In addition to the Gay Wine Weekend events, I was able to make a few stops at some wineries for a few tastings.
We started day one as you always should - with some bubbly! Domaine Carneros is home to some great sparkling wines, and an amazing property. The replica of Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France sits atop a knoll in Carneros and overlooks amazing scenery of vineyards. Domaine Carneros was started in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger, a world renowned Champagne house in France. While tasting through the Sparkling Wine offerings, I was struck by the incredible complexity of each of the wines. From the pear and citrus notes of the Brut which lingers with a creamy toasted vanilla finish, to the beautiful strawberries and cream notes in the Rose, and finished the tasting off with the beautifully balanced Ultra Brut, with notes of caramel, apple and a little bit of spice. Each of the wines we tasted are exclusive to the winery. Domaine Carneros does have some distribution, but it mainly consists of the non-vintage versions of each of the wines, which I have also had, and you can't go wrong with them either!
Next stop was across the street at Cuvaison Estate Wines. Known for their beautiful Carneros Chardonnay, as well as their Mount Veeder Cabernet, Cuvaison is consistently producing top tier wines and receiving critical acclaim for their wines. Most recently, Wine & Spirits gave their 2008 Mount Veeder Cab a score of 91 and the 2009 Carneros Pinot Nior a score of 90. Additionally, Wine Advocate scored their flagship Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon with a 92+. Having tried each of these wine, I would heartily agree with such high praise. Not only are the wines spectacular, but the Carneros tasting room is definitely worth checking out. They also have a Calistoga tasting room, which I haven't had a chance to check out yet. But it is on my short list for the next time I am in town.
Then on to Tin Barn Vineyards, where they broke my heart as soon as I walked in, when they told me they were out of their Sauvignon Blanc. Temperatures had climbed into the low 100s at that point, and I was looking forward to their incredibly crisp Sauv Blanc that bursts with aromas of citrus and melon. We were however treated to a vertical tasting of their Syrah. As we tasted through the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Syrah, the difference in each of the vintages was pretty surprising. In talking to winemaker Michael Lancaster about those differences, he shared how his wine making style has evolved over the years and also how he approached each vintage differently. If I had to pick out of the three vintages, I would have to say the 2007 was my favorite. The 2007 seems to have reached a point of balance that the 2008 will most likely achieve within the next year. However our favorite of the tasting had to be the 2009 Los Chamizal Vineyard Zinfandel. Bringing together the perfect balance of sun ripened cherries and a toasted oak finish, this Zin is a can't miss for any summer BBQ.
Gundlach Bundschu (see pronunciation in the cleaver logo below).
This amazing property, set at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains which separate the Napa and Sonoma Vallies, has been home to the Bundschu family for six generations. While all of the wines impressed, the unique Tempranillo Rosé and the Tempranillo had to be my two favorites. This European-style rosé offers aromas of tangerine, freshly-picked peach, and strawberry with crisp flavors of wild red raspberries, kiwi fruit and hibiscus tea. The Tempranillo, according to Gun Bun's website, has intense aromas and flavors of blackberry and mission figs, with layers of dark cocoa, fresh tobacco leaf and black pepper.
From there we headed to the El Dorado Hotel to check in for the weekend. El Dorado is quaint little boutique hotel, with only 25 rooms or so. The rooms are very comfortable, and all give a different view of the Somona Square and surrounding area. In addition to the hotel, El Dorado Kitchen has some amazing food. Check out the sliders!
That night brought the Twilight T-Dance at Atwood Ranch, for Gay Wine Weekend! Check out this post for more on that.