The Comstock Experience

Turning into the entrance of Comstock Wines, I noticed The Residence at Comstock Wines behind the winery. I had been looking forward to this two-day getaway for months, especially after having a tough January with the death of my mother and off and on respiratory illness.

I met the concierge, Erin, in the winery, and then I followed her to the residence to check in and get my key. She gave me a rundown of how everything worked and gave me a brief tour of the residence. I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of spending two days here. If there had been food, I would have never left. I kept thinking I should have stopped at a grocery store on the way. However, that would have been too much work. I was here to relax and take in the experience.

After Erin left, I was the only one at the residence as the other guests were out, so I took the opportunity to take photos. My master bedroom was beautifully decorated and included a fireplace, a sitting area, a work desk, and a welcome bottle of wine.

I have a thing for bathrooms and bathroom fixtures and the one that was a part of my master bedroom was nothing short of amazing, with both a spa bath and a separate shower. Similar to a high-end hotel, amenities such as a hair dryer, toiletries, and luxurious towels were included.

I ventured into the shared living spaces, the living room, the kitchen, and the media room on the second floor. The spaces were bright, modern, and spacious, with lots of natural light. They were impeccably clean, furnished, and meticulously well appointed.

Since I did not have food to prepare, I had asked Erin for dinner recommendations. Being the consummate concierge, she was a wealth of information and delighted to assist me. I told her I wanted something less expensive and touristy, so she directed me to Campo Fina, where I was able to sit at the bar in the patio outside and eat without a reservation. There, I enjoyed people watching and found something delicious and healthy to eat on the menu, Nonna’s Tomato Braised Chicken with sautéed Swiss chard and polenta, and splurged on a house cocktail, Plush, with Calle 23 Tequila Reposado, agave, pomegranate seeds, and Meyer lemon and lime juice.

After dinner, I walked to John & Zeke’s Bar, a local hangout, where the patrons had been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since early morning. I had a half of a pint of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. I debated staying longer, but the sun was setting and the residence was calling.

I arrived back to the residence just in time to enjoy a beautiful display of Mother Nature’s glory, a cloud-laden sky at dusk. The only light in the middle of the impending darkness was the orange glow of the residence. I walked the perimeter of the property, snapping photos right and left. I didn’t want to go inside, but I also didn’t want to unexpectedly stumble upon vineyard creatures of the night.

Then I remembered the fireplace! It was chilly, but not cold, probably not really cold enough for the fireplace, but I wanted to use it. I sat for hours in front of it, mesmerized by its light and warmth. Finally, I settled into one of the plush beds in my room and slept uninterrupted until daylight.

I awakened and decided to explore outdoors as well as get in a workout. Although it was damp, overcast, and cool, I covered most of the property, getting in about two miles of walking, running, and photos over the course of a few hours.

2017-03-18 14.04.37

I needed to grab lunch somewhere, so I messaged a friend of mine to ask for a recommendation and he sent me to Taqueria El Sombrero, a local favorite since 1986, which was a perfect choice: plentiful, yummy, and inexpensive. I had the huevos rancheros, which was way more than one person could eat.

Back at Comstock, I joined winemaker Chris Russi for a tasting prior to the annual winemaker dinner that evening. I have written about that tasting experience for another outlet, American Winery Guide (to be published soon), so I will not say anything more at this point other than it was splendid. I felt like I had made a new friend, not just tasted with a winemaker.

After the tasting, I had about 30 minutes to get ready for the winemaker dinner. I was told to wear cocktail attire, so I wore a new Ralph Lauren dress with black boots, which turned out to be perfect for the evening.

I joined the other dinner guests in the tasting room, where we enjoyed Comstock’s 2015 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Rosé, and 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with passed appetizers. A few of the attendees noticed I was alone and introduced themselves to me.

Shortly thereafter, we gathered for a tour of the winery with Chris Russi, which led us from the tasting room, to the crush pad, to the production area, and finally to the barrel space where we would be dining.

