Service in Portland and Top 10 Best Ambiance in Portland. You know they are serious about wine as soon as you walk through the front door and see this gorgeous light fixture and all those wine glasses all lined up for service that night…
Muselet Portland

And then there’s this:

Muselet Foie gras terrine, apple, salted brown butter, ginger tuile
Foie gras terrine, apple, salted brown butter, ginger tuile

When I first saw the above dish of Foie gras terrine, apple, salted brown butter, ginger tuile get set down, I wondered if it was dessert, it was plated so beautifully. But then when I took that bite and got all those flavors… Well, it’s still wonderful enough for dessert in its decadence and creamy texture that brings together rich savory with a hint of sweet.  I loved the additional textures bringing an extra level to this dish. In fact it’s actually on the dessert menu too, not just the dinner menu. It’s so rich, and so perfect with a flight of sparkling… You will feel like a million bucks.

Meanwhile, the #1 reason to rush down to Muselet ASAP right now – RIGHT NOW – is the Porridge with warm yolk, trout roe, and chive. Ron recommends pairing it with options such as Alsatian Single Vineyard Riesling, Domain Picq Single Vineyard Chablis from Bussieres in Burgundy, or Martino 2011 Old Vine Pedro Ximenez Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina. All sounds like win to me.
Muselet Porridge with warm yolk, trout roe, chive

As soon as I saw porridge on the menu I thought “how ballsy, they are offering porridge as a restaurant dish”. But those who have experienced know it’s a home run and a must not miss dish.  It’s a striking marriage of Muselet Owner Ron Acierto’s nostalgia for his Filipino roots of bone-warming heartiness and Executive Chef Greg Zanotti’s take of modern and eclectic, combining classic technique and progressive preparation with art of plating.

But, it’s only available for a short period of time – Chef Greg warns he’ll pull it off from the menu as soon as the weather is better because it’s too rich for the sun. So hurry in while it’s on the menu right now.

Not only that, for the month of March 2016 only for Portland Dining Month, they are offering a jaw dropping dinner option for the $29 – but instead of 3 courses you get 6 dishes! You can also add wine pairings for your courses for an additional $25. Their Portland Dining Month menu just for March includes

  • steelhead beet, brassicas, orange
  • pear burrata, kale, arugula, pecan-pistou
    Muselet Portland's pear burrata, kale, arugula, pecan-pistou "Muselet
  • bread alex’s parker house rolls, house cultured butter, maldon
  • charcuterie chicken liver mousse, cotechino, mustard, pickles
  • beets feta, yogurt, fermented garlic
    Muselet Beets with feta, yogurt, fermented garlic
  • pork coppa wild onion, hop aioli, leek fondue

I tell you, that list of six dishes for that price is a heist you should check out. But come hungry, and even with the Portland Dining Month menu, you should get that porridge while it’s in season. Somehow, even though you are getting six shared courses for the bargain price of $29, I think you will rise to the challenge of eating that porridge after you try your first comforting spoonful.

And, somehow still also save room for dessert: oh, this gorgetous, fun dessert. Everyone will jealously turn and wonder what you are enjoying, and they SHOULD be jealous of this Goat’s Milk Custard with streusel, wild blackberry, and cajeta. This dessert is also just simply known as Bubbles. Ron explains the dish was invented because he “In the beginning, I asked Greg to create a dessert that was quirky, delicious and would make guests smile. This one is like fireworks for your sweet tooth. It’s funny, the recipe is running in a future ‘1859’ magazine issue… it calls for ‘a small aquarium pump.’”
Muselet Bubbles Dessert of Dessert of Goat's Milk Custard with streusel, wild blackberry, and cajeta Muselet Bubbles Dessert of Dessert of Goat's Milk Custard with streusel, wild blackberry, and cajeta
A look when first placed on the table and basically 60 seconds later after the first photo was taken under the bubbles….

