Wow, what a weekend! A lot happened to this wino dino over the past few days, everything of course revolving around delicious fermented grapes.
Started off on Saturday with a quick surprise visit to a lovely fellow named Andrew for his birthday party. As a wine lover and an even bigger dinosaur fan you can imagine he was quite excited to have the one and only Wineosaur pop in and make an appearance! The rest of the birthday clan seemed a bit confused by a large lizard walking into an adult birthday party but once they realized I came bearing wine they warmed up quite quickly. Andrew and his wife also had the most adorable dinosaur themed nursery (handlers take note, if you deem it necessary to bring a little bambino into the world, I expect it to reside in a room that also doubles as a mini shrine to me).
After the party, my handlers brought me along to a small event called “Friends of the Vine”. This consisted of a group of wine lovers who meet up once a month and typically everyone brings a bottle or two of their wine of choice. This way everyone gets to try some new wines that they may not have had before. This week was a little different though as one of the members did a little wine and cheese pairing using some of the award winners from the California State Fair.
My personal favorite of the night was the 2015 Black Stallion Sauvignon Blanc (voted best Napa white wine) that was paired up with the Laura Chenel Chèvre. The Sauvignon was light and crisp with lots of citrus notes which was a wonderful way to wind down on a hot summer evening.
Sunday started out a little slower than planed. My handlers were reluctant to get out of bed after overindulging a bit at the event the night before. After assuring them that it would be a crime to let such a beautiful day go to waste, I was finally able to talk them into getting presentable looking to take me around to some local wineries.
Let me tell you, with over 100 wineries located in the Sierra Foothills, picking 3 or 4 to visit can be quite a daunting task. Lucky for me, my handlers are quite well versed in them! This time around they decided that it would be best to take me up to the Somerset area and try a few new wineries that are located on or slightly off of Grizzly Flat Road. The drive up from Cameron Park took about 35-40 min and once you start driving into the forest area, the scenery is just breathtaking.
Our first stop of the day was Cantiga Wineworks and right off the bat as you come up their driveway, you can’t help but be impressed with the gothic style tasting room.
With beautiful large wooden doors, gorgeous arched windows and ancient looking tapestries on the wall, you feel like you traveled back in time to a medieval wine bar. We were first greeted by Blackjack, an adorable winery dog whom really enjoyed my handlers but was not a huge fan of mine (my robust size must have bothered him a bit). The assistant winemaker Seth was kind enough to help us out from there.He was an extremely knowledgeable, funny guy who instantly got props from me since he was wearing a Pliny the Elder shirt. He went on to explain to us about what sets their wine apart from other area wineries. All of the wines at Cantiga are Non-Malolactic which is quite different as most red and white wines go through a process known as Malolactic fermentation. This process is done for several different reasons, a few being: adding stability to a wine, lowering acidity, and also altering the character or flavor of the wine. Cantiga believes that by not putting their wines through the Malolactic fermentation process, you are left with a more balanced, fruit-forward, lower sulfate wine that has a great cellar life. I for one am a believer, the 2012 Grenache was absolutely to die for. We also took home a 2007 La Petite Suite, a late harvest estate grown Petite Sirah, with just the right amount of sweetness and tawny color. I can’t wait to bust this gem out after a dinner with friends.
Next up on the agenda was Busby Cellars. Before you even get to the driveway, you can’t help but notice the lush vines surrounding an old barn nestled on the front of the property. My female handler was “oohing” and “ahhing” over it as though she had never seen a barn before in her life.We went into the tasting room and were greeted by Elliot. He and his wife Sherrie are the proud owners of the winery and built it from the ground up. When they purchased the property, all that was there was the historic Meyers Ranch Barn. From there they began planting the vineyard and today they produce about 2,000 cases a year.You can tell that Elliot is very passionate about his wine and it is definitely reflected by how it tastes! In fact, the handlers enjoyed it so much they joined the “Wine Thief” club. Though I am pretty sure we took home almost a bottle of each wine they had available, there were a few stand out wines for me. The 2014 El Dorado Chardonnay, which is fermented in a stainless steel barrel prior to being transferred into oak, was nice and crisp with a hint of apple and just a touch of oakyness. Also the Meyers Ranch Red, a nice table wine that could pair up with just about anything, boasted a great picture of the barn on the property. Busby Cellars is a beautiful winery with lots to offer: great wine, gorgeous views, and owners who obviously love what they do.
Just a mile or so down the road we came across Saluti Cellars which you can tell is somewhere special right when you turn into their driveway. The entrance down into the canyon is beautiful in itself, a winding paved road takes you down, down, down, until you pop out into a stunning scene. First thing that caught my eye was the rolling vineyard, set back behind a beautiful pond with a fountain of water. A bocce ball court and horse shoe pit lined two sides of the pond.
Up on the hill to your right is a log style home that the owners, Randy and Tina live in. On the lower level you will find the tasting room where we were lucky enough to have both owners pouring and got to chat with them a bit. They have a lot to offer at Saluti because not only is it a winery, but they also are a wedding venue and have a bed and breakfast. One look at this property and you can tell instantly that a wedding here would be absolutely breathtaking. While enjoying your wine in the tasting room, you can see the photos of past weddings on the television. Right from the first sip I knew this dino was going to be taking home the 2014 Syrah Rosé. With a delicately sweet fruity flavor, this wine felt right at home in my belly. We also decided on the 2012 Petite Sirah as it will pair nicely with a grilled Tri Tip with it’s deep color and full flavor. Before leaving we were allowed to go check out one of the caves on the property which was a real treat! Who doesn’t love a nice wine cave, especially one that has what looks like a medieval dinner table in the back of it, complete with a sword on the wall and a wrought iron door.
Everything about Saluti is great because everywhere you look there is something new and exciting to check out. We will definitely be going back to see everything we missed the first time.
Overall this weekend was fantastic. A special thanks to all the places that were kind enough to let me run loose on their properties because let’s face it – It’s not everyday that you see a dinosaur at a winery. I often wonder how many people went to work today and said “you know, I saw the damnedest thing out wine tasting yesterday…..A DINOSAUR!” Uh huh, sure buddy, just how much did you have to drink?