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2006 Cuvaison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa CA

Based on the recommendation of our new friend Sandy over at Saintsbury, we made a stop at Cuvaison winery off of Highway 121.  Located directly across from the entrance to Domain Carneros is Cuvaison.  The view from the newly built tasting room at Cuvaison is pretty great.  You can see the Mayacamas mountain range and surrounding vineyard from the tasting room which is very modern.  I felt almost as if it was a bit too modern and industrial feeling.  Our favorite wines of the bunch that we tasted were the 2006 Cabernet (pictured above), the 2007 Syrah and last but not least the Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon which features fruit from Mount Veeder appellation (86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc).  The Brandlin winery is a small production (~500 cases of the Cab) winery that Cuvaison purchased located on Mount Veeder in Napa, CA.  This was a pretty great tasting cab and would have landed in our shopping cart if the price wasn't in the stratosphere. 

Both Rachel and I were caught off guard a bit by the $15 tasting charge per person.  I think what made this worse is that Cuvaison charged us for the tasting even after we purchased a couple bottles of wine for nearly $80.  I guess that's what you get when you enter into the pricier Napa zone.  Maybe we're helping to pay for their mucho modern tasting room? - I'm not sure.  Winery Map.


2007 Saintsbury Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch, Carneros CA

What started as an unexpected detour resulted in an incredible find when visiting Saintsbury winery yesterday.  After leaving Gloria Ferrer we headed East along the Sonoma Highway in search of two wineries that we came across on a map in the Carneros region.  The two wineries are named Etude Wines and Ceja - both located off Hwy 121 on Cuttings Wharf Road.  However, before we ventured too far down Cuttings Wharf Rd. we came across a sign for Saintsbury winery.  Rachel saw the small Saintsbury sign and recongnized the name as being one of the featured wines at The Press Club in San Francisco - which we have both tried.   We decided to take the detour and check out the winery which did not stand out from the road since it was tucked back a bit with no signage from the street.   As we pulled into the dirt driveway we noticed a couple heading to their car with a box of purchased wine - which told us that there was indeed a tasting room.

We were greeted by a slew of winery cats that were very friendly and in need of attention as well as a very friendly host named Sandy Hausser (  We were suprised to learn that upon our arrival at 3:45 PM, we were only the second visitors to the winery that day.  We learned that only as of this past summer, had Saintsbury opened their doors on Saturdays to tastings.

We experienced a very personalized tasting seated at a table as Sandy poured eight wines for us.  Saintsbury started producing Chardonnay which paid the bills then slowly grew into producing region-defining Pinot Noir back in 1981.  Interesting to note that Carneros became an official appellation in 1983, two years after Saintsbury’s founding.  The Pinots that we tasted were great and ranged from very young blends to estate designated vintages which were complex and unique.  The wines that we tasted in order were:

  1. 2007 Carneros Chardonnay       $19.99
  2. 2007 Brown Ranch Chardonnay $39.95 *
  3. 2008 Garnet Pinot Noir               $19.99
  4. 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir           $34.95
  5. 2007 Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir     $44.95 *
  6. 2007 Lee Vineyard Pinot Noir     $44.95
  7. 2007 Brown Ranch Pinot Noir     $59.95 *
  8. 2007 Rodgers Creek Syrah        $39.95 *

The wines noted with an asterisk were ones that we especially liked and purchased.  Both Brown Ranch Chardonnay and Pinot were really great tasting wines.  We rarely buy whites but were both impressed by the Chardonnay.  The Carneros Pinot is their most popular wine that contains a variety of Pinot fruit both estate grown and purchased.  The Stanly Ranch and Lee Vineyard Pinots were very complex and were pretty eye opening to be honest.  Both having a unique taste even with fruit being from essentially the same region.  We both like the Syrah which like most Syrahs was very inky and thin in the mouth but with a unique flavor and finish.  All great wines and an even greater tasting experience.  I highly recommend a visit to this winery for a uniquely personalized tasting experience without all the crowds.  I joked with Sandy to hold off from putting up lots of signs to drive awareness until we could get some of our friends in to experience some of their great Pinots.  We'll definitely be going back.  Winery Map.


2002 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée

While we were tasting outside on the patio at Gloria Ferrer, our host brought out a complimentary tasting of their 2002 Royal Cuvée Brut.  Because I always focus on the Brut Rosé at Gloria Ferrer I miss out on their other sparkling wines.  It's been some time since we did a full tasting of all their varietals (sparkling and still wines) so the Royal Cuvée was a pleasant surprise.  The citrus and apple flavor as well as the looong finish won me over.  Tasting notes and more info can be found here.


2005 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé, Sonoma CA

Yesterday we jumped in the car and headed out to do some wine tasting with a couple goals in mind.  One was to visit Gloria Ferrer and the other was to discover some new wineries that we'd never been to.  Gloria Ferrer is probably our favorite sparkling winery to visit in Sonoma and we always make it our first stop when heading up to Sonoma to do some wine tasting.  The winery has a tasting terrace/patio that overlooks their vineyard and the surrounding Sonoma Valley and is a perfect setting to enjoy a glass of their sparkling wine and a few roasted and spiced almonds.  We also like this spot because we can bring our dog Toby with us since they allow dogs on the patio. 

The Brut Rosé pictured above has been our hands-down favorite Tête de Cuvée sparkling wine for some time because of the fruity and citrus flavors.  It has a great finish and is very versatile allowing you to pair with seafood, cheese and olives.  Tasting notes from the winery can be found here.

For anyone planning a wine tasting trip to the Sonoma Valley, I highly recommend stopping off at Gloria Ferrer which is one of the first wineries you will come across when entering the valley.  They offer tours of their champagne caves as well which is pretty neat.  Winery Map.


2004 Prevail Back Forty Red Wine, Alexander Valley CA

This is a special bottle that we had been holding onto for some time after picking it up at the Ferrari-Carano winery back on December 13, 2008.  We gave it a nickname of "ocho-cinco" because of how much it costs.  If you've never been wine tasting at the Ferrari-Carano winery I highly recommend it, not only for the great wine but for the exclusive tasting room called the Enoteca Reserve Tasting Bar - located underneath the main shop and tasting area. 

We brought this bottle with us to Bacar restaurant on New Year's Eve last Thursday (12.31.09).  I think our expectations for this bottle exceeded the actual taste and quality of the wine to be honest.  Maybe it was the price that influenced our opinions - or maybe it was our memory of how great it tasted back in December 2008.  Whatever the case, the wine went well with our meals but when first opened had a somewhat sour finish that subsided after some time.  For some reason, I thought this wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon but when we pulled it out and actually read the label last week we realized that it was a red blend defined only as having "superior grapes from the Alexander Valley".  It would be great to actually know which varietals are in the bottle.  The flavor was fairly complex with currant and ripe black cherry flavors and a soft finish - no significant tannins.  More info and tasting notes can be found here.

I guess if we had to do it over again, we would have brought a more specific varietal instead of a blend and try and pair it with the meal.  The dinner was great and the wine went well with the meal - it just fell short of my expectations since it was a special night for Rachel and I (New Years Eve). Winery Map