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Russian River Valley

The sign to the garden onsite at Walter Hansel Bistro.

Our visit to this top-rated winery in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley actually began the night before. We had scheduled a meeting with proprietor Stephen Hansel at the winery and he suggested we might want to try his newly created Walter Hansel Wine and Bistro, a French-themed Bistro about a mile from his winery. We took him up on his suggestion and went for dinner there. This is a terrific bistro serving authentic French dishes made from locally sourced meats and vegetables. Our dinner was absolutely superb! This restaurant is a must-stop for any foodies that visit Sonoma County.

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No one will dispute that Napa Valley is the region that put California wine (and all American wine for that matter) on the world wine map. And while Sonoma Valley sits just on the other side of the Mayacamas mountain range that divides the two wine regions, it has seemingly struggled with its identity. Napa is synonymous with making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. Sonoma, on the other hand, has so much diversity amongst its 17 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) it isn’t as easily defined by one grape varietal. For example, they make terrific Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley, outstanding Zinfandel in the Dry Creek Valley and excellent Chardonnay in the Sonoma Coast AVA. As a result, Cabernet Sauvignon winemakers in Sonoma generally sit in the shadow of Napa Valley. Laurel Glen Vineyard is one winery in Sonoma that is putting the wine world on notice that not only do they have the ability to make Cabernet Sauvignon, they have the ability to make GREAT Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Sonoma County: A Primer

Sonoma County: A Primer


Posted on Jul 5, 2017

Sonoma County

Some of the beautiful vineyards at St. Francis winery.

Sonoma County, the “Valley of the Moon”, truly is a bounty of riches: the long valley just 90 minutes north of San Francisco boasts spectacular scenery, a relaxed and laid back vibe, terrific restaurants and is producing top-rated wines from a diversity of micro-climates and grape varieties.

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Sonoma County

Some of the beautiful vineyards at St. Francis winery.

When we first wrote about the St. Francis Winery wine and food pairing, it was the sixth time we had enjoyed the experience. It speaks volumes that after six visits we’re still surprised and impressed by the menu; not once has a dish been duplicated nor have we been even slightly disappointed. And while we’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of wine and food pairings around the world, this one easily stands out as one of the best and is an absolute must whenever we travel to Sonoma County. We recently returned to St. Francis for the seventh time in the hopes it would continue to exceed our very high expectations.

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 Soter Vineyards: A Great Notion

 Soter Vineyards: A Great Notion


Posted on Jun 7, 2017

Soter Vineyards Oregon

The driveway at Mineral Springs Ranch.

Perched on top of a vineyard-lined hill sits a converted barn that is now the beautiful tasting room of Soter Vineyards, one of the very top wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Surrounding the tasting room is a grove of old oak trees that provide shade and frame the view of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the valley below. As we approach, out from the tasting room comes a smiling Hallie Whyte, Director of Sales and Operations, with two glasses of Rosé to greet us. It is the perfect way to begin a fantastic tasting of some of Oregon’s very best Pinot Noir.

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Eugene Oregon

King Estate Winery

To say we were surprised by what we found when we visited King Estate Winery at the southern end of the Willamette Valley would be a massive understatement. We suppose the name itself should have been a dead giveaway but as we drove from downtown Eugene via roads that took us through largely rural farmland, we were almost stopped in our tracks when we turned the last corner to see an enormous chateau sitting atop a hill surrounded by hundreds of acres of vines.

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Rex PickettIn 2004, Rex Pickett wrote Sideways, a novel telling the tale of two friends, Miles and Jack, that go on a road trip together through Santa Barbara’s wine country prior to Jack’s pending marriage. Six years later, the hotly anticipated sequel “Vertical: Passion & the Pinot” was released. Just last year it was re-edited, illustrations were added, and the book re-released by Loose Gravel Press.

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Willamette Valley Oregon

The DDO vineyards on a cool March day.

History is, of course, an important subject and shapes much of the present in so many endeavours. But in the wine world, we have learned, history plays an even more important role than in most fields. Perhaps that is because making fine wine is more art than science. The art of making wine has history very much at its foundations: it is passed down from generation to generation, very often within the same family. Such is the case of Burgundy’s Drouhin family, who first began in the wine business 137 years ago in Beaune when Maison Joseph Drouhin was founded. It did not take long for this domaine to prosper and successive generations of Drouhins took it from strength to strength. Today Maison Joseph Drouhin is a Burgundy powerhouse; a domaine that it has grown to become a significant business in the area and one that also holds some of the best vineyard lands and produces some of Burgundy’s top wines.

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