The dinner itself was nothing short of fantastic. It included two dinner courses, a cheese course, and dessert, all paired with Comstock wines: the 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 Russian River Valley Zinfandel, and the 2016 Late Harvest Zinfandel. My favorite course of the night was the chardonnay with a Bodega Bay seafood chowder. The bright acidity and luscious mouthfeel of the chardonnay brought the creamy, rich chowder to life.

After dinner, I lingered to take photos. I met members of the Comstock family, including patriarch Bob Comstock. We hit it off so well that I have an open invitation to return soon.

When everyone had left except for some of the winery staff, I spent a few hours with them taking more photos and talking. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcomed by a winery family. The fact that they allowed me to stay with them as they cleaned up and prepared for the next day was a testament to their openness and gracious hospitality.

The next day, I didn’t want to leave. Erin allowed me to check out later than usual so I could enjoy the residence and winery a little longer. During these two days, I learned that Comstock Wines isn’t solely a great winery, but an all-inclusive wine destination experience that I will never forget. The residence, the hospitality, the winemaking, and the comradery are etched in my mind forever. After all, “we are all Comstock Wines.”

Wine and Olive Oil

I’ve been on a bit of a writing ‘vacation’ since the fourth of July weekend, trying to sort out what I can continue to do in my increasingly limited spare time. I’ve enrolled in a wine marketing course this fall and I am being considered for a print writing opportunity, so I am at a point in my career where I need to make some decisions regarding my writing. I began an editorial calendar to figure out what I can do when so that I am able to enjoy free time as well. However, these past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to taste some interesting wines and an olive oil that I wanted to share with you. Therefore, voilà, an unexpected break from my self-imposed hiatus. These wines and olive oil are worth tasting. From my palate to yours, enjoy!

2013 Antigal Uno Malbec, Mendoza
2013 Antigal Uno Malbec, Mendoza

2013 Antigal Winery & Estates Uno Malbec, Mendoza, $18 (media sample)
What I most love about wine is that one sip can evoke time, place, people, and emotions. The 2015 Antigal Winery & Estates UNO Malbec takes me back three years to Mendoza, Argentina, the trip of a lifetime with a wonderful group of travel and writing professionals like me. Fermented and aged 12 months in French and American oak and sourced from higher-elevation, estate vineyards in Uco Valley, Tupungato, this malbec is not at all shy, with aromas of violets, cedar, blackberries, and spice. This dark ruby red, medium-bodied delight – with its interplay of vanilla, pepper, and dark fruits – is calling for grilled meat, roasted vegetables, and hearty potatoes. In this moment, my mind recalls an Argentine asado, whose intoxicating flavors of wine and food awaken memories of horseback riding in the Andes and late-night laughter in the streets of downtown Mendoza.

2014 Pike Road Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
2014 Pike Road Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

2014 Pike Road Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $19 (media sample)
This wine from Pike Road, the sister winery of Elk Cove, defies its $19 price tag by offering a fantastic example of Oregon pinot noir. Sourced from both estate and partner vineyards in the Williamette Valley, the grapes are hand harvested and sorted, then the juice is fermented in open stainless steel tanks and barrel aged 10 months in French oak. The resulting wine is brambly, dusty, earthy, and herbal. The night I tasted it, I took the winery’s advice on the label and paired it with salmon for a lovely dinner at home.

2013 DaVero Sangiovese, Hawk Mountain Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
2013 DaVero Sangiovese, Hawk Mountain Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

2013 DaVero Estate Sangiovese, Hawk Mountain Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, $75
One of my favorite wines of a recent visit to DaVero, the estate sangiovese is biodynamically farmed at their three-acre Hawk Mountain Vineyard, wild yeast fermented, then aged in all neutral oak. This wine possesses contrasting floral and leathery aromatics. On the palate, black cherry, blackcurrant, and acid abound. The same sangiovese is used in their 2013 Estate Altobasso blend of sangiovese (60%) and barbera (40%), which was the first DaVero wine to captive my palate and my heart a year ago during a Twitter tasting of Dry Creek Valley wines.

