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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Small and Large Wineries Along The Wine Road in Sonoma

The Wine Road in Sonoma is not on any maps but rather a collective of over 150 wineries and 50 places to stay in the wine country. When they invited us to a blogger's retreat there in May I had no idea of what was in store for us. One of the biggest surprises for me was the wide range of wineries we visited that were all part of the Wine Road group. We visited a husband and wife winery all the way up to the famous Kendall-Jackson Estate and many others in between.

From the cover of Sonoma County Vol. 2 - Photos by Robert Janover

Our tour of Northern Sonoma included the three appellations or regions of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. The smallest of the wineries we visited was the Russian River Valley husband and wife run Lauterbach Cellars. Pictured here is Dr. Stewart Lauterbach who is truly the CEO, chief cook and bottle washer. Winemaking just doesn't get any more grass roots than at Lauterbach with Stew and his wife, Barbara, having their hands on literally every step from soil to foil.

We were mesmerized listening to Stew's candid and unassuming tales of making wine at this hand crafted level. This photo below is the bulk of his entire one room operation.

Stew fields questions from a barrage of bloggers.

Lauterbach Cellars specializes in Russian River Valley Syrah and Pinot Noir.

For "dessert" we were also treated to Stew's 2008 Syrah Dessert Wine or late harvest Port as it is sometimes known.

Our thanks to Stew Lauterbach for the most up close and personal experience at this little winery. Generally, up to 5,000 cases a year is considered the "Boutique" level of winemaking. Lauterbach Cellars only produce about 400 cases a year so you need to get it before they sell out. By the way tasting hours are by appointment only so don't just drop by but please do let them know you are coming. Stew and his crew of family and friends even do their own bottling/corking/foiling because mobile services normally have a 500 case minimum. Congratulations to the Lauterbachs for putting so much care into their craft.

Every winery we visited seemed to have a uniqueness to it. One of my favorites of the entire trip was the highly environmentally conscious Quivira Vineyards and Winery.

Quivira was founded originally in 1981 by Holly and Henry Wendt who began restoring Wine Creek which runs along and through their property. The creek is crucial to fish spawning and the Wendt's concern for this important conservation project has been kept alive by current owners Pete and Terri Kight who bought Quivira in 2006.

The Wine Creek at Quivira Vineyards and Winery

Quivira takes the now commonly used term of "Green" to a whole new level. They are certified as biodynamic farming which is a spritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamic farming creates a diversified ecosystem that strives to generate as much fertility as possible from within the farm itself. I have never seen a winery with so many different crops growing at it. Many of these crops are grown in raised gardens. The yield from these plants provide food for events at the winery as well as sources for local restaurants. As more than just a casual home chef I could really appreciate the variety and size of these plant gardens.

Plants are not the only thing raised here that contributes to the diverse ecosystem.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention they make wine at Quivira too. :) We enjoyed their 2011 Rosé which was dry, refreshing and a perfect warm weather wine.

Diversity was the theme at Quivira and also of our agenda. Our final destination was the very established and more formal Kendall-Jackson Estate and Gardens Like many others I am quite familiar with the Kendall-Jackson brand but I had never seen their facility which was full of great surprises.

Meticulously manicured grounds greet you upon arrival at Kendall-Jackson Estate

K-J wasted no time getting the hospitality going as were immediately served a glass of their new Chardonnay called AVANT which was introduced early last year. Our welcome began in a gazebo right in the heart of their vineyards.

The first surprise was the massive gardens that serve multiple functions. They supply food for their food and wine pairings as well as cover crops to attract the beneficial insects and birds thus avoiding the need to use pesticides. Part of these gardens were designed by the world renowned horticulturist, Adrian Bloom, for Kendall-Jackson in 2002. What an appropriate name for a plant person.

The foodie in me was once again in awe of four special gardens one each for French, Italian, Latin/South American and Asian cuisines. Can you imagine just stepping outside to pick the fresh herbs you needed for cooking in any of these styles! And speaking of food we we treated to an incredible food pairing right in the heart of what they call their "Interactive Wine Sensory Gardens." It is also more affectionately known as their "Scratch and Sniff Garden" because they encourage visitors to touch the plants, grab a leaf and take in all of the wonderful senses that fresh produce offers. Surprise number three was the incredible food pairing that awaited us. They really walk the walk at Kendall-Jackson when it comes to food. This table is surrounded by the same gardens that yield the foods you enjoy paired with their wines so it just doesn't get any closer to farm-to-table dining that this. The best news is that Kendall-Jackson makes these pairings available to anyone with just a little advanced notice. Every thing you need to know about these food and wine pairings can be found just by clicking here.

Al Fresco Dining in the middle of Kendall-Jackson Gardens for superb wine and food pairing
So what surprises were on our menu? Here are just a few close up shots of our food and wine pairing.

Stone Ground Grits from Old Mill of Guilford and Micro Greens
paired with 2006 Highland Estates Trace Ride Cabernet Sauvignon
Tofu Slider with thinly sliced cucumbers and Syrah BBQ Sauce
paired with 2006 Highland Estates Alisos Hills Syrah
Mushroom Arincini with Scottocenere Truffle Cheese and Pinot Noir
paired with 2007 Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinot Noir
Kendall-Jackson turned out to be nothing but delightful surprises including my favorite one of our entire retreat. Turns out their Estate Manager is a long lost friend of mine from her days at San Jose Red Lion Inn. I had not seen Robin in over twenty years and our reunion could not have taken place at a more inviting setting. Thanks to Robin and everyone else at Kendall-Jackson for the warm welcome and incredible hospitality.

For more information about Kendall-Jackson contact Estate Manager Robin Calkins  

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