It's Will-ah-met, damn it! The locals are a bit touchy about the pronunciation of their outstanding wine region, but Sally and I were willing to learn the local lingo in return for some great finds at some terrific wineries. Miles would be in heaven here because the main thing is Pinot Noir, but you can also find some good Pinot Blancs, Chardonnays, and even the occasional Syrah.
The Four Graces
Our first stop of the day was the Four Graces in Dundee Hills. Most wineries in the area open at 11 am, so the Four Graces was our pick because it sounded interesting and opened at 10. They poured a very crisp and refreshing Pinot Gris along with five different Pinot Noirs. It was interesting to taste the differences in the same varietal from the same winery. All were good, but our favorite was the '07 Dundee Hills Reserve Pinot Noir which smelled like good BBQ smoke and would go nicely with a piece of slow cooked meat. Mmmmmm.
This winery is French-owned, so they were pouring wines from both sides of the pond. Our favorites were their very balanced 2008 Chardonnay Arthur and their 2007 Pinot Noir Laurene Cuvee that managed to be both delicate and complex at the same time.The grounds were beautiful with views of the valley that might be amazing if it weren't for the gray sky and slight fog.
A worthy goal when wine tasting is to get a taste of something not on the menu. Going off the tasting menu seemed to be in the plans at the Four Graces and Domain Drouhin, but we had to do some smooth talking at Domain Serene. We started by tasting a Chardonnay and a couple of Pinot Noirs and then moved on to their "Rockblock" Syrah. Their '05 Rockblock Del Rio Vineyard Syrah was very impressive with deep fruit and a taste that grows in complexity. Our server mentioned they only had 17 bottles left of their '06 Rockblock Reserve Syrah so it wasn't open. Hmmmmmm. Fast forward a few minutes and it WAS open, we enjoyed it, and bought two bottles. Just like that they were down to 14 bottles. Almost sold out! Domain Serene was another beautiful winery that would have some impressive views on a clear, sunny day.
And now, a lunchtime interlude... We dined at Farm to Fork, a gourmet deli and restaurant that was very 'wine country' with it's nice selection of locally sourced vegetables, wonderful meats, and innovative takes on traditional lunchtime sandwiches.
Back to wine...
The inside of their tasting room looked like a garage, complete with a beautiful '68 Corvette parked in the middle. Okay, it really WAS the guy's garage! But the wine was good and very interesting. He had an estate Pinot Noir from his Dundee Hills vineyard (45 North) and a Pinot Noir made from grapes grown on land he owned in New Zealand (45 South). Both were terrific and reasonably priced ($28/$29) compared to other comparable wines we'd tasted that day.
This was another winery that featured beautiful views (if only the day was clear). Like everywhere else, their main show was Pinot Noir, and their several varieties were solidly good.
One last note... Six wineries in one day. Were we drunk? No. Here's the secret to enjoying some wine tasting while still having gas in the tank at the end of the day.
- Share. You've just cut your intake (and tasting fees) by 50%.
- Don't drink it if you don't like it. There's no sense in quaffing everything put in front of you.
- Don't drink it all if you don't love it. It's perfectly OK to take a sip and dump the rest of the glass.
- Pick your favorite at the end of the day and THEN get pickled.