2015 DaVero Vermentino, Schatz Family Vineyard in the Cosumnes River AVA, San Joaquin County
2015 DaVero Vermentino, Schatz Family Vineyard in the Cosumnes River AVA, San Joaquin County

2015 DaVero Vermentino, Schatz Family Vineyard, Cosumnes River AVA, San Joaquin County, $30
This vermentino is produced in Sonoma County by DaVero, but sourced from the Schatz Family Vineyard in the Cosumnes River AVA of San Joaquin County, which is in the northwestern part of Lodi. DaVero takes a biodynamic, non-interventionist approach to winemaking to handcraft this wine, including foot stomping the grapes, two days of skin contact for added complexity, and native yeast fermentation. This wine is everything you want in a summer white: lemony, crisp, mouthwatering, and delectable.

2015 Fields Family Vermentino, Delu Vineyard, Lodi Appellation
2015 Fields Family Vermentino, Delu Vineyard, Lodi Appellation

2015 Fields Family Vermentino, Delu Vineyard, Lodi Appellation, $19
Now in perpetual pursuit of an alternative to sauvignon blanc, and smitten with vermentino thanks to DaVero above, I enjoyed this small lot, Fields Family offering prior to the start of the Wine Bloggers Conference, sitting by the pool at Bare Ranch talking to winemaker Ryan Sherman. I’ve always preferred to taste with the winemaker because usually I connect better with the wine through the person making it. After whole-cluster pressing, the wine is fermented in stainless steel, dry racked semi dirty, then spends about seven months aging sur lie in five- or six-year-old neutral barrels. Sherman’s love of vermentino, with Ryme’s “Hers” version as his inspiration, really shines. Bright, floral, textured, and tart – as well as exceptionally delicious – the Fields Family vermentino was the perfect accompaniment to that summer night in Lodi.

2015 Mainelli Family Reserve 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, California
2015 Mainelli Family Reserve 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, California

2015 Mainelli Family Reserve 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil, California, $25 (sample)
I don’t typically review olive oil, although I have, nor do I always eat parmesan herb ciabatta, but when I do, I dip it in Mainelli Olive Oil Family Reserve 100% Extra Virgin California Olive Oil. Each year, Tom Mainelli and his team carefully taste, select, and bottle some of Northern California’s best olive oils. This oil is one you want to taste, with its exquisite flavors, purity, and warm bite, indicative of great quality. Drizzle on almost everything. Delightful. Yes, please.

My August Sips

My Dry Creek Valley Tasting
My Dry Creek Valley Tasting

It’s not quite yet the end of August, but below is my month-end roundup of great wines, from Dry Creek Valley, Napa Valley, Pennsylvania, Sonoma County, Spain, and Willamette Valley. This is not an all-inclusive list, so if you haven’t checked out this post from my trip to Hudson-Chatham Winery a couple of weeks ago, please do. As always, your palate may vary.

2010 Martorana Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Martorana Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Martorana Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, SRP $45
If a wine could be extroverted, it would be this one. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 5% Petite Sirah, it’s definitely not shy, boasting floral aromas, ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, and cranberry on the palate, and grippy tannins. I tasted this over a course of a few days and the tannins were still very much at the forefront, so this wine is young, ready for a little more time in the bottle or decanting if you can’t wait. ABV: 15.4%. Winemaker: Gio Martorana. This was a sample provided by Martorana for a Dry Creek Valley Twitter tasting.