If you return after Portland Dining Month, besides the porridge and Bubbles dessert (and perhaps the foie gras either as appetizer or dessert…), you might consider splurging on the Wagyu Culotte with short rib and mushroom duxelle. This dish is perfectly cooked meat butter, tender without being too fatty. Paired by Ron with 2007 Hawk’s View Cellars Pinot Noir, the pairing is fit for royalty – seriously it wouldn’t look out of place as the dinner plate while in a ballgown and wearing diamonds.
Muselet Wagyu Culotte with short rib, mushroom duxelle

There are multiple options in Portland for oyster, but Muselet sets apart their oyster dish with its half a dozen shigoku with blood orange mignonette that you can enjoy with champagne or sparkling – such as Maysara Pinot Noir Brut Rose. Little trivia: Muselet was the first to pour Maysara Winery Pinot Noir Brut Rose in the area, and the wine is only available at the winery for their wedding events.
There are multiple options in Portland for oyster, but Muselet stands out with its Half a dozen shigoku with blood orange mignonette that you can enjoy with champagne or sparkling - such as Maysara Pinot Noir Brut Rose (Muselet was the first to pour Maysara Winery Pinot Noir Brut Rose in the area, and the wine is only available at the winery for their wedding events)

Definitely get a sparkling wine when you visit – or any wine. Wines are a huge draw to visit Muselet, since it is listed as one of Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America for 2015, is one of the Oregon Wine A-List Award winners 2016 and is rated on OpenTable’s online reservation site by diners as among the Top 10 Most Notable Wine Lists for Portland / Oregon.

The Muselet wine list features 50+ Champagne (small production ‘grower’ wines) and sparkling wines, local urban wineries, and many Oregon Pinot Noirs. They offer a rotating selection of over 30 wines by the glass and more than 300 by the bottle, as well as numerous wine flights. Any wine by the glass can also be ordered as half glass, so you could make your own flight or ask Ron to pair with whatever you’d like.
Flight of sparkling wine, one of two flights you can choose from at Muselet

Ron has been developing friendships with winemakers and producers in the Willamette Valley since 2004, and expanded during his past experience managing restaurants with relationships with wine sales reps, importers and distributors.

“The key for me is to truly understand their vision and passion, and to show them the respect I have for their product. I get really excited and I love introducing guests to wines that have been made with passion, where the winemakers are caught up in the romance of their craft. It’s been fun to get to know the winemaking sons and daughters of the ‘Papas of Pinot’ who started it all.” says Ron.

The payoff for you as the customer is access to some wines that are exclusive just to Muselet, or that somehow Ron found that are local and super small that you might not find them anywhere else.

Domaine Drouhin only started making Pinot Noir Rose for their tasting room in 2010. Muselet owner Ron Acierto was able to acquire a few cases of their first Roses for Jory. Because he nurtured a relationship, he is also currently the only restaurant in Portland to serve their 2014 Rose. Their production is so small, their distributor is only able to place it selectively because there is not enough wine for a public release.There are only 2 cases left of the 2014 and it is only available at Muselet.
Domaine Drouhin only started making Pinot Noir Rose for their tasting room in 2010. Their production is so small, their distributor is only able to place it selectively because there is not enough wine for a public release. There are only 2 cases left of the 2014 and it is only available at Muselet.

In fact, at Muselet they hold weekly complimentary no purchase necessary wine tasting series in their lounge every Saturday from 5 – 6:30 PM.  A winery expert will be on hand during every tasting to answer questions about each wine. The featured wines will be available for guests to purchase by the glass to enjoy at the bar, purchase a bottle to take home, or can be enjoyed as a custom wine pairing with their meal. The current upcoming schedule includes

  • March 26 Fullerton Wines: Distinctive Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
  • April 2 Owen Roe: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Oregon Pinot Noir, Washington Red.
  • April 9 Le Cadeau | Exclusively estate grown Oregon Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay
    Aubichon Wines | Oregon Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay
  • April 23 Ian Burrows of Consulon Wines | pouring wines from Boulay Wine Company, Swick Wines, and Guillén Family Wines
  • April 30 Jackalope Wines | Craft Nortwest Pinot Noir, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc
    Helioterra | Pinot Noir, Mourvédre, Pinot Blanc, Syrah, Arneis, Melon de Bourgogne, Rosé of Pinot Noir, and Riesling
  • The schedule will continually be updated and can be found at Muselet’s website

Ron explains “We like to think of ourselves as the ‘concierge of the Oregon wine country.’ We are able to customize wine pairing perfectly for every dish, plus provide some unknown wine varietals for non-traditional wine pairings. Imagine, instead of having to choose one or two bottles of wine for a meal, you can have a small pour of the wine that perfectly complements your dish.”

