Simon’s Backup Weblog


The 2005 Bay Area Wine Tour

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 5, 2005

and I like wine. What’s more we have lots of friends in the Bay Area who like wine, too. This means that when we go to San Francisco and San Jose we get to try all sorts of new wines from interesting wineries of all shapes and sizes.

This last trip we visited quite the crop, and had some very nice wines indeed.

We started out on a trip with our friend Rick and his little black Mini convertible to the Russian River district, near Sebastopol (geekily famous as the home of O’Reilly Books). Our first visit was to the Dutton Estate Winery, where we tried some rather nice chardonnay. This rather set the scene for much of our tasting this year, following on from our New Zealand adventures, where we discovered more of a taste for whites than we’d expected. Our next visit was Iron Horse, which specialises in sparkling wines. It was the 25th anniversary of their Wedding Cuvée and they were pouring from hefty jeroboams… Iron Horse has a rather lovely outdoor winery, and we stood in the sun and watched raptors circling over the warm fields below. The trip to Kaz wasn’t quite from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it was certainly from the light into the dark. Kaz’s eponymous winery is a dark little room, full of excellent reds. We ended up naming their 2003 Field Red for them, when I suggested calling it “Fred”. Soon the blackboard described it as “Red Said Fred”. And red it was, and very good indeed. The ports weren’t too bad, either…

The SF to Napa Mini Rally took us (driven by Rick again) to the imposing Niebaum-Coppola chateau just outside St Helena in the Napa valley. The wines weren’t the best we’ve had, though still very pleasant. $15 for 3 wines is a tad on the steep side, even if they do throw in a “free” glass. Things were very different at the Greenfield Winery in American Canyon. Good people, and a range of rather lovely wines to taste. Some rather quaffable bottles there, including the “Rabid Red” and the Manzanitas Creek. Our only criticism – too many different brands and labels! However, apparently they will be consolidating on one brand soon…

Our hired convertible also took us to some rather nice little wineries, but this time in the Santa Cruz mountains, an area we hadn’t explored before. Our first stop was the winery of an old favourite, Bonny Doon (home of Cigare Volante and a rather luscious Framboise). We’ not experienced their range before, and we found a lot here to enjoy – from whites to reds, and the rather intriguing port/framboise blend “Bouteille Call“. The latter serves very well out of little chocolate cups (we had a nice evening comparing dessert wines and liquier wines with our hosts and ).

and took us on a tour of a handful of wineries just a stone’s throw from San Jose. A long climb up a twisty mountain road took us to one of the area’s best known wineries, Ridge. Normally Ridge is closed on a week day. But we were lucky, as they’d had a corporate event that morning, so we were able to try a few of their wines with a most educational pourer. Ridge also has a beautiful garden, even if you do have to beware of the rattlesnakes. Down the hill, Picchetti mixes excellent wines with peacocks, and a set of rather lovely old buildings in a country park. Our final stop, Cooper-Garrod, was a small family winery, deep in the hills near Saratoga. Good wines (even a passable claret) and lots of aviation history, as it was founded by NASA’s chief test pilot when he retired…

If you like mountain roads, the journey from San Jose to David Bruce’s winery is one that’s going to keep you enthralled. Bear Creek Road twists and turns up and over the mountains, leaving you at a winery that takes its cues from the limestone mountains of Provence – right down to an excellent Pinot Noir rose that could have come from the vineyards around Cassis. Excellent wines (it specialises in Pinot Noir), and a beautiful winery, surrounded by lavender and scented herbs.

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