2013 Fritz Malbec
2013 Fritz Malbec

2013 Fritz Malbec, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, SRP $45
When I first saw and tasted this, I couldn’t help but exclaim what a beautiful, elegant wine this is. The purple-red, magenta color is eye catching. The aromas are floral and feminine. On the palate, it’s soft, round, and balanced, with an impeccably silky mouthfeel, and luscious, dark berry flavors. I am confident that this loveliness comes from outstanding estate vineyard fruit and meticulous production: stemless, whole berries that were transferred to open-top fermenters, a five-day cold soak, punch downs 2-3 times per day for 10 days, then aging for 15 months in 40% new French oak. ABV: 14.5%. Winemaker: Brad Longton. This was a sample provided by Fritz for a Dry Creek Valley Twitter tasting.

2013 DaVero Altobasso
2013 DaVero Altobasso

2013 DaVero Altobasso, Hawk Mountain and Valladares Estate Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, SRP $65
The name Altobasso (high-low) comes from the vineyard sources of the two grapes, Hawk Mountain, a higher altitude vineyard which contributes 60% Sangiovese, and Valladares Estate, a lower altitude vineyard which contributes 40% Barbera. Produced with native yeast fermentation and neutral oak aging for 16 months, the resulting blend is a wine that speaks to my palate. The floral aromatics, juicy, red berry fruit, earthiness, leather, texture, and acid are pleasurably abundant and scream for food, especially a rich, hearty Italian or holiday meal. ABV 14.3%. Only 189 cases made. Drink now through 2028, if you can wait that long. Winemaker: Evan LaNouette. This was a sample provided by DaVero for a Dry Creek Valley Twitter tasting.

2010 Seavey Vineyard Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Seavey Vineyard Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Seavey Vineyard Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon, Seavey Vineyard, Napa Valley, SRP $65
The Caravina Cabernet is a second-label wine first offered in 1999, whose name means “My dear vine” in Italian. I tasted this wine over the course of a couple of days. The second day open, this wine demonstrated its loveliness, with a soft, round mouthfeel, lush, dark fruit, chocolate, supple tannins, and a spicy finish. I had no idea this was a 92+ point wine (Antonio Galloni), but it sure lives up to that rating. ABV 14.8%. 980 cases produced. Winemaker: Jeremy Weintraub. This was a gift from a friend.

2012 Huge Bear Chardonnay
2012 Huge Bear Chardonnay

2012 Huge Bear Chardonnay, Sonoma County, $40 SRP
Chardonnay, unless from Burgundy, or made with little or no oak influence, is not usually a go-to wine for me. This was a gift from a friend. Huge Bear Wines, the second label of Knights Bridge Winery, makes this Sonoma Chardonnay that sees partial malolactic fermentation. It shows an intriguing mélange of tree and tropical fruits, citrus, vanilla, caramel, and baking spices, with a creamy mouthfeel, yet noticeable acid. This was a gift from a friend.

2012 Penns Woods White Merlot
2012 Penns Woods White Merlot

2012 Penns Woods White Merlot, Pennsylvania, $22 SRP (2014 is the current vintage)
I first tasted this rosé in May 2014 at Penns Woods Winery and brought a bottle home with me. I was curious how well this has held up after traveling across the country and being stored for 15 months. I am happy to say that it’s still lovely. This is a red wine lover’s rosé, with a rich, salmon color, juicy palate, and aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry, stone fruits, and melon. The bright acid finish lingers long enough to make you want another sip. This was a gift from a friend.

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir
2012 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $50 SRP
This is an elegant, yet rich, Pinot Noir, from the warmer 2012 vintage. The mouthfeel is round and plush, due to time spent in French oak barrels, 56% new. It yields luscious darker fruit, like plum and blackberry, firm tannins, earthiness, and vibrant, tart cherry acidity. I tasted this with Cornerstone Cellars’ Craig Camp in his suite at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference. ABV 14.1%. 1500 cases produced. 94 points Wine Spectator.