Here’s a look at a few other dishes on the current menu, which will change seasonally:

  • Beef tartare remoulade, dulse, vinegar chip (part of their bar/soirée menu which is what they have dubbed happy hour, available in the bar/lounge only)
  • Mille Fuille with creme, dulse, smoked cod
  • Cured Hamachi, pea, hibiscus, avocado. I marveled at every bite of that dehydrated yuzu (tofu skin) with pea in how it was a perfect addition of subtle flavor and great texture to go with that hamachi – I even was trying to separate it from that photogenic hibiscus sauce to try to focus on the perfect hamachi and yuzu pea combo.
  • Turnip with beurre monte, pickled shallot, trout roe, sake lees
  • Sunchoke with mole poblano, persian cress
  • Scallop with pork rind and red eye gravy
    Muselet Beef tartare remoulade, dulse, vinegar chip Muselet Potato Mille Fuille with creme, dulse, smoked cod Muselet Cured Hamachi, pea, hibiscus, avocado Muselet Turnip with beurre monte, pickled shallot, trout roe, sake lees Muselet Sunchoke with mole poblano, persian cress Muselet Scallop with pork rind and red eye gravy

So I think you’ve gotten the gist here: spectacular food and wine. But did you notice I mentioned feeling like a million bucks, or feeling like royalty too? That’s because the biggest impression I had from Muselet is white glove service without the formality but all the elegance and class. Ron is incredibly enthusiastic about the dining experience, and he knows it includes what is on your plate and in your glass, but also beyond that in how you are treated from start to finish.

The people at Muselet are dedicated to making each guest feel like a VIP, and genuinely want to welcome you the moment you step in, take care of you with an eye on every detail, and make sure you know you are valued and that you leave happy. You’ll feel like you had a high class dinner but everything is approachable and without the matching high class price tag. In a city where service is often casual, it’s feels so special to be pampered like at Muselet.

Which of these dishes at Muselet is attracting your eye?

Muselet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclosure: I attended a complimentary shared blogger meal, but I also returned on my own and on my own dime. I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Holidays in Sonoma – Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

This is my last on my series on Sonoma and my visit there for a long holiday weekend.

On Thanksgiving day, there were two wineries open- Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. These two wineries were not originally on our wishlist, but because of the happenstance of them being open, we visited. And, we had a fun time trying these value wines and visiting. Both had some really unique attractions to their grounds. Both handle groups well too and have friendly, efficient pourers.

Both of these wineries are owned by the same family venture and are located basically across the street from each other on Highway 121.
A view of the vines and a few rose bushes (with no roses in November) of the thousand roses they have on the cline Cellars property

We stopped at Cline Cellars first. Cline offers sustainably farmed wines using a great variety of grapes, which was fun to try. They do not have a tasting fee to try 5 of their non-reserve wines, or it is only $5 to try a flight of three reserve wines.
stairs to the tasting room of Cline Cellars Tasting wines at Cline Cellars Tasting wines at Cline Cellars, tasting five non reserve wines are free!

If you get a chance, pick out the Late Harvest Mouverde to sample, which is a dessert wine so comes with a little bit of chocolate!
If you get a chance, pick out the Late Harvest Mouverde at Cline Cellars to sample, which is a dessert wine so comes with a little bit of chocolate! If you get a chance, pick out the Late Harvest Mouverde at Cline Cellars to sample, which is a dessert wine so comes with a little bit of chocolate!

