Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekend Review, Part 3: Winter Wineland

Woke up early on Sunday, helped The Hit off to the airport, then returned the mountain bike that we rented for him and finally drove up 101 north to meet some friends for a day of wine drinking, specifically the Winter Wineland event along the Russian River Wine Road.

In English, what that means is this: for $30, you get a ticket, a bracelet, a commemorative glass of wine, and entrance to and free tastings at any of the 119 participating wineries. Oh, and each one has food as well. Considering the price of a wine tasting is often $10-15 with no food, this is beyond a great deal.

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center: A Gooner lies within

We started at Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Fulton, where we met up with a group of friends including among others my homies Joe Gizzle and John John. Initially I was kind of hoping that there would be someone at KJ to talk about Curlin with, since the horse is owned by Jess Jackson, founder of Kendall-Jackson Wineries, but it never worked out. Even better was the woman who served our Pinot tasting who had a Brit accent. I asked her where she was from, and she responded that she was from Somewhere-Upon-Something I had never heard of. So of course I followed up with "what is your favorite football side"? to which she most epically responded "Well, although I was only a few miles from Manchester, I could never root for Manchester United, so I have always supported Arsenal." Yeah, this day is off to an excellent start.

Joe Gizzle: Wine Sherpa Supreme

As a sort of local, Joe Gizzle served as our Wine Sherpa for the day, and he and his wife picked out 7 other wineries for us to try. And what a sherpa he was. Without his guidance, all of the rest of us surely would have gotten lost on the extremely over the river and through the woods trip from Kendall-Jackson over the the Alexander Valley. The second winery we hit was called Field Stone. Of all the wineries we went to I have to give this one extra props because they are obviously down with college football. Observez:

{click to enlarge}

Which one of these is not like the other?

Initially I was disappointed that there was no Georgia bottle, whilst there was a Florida Gators 2007 National Champions bottle, but fair play to them- they did win a national title. At least there wasn't a Georgia Tech one, or an Auburn or Tennessee. I get most of the rest- PAC 10 schools & national powerhouses- but Iowa? Seriously dude- Iowa?

Then I realized that it wasn't so bad that there wasn't a UGA bottle, because I would have paid whatever they were asking for it {i didn't look}. Orson Swindle, Peter Bean, nor DCTrojan wouldn't have gotten out of there without the compulsory souvenir purchase.

White Oak Vineyards

White Oak Vineyards

I won't bore you with all the details of each place, but we moseyed down the road and hit several more wineries along the way, each of which was cool in it's own way. I will say that Russian River/Alexander Valley/Sonoma in general is more my speed when it comes to wine country: much more down to earth, laid back, and less glamor/glitz/ostentatious than some places in the Napa Valley. I'm no expert- hell I'm the other dude in "Sideways" when it comes to wine, but there is definitely a more laid back, chill feel in this area, and I dig it.

Alexander Valley, Sonoma County

Places we went in Alexander Valley:

1. Kendall-Jackson Wine Center
2. Field Stone Winery
3. Hanna Winery
4. Alexander Valley Vineyards
5. White Oak Vineyards & Winery
6. Stryker Sonoma Winery
7. Robert Young Estate Winery
8. Mosaic Winery

Caves at Robert Young Estate Winery

Afternoon sun, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County

I will mention the story behind the epic picture below. John John had a DD wristband and couldn't get served at the wineries, which was fine by him because he is a beer man. Feeling his pain after we had hit about 5 wineries, I mentioned that I had a gift for him in the car: a giant bottle of hefeweizen in my car that had been sitting on ice for more than a day, as it was to be for the post bike & hike sunset the day prior that never quite happened. I told him he could sip on it throughout the afternoon. He was super appreciative, and off we all went in our cars to the next place, which was a nice 5 min drive down the road. I parked a the next winery and turned around a John John was chugging the beer out of a brown bag in the winery parking lot. My favorite part is that I gave him just the beer bottle, but he just happened to have a brown bag in his car that would serve his purpose beautifully. Sober it would have been funny; six wineries in it was beyond hilarious.

You stay classy, John John.

Afterwards we went over to Healdsburg, where I had reserved a hotel room for the night because 1) I didn't want to drive back to SF after the wine-a-thon and 2) we had Monday off so we brought the bikes and were planning on doing some adventurin' the next day. I even managed to slip in a call to my friends Peter & Orson en route. After a nice long dinner everyone else rolled home and we made it to the hotel in time to see the Hippies complete their return from the brink to win The Amazing Race, which pleased us to no end.

Here's the full set of pictures from our Wine-A-Palooza.

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