04 July, 2008

July 4th Wine Wobble

July 4th we arose early (for us), jumped into our red, white and Blue (I wait all year to don my Beverley Feldman satin flag loafers) and set out to find out what Sierra Foothills wine is all about. Our only misstep of the day was to return to a spot we'd earmarked for breakfast the night before: Grounds. Although the place is darling and the food is great, the service would have to take a couple of classes and then really strive to achieve "Lackluster" . It took us over an hour to get our food and go, while all around us people were getting served and leaving. In retrospect I'd wished we'd decided to eat across the parking lot from the motel. Because it took so long, we ended up skipping both Lavender Ridge and Stevenot's tasting rooms. The upside, is that Murphys itself has such charm, we resolved to return. One tip: wherever you breakfast or lunch, be sure to use the restrooms as one quirk of Murphys is that due to some litigation by the handicapped, none (really! not even one!) of the tasting rooms have public restrooms. I will say that because of that, to me, the restroom was the highlight of my visit to Grounds.

First stop on the Wine Wobble: Millaire! After our great experience's with Millaire Wine the night before, we were eager to track them down to taste some more. The tasting room is located in the most adorable building that used to be an old time Gas Station. The subliminal message: Time to fill up! was not lost on us. Eight wines were available for tasting and I must say I enjoyed them all! I loves the fact that the first wine we tried was a sparkler which cleansed the palate and smoothed away the crankiness from breakfast. Bright and bubbly it was demi-sec and delicious.The '07 Chardonnay with its creamy subtle fruit took double gold at the El Dorado fair. The charming lady pouring suggested cheesecake as a good pairing for the ultra sweet '06 Catherine's Cuvee Muscat, which comes in a blue bottle and would make a great hostess gift. I love orange anything and honey everything, so the combination of the two, subtle, but developed enough for my still learning palate was great. We also tried:
'04 Dogtown Merlot- smooth and food friendly
'04 Old Vine Calaveras Zinfandel - blending fruits from vineyards ranging from 40 - 110 years old, the smooth taste and bright raspberry aromas showed us why it took gold at both California state and Amador County fairs
'04 Clockspring Zinfandel - this wine won too many awards to type. Lots of brown spice and black pepper this is tasty!
'05 Late Harvest Zinfandel - Sweet and peppery at once!
'04 Clockspring Port - fortified with grappa, there is no brandy taste to this. Different!http://www.milliairewinery.com/

Next stop on our "Park once, taste Lots!" Wine Wobble was Black sheep Winery. Located on Main Street in a charming former farmhouse. They split their wines into two groups, Black Sheep and also, an everyday wine label, "True Frog", which celebrates the heritage of Calaveras County's historic Jumping Frog. In red, white and rose, True Frog is priced to be a delicious everyday wine. All were vivid colors, with colorful labels and fun flavors.

The Black Sheep labels are put on wine that was heftier and much more serious. We tasted: Merlot, Meritage, Shiraz, Cinsault, Amador Zinfandel , Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc

All were good; balanced but powerful tannins that made them seem food friendly. Because I love the unusual and spicy, I ended up buying a Cinsault as well as a Lily Pad White to have on hand for the white wine drinkers in my life. Bottom line: I LOVED the label! This tasting was as super fun experience made even more enjoyable by the nice and knowledgeable tasting room staff.

To find out more:

We continued our travels at Salomon Wine Company where the standout for me, because it was so very different was the Muse Winery "Carnivale". Ultra sweet, this is a sangria wine cooler in a bottle. I can totally see serving this on a hot summer night over lots of ice in frosty Mexican goblets.

Then, we continued the Wobble arriving at my favorite spot, the Newsome-Harlow tasting room. The gorgeous atmosphere transported me to Napa. Without Napa's crowds, exorbitant tasting fees or snark factor. This place is fabulous! And best of all the wines are great! We tasted:

'07 Sauvignon Blanc which tasted clean and fresh with an overall character of fruit but no vivid tropical aromas or flavors
'06 Big John's Zinfandel which also reflected the winemaker's sense of balance with a whisper of oak creating a structured wine consistent with the local character
'05 Train Wreck a blend of Cab Sauv with Syrah and a few others thrown in for good measure. Smooth elegant mouthfeel with a delicious dark color. assertive berry flavor and a super finish. Yum!
'05 Meritage it had 65% cab Sauv 24% Merlot 11% Petit Verdot and a dark fruit forward taste.
'06 El Portal Petite Sirah with 15% Zin this wine had a hint of brown spice and a lot of fruit with out a lot of sweetness. It was a food friendly wine almost chewy with tannins.

Look how gorgeous this place is! I expect to see you there later this summer or maybe in the winter when the snow hits Murphys!

For more info: http://www.newsome-harlow.com/

We also hit Zucca, where my tasting was super edited since I knew I had to sober up for the short trek the Indian Rock. More on Zucca from Xandria.

Much later after extensive shopping, sightseeing and hanging out in Murphys downtown, we relinquished our parking spot and drove over to Indian Rock.
Indian Rock Vineyards is a little way outside the town of Murphys in a beautifully redone historic building by the side of a spring fed lake. Many of the wines have a European sensibility owing to the training and heritage of winemaker Marco Cappelli. In almost every case, owing to my driving, I spit more wine than I tasted, bit not because I didn't enjoy the the wine, which incidentally is touted as being "All Natural". Among those we tasted:
'06 Sauvignon Blanc cool, green flavors. A delicious wine
'06 Coyote Creek White excellent, balanced with big scoops of stone fruit
'06 Viognier Slightly dusty aromas, opening into a typical viognier with its dry, stemmy taste
'06 Pinot Noir light in color, a typical example of the more European styled typical pinot
'05 Coyote Creek Red a zesty blend of Cab Franc, Sauv, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zin with lots of vanilla from oak and raspberry notes
'05 Syrah Redolent with black cherry, this is a great barbecue wine
'05 Cabernet Less presence of oak than the preceding wines, it had a soft round taste with sharp tannins at the beginning softening to a round finish.
The tasting room staff made this a fun and informative visit!
Whew! It was back to the motel for a short nap to rest up for the main event: The Fourth of July Barbecue at Twisted Oak!

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