They also have several special attractions on the ground so you can walk around to stretch your legs viewing their carp pond (bring quarters to buy a little fish food out of their machine), their various exotic birds, and two adorable miniature burrows named Pudding and Fancy.
Feeding carp at the carp pond at Cline Cellars Feeding carp at the carp pond at Cline Cellars Some of the exotic birds saved and on display on the properties of Cline Cellars Some of the exotic birds saved and on display on the properties of Cline Cellars Some of the exotic birds saved and on display on the properties of Cline Cellars Some of the exotic birds saved and on display on the properties of Cline Cellars

We were not in the right time of year for it, but they also have thousands of roses around the property. As you walk to visit the other ponds, you will probably notice some humorous signs warning of ridiculous animals that might be in the waters(such as sharks…) – and there is California Mission Museum on the property (free admission) and a train car (seemingly used for special occasions) to peer in as well. If you stop by, make sure you walk the grounds and not just taste. If you are visiting Sonoma with family, this is one that would please everyone.

Part of the John Galt Express on the property, seemingly for special occasions at the Cline Cellars grounds Part of the John Galt Express on the property, seemingly for special occasions at the Cline Cellars grounds

Across the street, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards with their stone structure and large spaces and decorative elements seems ready for any special occasion. I also admired their amphora shaped shrubbery. Yes, this Jacuzzi family is the same one that invented the bath and spa that still bears their name.
The amphora shaped shrubbery on the grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards The front of the building for the tasting room of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards The front of the building for the tasting room of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

This is a place I would suggest trying their wide variety of grapes they make into wines (they have almost 2 dozen wines!), and after picking out a favorite get a glass or bottle and enjoy a little time here chatting and relaxing. Like their sibling Cline, there is no tasting fee to try 5 wines. For a few a small fee, you can get the Chocolate Shooters, which is a chocolate cup filled with a bit of wine. Our pourer was very friendly and knowledgable. I wasn’t surprised to learn that I liked several of their reds because they have volcanic rock (I always seem to love volcanic soil wines), particularly their smokey Barbera. My friend and I ended up sending a case home – and we got confirmation that they shipped it the next day. Yeah, that means the day after Thanksgiving, so efficient!

Also like their sibling Cline, they use sustainable practices. For instance, they use a “Compost tea,” consisting of molasses, fish emulsion, rock dust and microbes fertilize the vines. And, they use sheep to control weed growth and pull the rest out by hand. By hand. Wow.

At Jacuzzi’s location is The Olive Press, a whole room almost as large as the tasting room for the wine, where you can try various combinations of olive oil and vinegar infusions and seasonings. They really have some excellent combinations and ideas, such as Lime Olive Oil and Coconut Balsamic Vinegar, or Jalapeno Olive Oil and Peach Balsamic Vinegar, and I love the Fig Balsamic on a cheese plate.

Here’s a good look at some some of the grounds at Jacuzzi: notice the statue wearing shades!

Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Some of the beautiful grounds of Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

This post is part of my series on my trip to Sonoma where I list various recommendations.

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Holidays in Sonoma – Iron Horse Vineyards

I’ve been a fan of Iron Horse Vineyards since I discovered them back in 2009 – I selected their Wedding Cuvee for my wedding. And, they were the winery I was most excited about visiting when we came to Sonoma. They are very small in size, but have a great big heart.

To visit Iron Horse, you need to make an appointment, which you can do online if you’d like – they want to manage the number of tasters to make sure you have a good experience and are not lost in a crowd. When you arrive, be prepared to drive up a slender one way dirt road (which was muddy for us!) until you see a little roundabout and clustering of wooden barns. The road is a little longer than you might expect. I sort of liked that feeling of confusion and whether we were lost as it is probably reminiscent of the founders, who when they discovered this property also thought they were lost until they came up the knoll to the view of the hills you are about to see. The parking area is on the dirt and gravel on the right side, where you get your first view of the rolling hills of vines.

View of rollings hills of vines at Iron Horse Vineyards View of rollings hills of vines at Iron Horse Vineyards View of rollings hills of vines at Iron Horse Vineyards View of rollings hills of vines at Iron Horse Vineyards

Later the sun came up, yielding the pictures up there that don’t include me – that first one was taken when we first arrived and it was still misty at 11 AM, much like the foggy day the founders came upon this property and bought it 2 weeks later, feeling like these grounds were like Camelot! That is only part of the reason for the horse on their bottles: a horse that looks like that was also found on a weathervane they uncovered as they were breaking ground. It really seems like fate no?

