THE LONG & WINE-ING ROAD
When we left Healdsburg and drove up the mountain in search of tulips, I had no idea I was about to fall in love – head over heels – with a place, with a setting, with an experience and with the wines. To re-coin an old, old phrase, “it was to be an affair to remember.”
Normally, I’m not a ‘mansion-y/villa’ kind of girl – preferring a more cottage-y, cozy, country English-y-French-y type of abode – but a girl can change her mind, right? Behind massive iron gates nestled amid vast vineyards was an enormous Italian villa w/ gardens and enoteca designed by Rhonda Carano. In the immortal words of… well, me, “I could live here!”
As we meandered past the ‘hidden’ Japanese garden and up to the villa’s main entrance, our search for tulips came to an end. Greeting us were hundreds of tulips (well, it seemed like hundreds) beautifully displayed in all their glory. A bronze statute of a young girl stood sentry duty.
Before we ventured in, we were treated to a grand view of the vineyards from the terrace of the villa.
Inside the large upstairs tasting room we immediately went to the wine bar (duh - no surprise there) enveloped in a gauze-like halo of sunlight just as the sun peeked out from behind gray clouds. A good omen? Yes. We started w/ the $5.00 tasting menu and it was love at first flight.
These wines are all moderately priced (under $35), commercially accessible and a good value. We sipped a 2009 Bella Luce Sonoma County white wine blend ($16) that was light and summery; a 2008 chardonnay – Sonoma County ($23) that had that oak-y flavor I like; a 2007 Tre Terre chardonnay – Russian River ($30) that had a nice buttery flavor (this wine is not sold in stores, however); a light 2008 Siena – Sonoma County blend of sangiovese and malbec ($23); a 2007 zinfandel – Dry Creek Valley ($28) that had a really nice, rich “zinful” flavor; and a 2006 cab – Alexander Valley ($34) I liked. Best buy: a 2007 Villa Fiore Cabernet Sauvignon – Alexander Valley ($17). The upstairs bar also had a $15.00 tasting menu, but we decided to pass and head downstairs to try the winery’s limited releases – also a $15 dollar tasting.
But before we did, we were treated to a tour through the cellar that houses French oak barrels of fermenting wine. I loved the biting, slightly vinegar-y aroma in the temperature controlled chilled cave.
We then strolled on the terrace and meandered through the nearest vineyard. Like I said before, I could live there. The winery even has olives trees and makes its own olive oil. What’s not to love? Olive oil and wine – two of my favorite food ‘groups.’
Back inside, we entered the downstairs main tasting room designed with clean modern lines with an Italian flair in rich dark woods, stone pillars and what appeared to be a travertine floor that offset the large ornamental chandeliers.
Abutting this room was a private tasting room with its own bar and comfortable upholstered chairs that provided a more intimate setting for those who like a little intimacy w/ their wines. After all, for some it is a love affair.
After taking in the décor, it was time for some serious tasting… and this time we hit the gold standard. We started off w/ a 2008 Viognier – Alexander Valley ($22). Without a doubt this was the best white wine I enjoyed since arriving in Sonoma County… just plain creamy delicious. I almost felt as if I’d cheated on my 1st white wine love, chardonnay, but all was forgiven when I embraced the…
… 2007 Chardonnay Reserve – Carneros ($32). A buttery winner.
(A cool Ferrari-Carano winery fact: the white wine making team, headed by Sarah Quider, is almost all women. I liked that.)
Not to be outdone by the whites, the reds (Aaron Piotter is the winemaker ‘to the reds’) were equally as good. I felt I was being wooed.
The 2006 Tresor – Sonoma County – Bordeaux-Style blend of cab, malbec, merlot, petit verdot & cab franc ($58) was a definite two thumbs up.
The 2005 PreVail West Face – Alexander Valley which is 65% cab and 35% syrah ($55) was smooth w/ a hint of milk chocolate.
And the 2005 PreVail Back Forty (literally from the back forty) – Alexander Valley, which was 100% cab ($85) was velvety… dark chocolate-y… espresso-y… just creamy dreamy. OK, when it comes to wine, just call me promiscuous!
Our tasting was finished and it was time to leave… well after a little wine shopping (I had to have that Viognier and my brother and Richard had to get a couple of bottles of the “best buy” Villa Fiore cab)… But on the way to our car, we took one last tour… through the lush Japanese garden w/ exotic plants and trees...
sculptures and beautiful blooming flowers.
Garden of Eden? Close enough. I really could live there.