Thursday, April 26, 2012

April in Carneros

I was introduced to the festival scene in Carneros 3 years ago for a friends November birthday. I can't remember now if we partook on purpose or found it by accident but from the first time I was impressed with all the value added. I have been to quite a few wine events (be they in one location or at multiple wineries) and this has been one of the best. Branded as Holiday in Carneros in November & April in Carneros in April over 20 wineries participate offering numerous food pairings as well as vendors with artisan foods, jewelery, and art for sale.
 In the past we have taken a limo up to the event so everyone could enjoy themselves. There are a few drawbacks to the limo however. Firstly- it can be pricey and you are on a firm timeline to arrive home before it gets even more expensive. In the past we have paid anywhere from $50 - $70 a piece to hire one for a day like this. The second draw back that I have experienced is that it never seems to fail that the driver has no clue where he is going and ends up wasting considerable amounts of time in between wineries trying to figure it out (even when we have provided them with an itinerary well in advance). They are often rude and unaccommodating and we have left with a bad taste in our mouths more than once. We decided this time around we would take matters in to our own hands! We rented a mini van for $96 for the day and were exceptionally lucky to have one friend who wanted to join us for the day but didn't feel like drinking. After gas we paid less than $30 a piece and had a much better time.
Our first stop for the day was Jacuzzi Family Vineyards . You may remember them from my post about the Lavender sugar that I had purchased at the Olive Press shop on their property. There are so many reasons to love this winery. First off the property is beautiful. Modeled with an Italian Villa motif of the founders homeland there are pieces of family history everywhere. From the references to the planes they were building in the early 1920's to the Jacuzzi hot tubs made later by the family.
With their Italian heritage it is no surprise that they produce a vast array of Italian Varietals. According to their web site they first planted Zinfandel (a descendant of the Italian primotivo), Carignane, & Mourvedre. Today they produce more than 20 different white & red Italian varietals including a sparkling proseco style. For me this makes them very unique and I enjoy their wines quite a bit. They are at a great moderate price point so you feel like you can enjoy them anytime. This is my favorite place to start anytime I come to Carneros. For this event they had a clear tent covering their courtyard and had set up 4 different tasting stations with pairings.
We started first with their Pinot Grigio which they had paired with some freshly made focaccia bread using any herb seasoned sea salt. Next in line was Sangiovese paired with an Aribbiata sea salt seasoned meatball (spicy & delicious!).
Next a Merlot of with a sea salt chocolate and lastly their late harvest dessert wine served in a chocolate shot glass (a signature).

Along with the stations we were able to taste their other wines at the bars set up near the edges including the new proseco. It was such a hot day if I had to pick a favorite wine I would have to go with the Tocai Friulano and nice crisp white wine with tropical fruit flavors. It was so refreshing in the 90 degree heat!

One thing that strikes everyone when they visit Jacuzzi is what a beautiful venue it would be for a wedding. Their large barrel room event space almost has a feeling of a  rustic basilica with the perfect front alcove to stage the ceremony and their outdoor spaces would lend themselves beautifully to the reception.
From Jacuzzi we headed right across the street to another favorite Cline Cellars.The Cline's are actually an extension of the Jacuzzi family. Valeriano Jacuzzi's Daughter married a Cline son. According to their website the Jacuzzi/Cline's son Fred grew to love the vineyard and wine making business after summers with his grandparents. He received a degree in Agriculture Management from UC Davis and went on to begin his own vineyard. In contrast to Jacuzzi's Italian varietals Cline focus's on Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne. Their biggest focus however is their Zinfandel's. Again I think we were a little biased by the heat but throughout the group it was unanimous that their Mourvedre Rose was by far our favorite.
For their food pairing Cline did a variety of sausages. Along with each station having sliced bites they were also serving them on hearty rolls with a variety of artisanal mustards. This site was particularly crowded so we did not spend as much time here as I maybe would have liked but we were able to taste lots of good wine, and lots of good sausage!
Our next stop just down the street (after some harrowing cross the road driving.... the never ending line of cars does not make it easy!) was Gloria Ferrer. A Beautiful estate with grand sweeping views of the Carneros hills and valleys they specialize in sparkling wines Their methods are inspired by Spanish wine making in small distinct lots. When we arrived on site we were directed to one of the small terraces where they serving the festival specifically. The pours were generous however there was not much offered in the way of snacks. We all enjoyed the VA de VI the most of the wines they were serving (their still wines- the Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, and sparkling Va de Vi, Brut, & Rose). I think it may be the unique trace of the muscat grape added that really makes this sparkler special and appealing.

Little did we know when we were planning our trip that Kelly's uncle & his wife would also be enjoying the festival! After running into them at Jacuzzi we decided to meet up with them at Ceja for our final stop. Since we still had sometime we made two more small stops along the way at Anaba & Homewood wineries. Anaba had nice wines but was a bit under staffed and unlike the times I had been there in the fall did not seem to be as into the event with less organization and less to offer. Homewood was very organized giving each attendee a punch card to help keep track of the wines and food pairings they had enjoyed and there was space to rate your favorites. For a small more industrial site they did a great job putting forth the effort to be a worthwhile stop.
 After those two quick stops we made our way down the road to Ceja. We decided this would be the stop to break out our picnic spread after our hours of tasting wines. This was a little tricky as most of the good tables were in use by this point in the day but we were able to grab the end of one large table (albeit in the sun which was probably why it was free).
Let me just say- we are wine tasting day pros. Full case of water in the car, hummus, pita chips, & veggies, strawberries and all the fixings for a lovely Italian baguette sandwich (salami, prosciutto, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, and oil & vinegar) as well as other treats!
 After settling in we each took turns going to their tasting stations to check out their wines. Ceja is another beautiful family built winery.  The owners are of Mexican heritage and it adds a special influence to all that is done at Ceja.

They were featuring fun live music, wines served in doors & out (the inside decor is like a beautiful Spanish style custom home) and they even have bocce ball!

I'd be lying if I didn't come right out and say that the quality & quantity of food available complimentary with your ticket (which is a value at $39 pre-sale, covering the whole weekend if you stay up there!) is what really makes this for me. So many times you go to tasting events and they advertise the food offerings available but after spending $60 on your ticket you arrive to find out you need to spend even more on the food. This is not one of those events. We came prepared regardless with snacks and picnic food but it was almost rendered unnecessary.

April definitely had a more laid back feel from the Holiday event, and the crowds were big ( In our opinion the amazing weather had a lot to do with that). I would absolutely suggest checking it out this Fall!

Check back on the Hospitality de los Carneros website for updates on future events!

1 comment:

  1. we found it on accident... just happened to be the same weekend we decided to go. glad you were able to do an April trip... super jealous!