When you walk up to the tasting room, you discover it is just a simple outdoor wooden bar that you stand at. They have heaters if the weather gets chilly, and there are some benches you can sit at a bit back from the tasting bar overlooking the vineyards but otherwise no standing. There are no dogs allowed on the property.

You can choose from a sparkling flight. Or they also offer pinot noir and chardonnay. Of everything I tasted, I liked it all. And we tried to be thorough…
The delicious wines of Iron Horse Vineyards The delicious wines of Iron Horse Vineyards 2012 Iron Horse Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2010 Iron Horse Vineyards Native Yeast Chardonnay 2010 Iron Horse Vineyards Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs. Iron Horse gives $4 a bottle to National Geographic's Ocean Initiative, establishing marine protected areas and supporting sustainable fishing practices around the globe. Iron Horse 2010 Wedding Cuvee 2011 Fairytale Celebration Cuvee Iron Horse 2010 Classic Vintage Brut 2010 Iron Horse Russian Cuvee Iron Horse 2010 Winters Cuvee "2007

It was so good that my friend and I joined the wine club. Just as I have wonderful memories tied to the Wedding Cuvee, it turns out she has the same story with their Fairytale Celebration Cuvee. That’s the kind of wines they have – ones that are perfect for every and any special occasion and whose flavor is so distinctive versus most sparklings that are poured that you end up etching a strong happy memory with their unique flavors.

I love how their wine club is so flexible that you can specify whether you want all whites, all reds, all sparklings, all stills, all sparkling + red, or all sparkling + white. Every wine is a vintage wine that is aged at least 3 years, if not more. And really, there are never too many bubbles in one’s life. Eac one really has its own character – and sometimes its own story.

The Russian Cuvee was made for the historic Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings which ended the Cold War.. Iron Horse Vineyards sparkling is still now has been served in the White House to presidents and their guests since 1985.

Meanwhile for the limited edition Ocean Reserve (which has citrusy lime tones), Iron Horse gives $4 a bottle to National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, establishing marine protected areas and supporting sustainable fishing practices around the globe. They have a Rainbow Cuvee in support of marriage equality as well.

The Winter’s Cuvee has a touch of estate made pinot noir brandy. The Classic Brut has a bit of tartness to it reminiscent of apples, while the Brut X has a great dryness that makes it so sharp and crisp.

I guess I’ll have to stop gushing about Iron Horse now and just highly recommend that you visit them when you visit Sonoma. It is definitely a casual rustic feel, which is such testament to the down to earth winery that creates the classy sparklings good enough for the Pope and heads of state and maybe, you too will like them?

If you haven’t guessed, this was my favorite winery I visited during my Sonoma trip! And, I totally had an Iron Horse sparkling to celebrate New Year’s 2015 too.

Have you been to Iron Horse, or had Iron Horse sparklings before? Or do you have a certain specific memory tie to a certain producer of sparkling wines?

This post is the fifth in my series about visiting Sonoma.

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Holidays in Sonoma – Highway 12 Wineries

So in a previous post I highlighted Ledson Winery, famous for their beautiful Castle tasting room. Ledson is more on the north end of Highway 12, so now let’s continue to proceed south visiting Highway 12 Wineries shall we? Highway 12 is a winding road that many wineries are on, so you could easily spend a whole day just visiting wineries just on this one road. Overall, from Ledson to our last stop listed in this post, it covers only 10 miles and with wineries the whole way. You can pack a picnic to go with you on your day trip, though some wineries also have a little market to get some picnic supplies.

Literally right down the street from Ledson, just a mile down, is St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. They have a wine tasting room which has a back patio with incredible views that showcase the wineries and mountains. The other highlight with St Francis is that they offer Culinary Wine Adventures. By that, I mean wine and food tasting experiences which you can enjoy to understand how to pair their wine with food. The experiences vary from cheese and charcuterie to a 5 course food pairing to a private estate 9 course dinner that kicks off with a wine reception.

