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A "traditional" California winery?

Michael M

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We usually drink traditional wines, ones that are well-balanced and go well with food. We often vacation in France or Italy and often visit wineries. This year we're headed to San Francisco with the intention of heading north and hiking along the coast. I don't drink much Californian wine, but am sure many of them make wines I would like. If I give you a list of typical wines in my cellar, can you come up with some alcohol-appropriate, food-friendly winemakers in the Sonoma (or Napa?) regions? I'm thinking Sonoma might be more likely?


producers like Donhoff, Vatan, Guiberteau, Domaine Wachau, Cotat, Droin, Pinon, LaPierre muscadets, Prager, Campanian or Northern Italian whites


Guiberteau, Clos Rougeard, Marchesi di Gresy, Scavino (a little modern here), Silvio Grasso, Breton Beaujolais, Oddero, Podere Rocche dei Manzoni, Joillot, Cavalotto, Foillard, Lapierre, Clos du Solomon.

Where could we visit? Thanks!

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I think Napa is more your area if you will be hiking along the coast as Sonoma is more inland but it is worth the trip.

By "Traditional" do I take it you mean old-world style? Recommending a winery based on your collection is a rather difficult task as Cali wines are in a class of their own so much so that in my own opinion, they are quite distinguishable and different from old-world wines.

I am not from there but I have been around the area perhaps 3 or 4 times in the last 6 years and there is little to compare Cali reds and whites with say italian, French or even Spanish wines, though the newer Spanish wines do approach new-world styles.

As compared to European wines, California wines are classified more often based on grape variety than terroir and that is where the difference lies because Cali wines are usually single variety wines or at least the mix is essentially that, unless it is specified in the label. The alcohol content has also been somewhat upwards of 14% in the last few years which makes some wines quite a "hot" drink.

The style I prefer is softer and mellower except maybe for the quintessential Zinfandel. Most wineries will have one or two wines which will strike your fancy and the best way to do it is download a winery map trail like this one: http://www.sonoma.com/visitorsinfo/Sonoma_County_Winery_Map.pdf and just go and taste.

Sonoma county is huge and you might want to be more specific with what part you want to go to. I suggest Healdsburg.

If you go to Healdsburg town proper, there are many tasting rooms you can sample and you don't have to go far.

Some of the ones I have visited are:

Rosenblum Cellars and Seghesio for their Zinfandels... that's in Healdsburg

Chateau St. Jean... I like their pinot noir

St. Francis... their wild oak series



Paul Hobbs... for their Cabernet Sauv

Pride Mountain

Alexander Valley

Geyser peak

Rodney Strong

Ridge/Lyton Springs

I have missed a lot more and I am sure that within these wineries, you will find the style you prefer. Again if it's an old-world style you prefer you might be a little overwhelmed with the style of wines here but if you keep an open mind you'll find something worthwhile. Don't forget the smaller family run vineyards too as they have some surprises you might find.

I am headed there this April too and hopefully I find some new stuff.

Good luck and Enjoy!

I'm a plant-rights activist... I only eat meat!

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