2013 La Caña Albariño
2013 La Caña Albariño

2013 La Caña Albariño, SRP $14-$18 (widely distributed)
This wine is a riper Albariño, with dominant flavors of melon and stone fruits. However, it still demonstrates lemony acidity and salty minerality. It’s crisp, yet has a more substantial mouthfeel due to a small percentage of the wine being fermented in French barrels and aged on lees. It’s the duality of warmer climate/citrus fruits and crispness/mouthfeel that make this wine interesting. I purchased this at my local grocery store for #AlbarinoDay on Twitter.

I have some exciting news for my readers. Next month, I begin writing for two new outlets, American Winery Guide and Snooth‘s Wine Writer Roundup Series, so I hope that you will continue to support me in these new writing ventures. Next month will also be a bit crazy for me in terms of travel and events. I’ll be flying to the East Coast for Labor Day weekend, then returning to California. I am booked every weekend in September for an event, as well as Garnacha/Grenache Day on Friday, September 18, when I will be participating in a Snooth Twitter tasting with some of my cohorts. It’s going to be a great start to fall!

Happy sipping!

This is NOT White Zinfandel: 2011 Passaggio Rose Colored Glasses Rosé

2011 Passaggio Rose Colored Glasses Rosé

My friend Cynthia Cosco, winemaker at Passaggio Wines, has done it again. She’s taken a unique blend of grapes, used stainless steel fermentation, and created a wonderful and different Rosé. The blend is 82% Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, 18% Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, but the 2011 Passaggio Rose Colored Glasses ($17) is NOT white Zinfandel. I repeat, NOT white Zinfandel.

The names of Cynthia’s wines are reflective of her beliefs and outlook on life. Those of you that know her and have followed her passageway (passaggio) from law enforcement officer to winemaker know that she follows and lives her passion daily. Her positive outlook on life is realized in this wine’s name, Rose Colored Glasses, inspired by her mother’s rose colored glasses.

As you can see from this bottling video, this Rosé is possesses a gorgeous, deep color, almost a blend of magenta and salmon, if you will. It’s equally loaded with the bold and lush red/dark berry flavors for which Zinfandel grapes are known, but with a refreshing twist. Cynthia says on her website that this wine is “awesome by itself or with grilled foods.” I tried it by itself and with my leftover Holy Shiitake Pie from Mellow Mushroom, as Zinfandel is a recommended pairing with earthy mushroom dishes. The Rosé is a juicy and delectible treat with or without food.

If you’re interested in the Passaggio Rose Colored Glasses Rosé or Cynthia’s other offerings, New Generation (unoaked) Chardonnay, New Generation Pinot Grigio, and the upcoming Social Justice Pinot Noir, there’s now a Passionistas Wine Club. You’ll never be without Cynthia’s current releases ever again. Happy Wine Wednesday 4th of July!

“Bottled with love, for the joy of living”

As a kid, I used to love Tootsie Pops. I would allow the lollipop to slowly melt in my mouth, coating my tongue with rich, red fruit flavor until all that was left was the Tootsie Roll. Raspberry and cherry were my favorite flavors.

Last night’s 2009 Muscardini Cellars Unti Vineyards Syrah took me back to this childhood memory. I took my first sip and thought, “Wow! What a silky, luscious mouthfeel!” Then came the fruit: bold and spicy raspberry. I had only planned to sip a small glass prior to the Muscardini Cellars Tweetup, but I found myself drawn to this elixir. It was exquisite alone, but I decided to try it with my dinner, filet mignon with a basic chipotle, sea salt, garlic, and onion spice. The slightly spicy, salty beef held up beautifully to the big, juicy Syrah. I will remember this wine for a very long time: my grown-up, Tootsie Pop moment.

2009 Muscardini Cellars Syrah, Unti Vineyards 
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Winemaker: Michael Muscardini
Sample graciously provided by My Preferred Wines
Price: $29.95 (My Preferred Wines); $32.00 (direct from Muscardini Cellars)
Alcohol: 15.9%
Cases produced: 224
Drink now or cellar 3-5 years