On the day I visited, wine country was lucky enough to be getting some much needed rain, so the mountain views included lots of misty clouds as the rain was beginning to roll in.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

A little less then 2 miles south as we continue on Highway 12 is Chateau St Jean. The grounds even now that it was winter was full of color from the vines and from lots of beautiful pots of dwarf Satsuma Mandarin Orange trees brimming with the fruit. The Chateau architecture takes is cue from an Italian villa style. You should also note that they have 2 tasting room areas- the Main Tasting room and also if you are interested in their reserve and more limited edition wines and willing to pay more for the upscale tasting, another tasting room with separate tasting fee in the Vineyard Room.
Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Chateau St Jean in Sonoma

Another mile and a half down the road is an opportunity to visit a wine cave on a tour for free on the Kunde Family Estate.  When they open the doors to the wine cave (it is also a nicely informative tour) looking into the cave, it looks like such an endless hallway of barrels which is quite an effect. They are one of the oldest family owned wineries in Sonoma, having been founded in 1904 and is now in its fifth generation. You can if you’d like do a mountaintop tasting which they offer from 11:30-2:30 PM. If you’re looking for a little exercise and have 4 hours to use, you can also choose to to inquire about reserving a spot on their Hiking tour – and they have a version that is a Dog Hike. If you do bring your dog here, the dog must remain leashed – though your furry friend can go on the cave tour with us as long as he’s quiet and well behaved.

If you love wines with volcanic soil, you will also like the wines at Kunde – my favorite personally was the Kunde 1904 Dessert Cuvee. Also if you stop, look out for the hedge dressed up as a wine bottle!

The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top The The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top Wine tasting caves at Kunde Family Estate Wine tasting caves at Kunde Family Estate Wine tasting caves at Kunde Family Estate Wine tasting caves at Kunde Family Estate Tasting the Kunde 1904 Dessert Cuvee with a chocolate The beautiful views of Kunde Family Estate with their wine cave and mountain top Visiting the wine caves and tasting wines at Kunde Famnily Estate  Cute shrubbery dressed up as a Kunde Family Estate wine bottle

If you are looking for some out of this world cabernet sauvignon, you might also consider checking out Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, 5 miles south on Highway 12 from Kunde. We have now transitioned from Kenwood to Glen Ellyn.

Of the list of wineries I’ve shared, this is a more smaller, intimate tasting room though the prices were also significantly higher. Really great Cabernet though!
Visiting Arrowood Winery, which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons Visiting Arrowood Winery Visiting Arrowood Winery which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons Visiting Arrowood Winery which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons Visiting Arrowood Winery which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons Visiting Arrowood Winery which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons Visiting Arrowood Winery which offers outstanding Cabernet Sauvignons

Clearly, I’m also smitten with visiting vineyards in the winter for the lovely colors of the leaves!

The last winery I am going to highlight is Imagery Estate Winery and Art Gallery, which is at the same initial driveway as Arrowood off Highway 12 – you just have to turn left at the fork instead of right.

While most winery stops were 30 minutes to an hour, we spent our longest winery stop here and the other couple we were traveling with signed up to be wine club members (and I admit I also bought several wines to take home).

They have a huge variety of different varietals to try. They create original art for their bottles, some of the art which is displayed in a little gallery in the back, and F and I spent time looking through their prints and magnets of that art as well. Sadly I was so busy drinking I didn’t get many photos except for these.

Imagery wines are only sold here, so this would be your only chance to get them. Each artwork for each bottle must include the Parthenon in done way which makes it a bit of a hunt to find it on some, or interesting to see how it got incorporated in others. And there’s hundreds of these labels to peruse. They also have a little garden on their property which helps supply local restaurant The Girl and The Fig!

Visiting Imagery Estate Winery Visiting Imagery Estate Winery Visiting Imagery Estate Winery Visiting Imagery Estate Winery Visiting Imagery Estate Winery

What is your favorite time of year to visit vineyards- spring, summer, or fall/winter?

This post is the third in my series about visiting Sonoma. For 2014 I have one more Sonoma post where I will recap the holiday (Thanksgiving) meal at The Girl and The Fig, and after the New Year, the series will continue with more wineries, and also looking at beer by visiting breweries in the area.

 

 

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