Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chasing Bacchus

When we were mere amateurs, our wine tasting forays were pretty standard -- get a wine route map, plot a course, make three or four stops in an afternoon, find a place for dinner and drag ourselves back to the hotel. There is a better way.

This time around, we were staying at B&Bs (more on that later) and began the day with a hearty late breakfast (around 9 a.m.). We then retired to our room or a nearby veranda or deck. Kathleen would get ready for the day and Charlie and I would work on my homework. We'd be ready to go by around noon, by which time we would have selected a nearby winery that promotes its grounds as comfortable and welcoming.

Picnic basket filled with your basic cheese-meat-crackers-bread-fruit combo, we'd then head to the chosen winery, inspect it to make sure it met our high standards, then commandeer a table for our picnic, making sure Charlie agreed with our selection (he's very feng shui, you know). Kathleen and I would do a full tasting, then pick a bottle of the wine we liked best (always a white, since Kathleen doesn't do red). Bottle and glasses in hand, we'd retreat to our table and spend a couple of hours in the late summer California weather (low 80s, blue skies, drought in full force), sipping wine, nibbling deli selections and feeling smug.

 That, friends, is how to do a wine tasting. We did it five days in a row. It's genius. Late breakfast, light lunch, late supper, all done contemplatively. We felt downright European. We were in Lodi and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, but Bordeaux wouldn't have been any finer. Scratch that. It would have been finer, but only for the bragging rights. OK, and the food. As we know, the wine is no better there than here ...

As for the B&Bs, this is always a hit-or-miss proposition, made particularly so now that Charlie travels with us. Not all B&Bs take pets, and those that do often confine us to one of their "pet-friendly" rooms, which can sometimes mean they aren't all that "people-friendly." In this case, we did OK at the American River Inn in Georgetown (except for the antique bed that was 12 feet off the ground and required a stepladder to surmount), and a little less well at the Grand Oaks Inn in Clements. In the latter case, the place was great, the owners gracious but the room only adequate. On the positive side, they had their very own fantastic private museum (pictures attached). They also let us try their homemade pomegranate wine, which was, interesting.

And so, in addition to our B&B proprietors, we thank the following wineries that hosted us for the better part of an afternoon each day: Gold Hill Vineyard & Brewery, Coloma; Heritage Oak Winery, Lodi; Klinker Brick Winery, Lodi; Hovey Winery, Murphys; and Cantiga Wineworks, Somerset. As always, the highlight was a glass of cab-shiraz and a cigar at Van Ruiten, where we also absconded with two cases of their finest carignane and sauvignon blanc.

By the way, after hearing several discussions about the pros and cons of malolactic fermentation, our opinion remains the same -- if it tastes good, we drink it.

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