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With new Alaska Airlines flights begun in June, Sonoma County now has three flights from Los Angeles non-stop to Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport- STS.

San Diego also began a new flight non-stop to Sonoma County Airport in June.

Fly Sonoma  SMALL 120295

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport - STS, offers convenient service to this wine, spa and coastal destination. In addition to these new flights from Southern California, Sonoma County Airport is served by non-stop flights from Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Visitors departing from Sonoma County Airport on Alaska Airlines can also ship home a case of wine for no additional luggage cost. The wine must be packed to shipping standards, which many Sonoma County wineries will provide after purchase.

Located 30 miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County has more than 300 wineries and is known for its local, farm-to-table cuisine. The region is also well-served by the airports in San Francisco (70 minute drive), Oakland (70 minute drive) and Sacramento (1 hour, 45 minute drive).

A free visitors guide with information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County is available at www.sonomacounty.com.

(TravMedia.com sources contributed to this article.)

Editor's Note. Visitors to the state's North Coast can find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

north coast highlight SMALL

The North Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California, covering more than three million acres, includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and portions of Marin and Solano counties. The area forms a slightly crooked rectangle, approximately 100 miles long and more than 50 miles wide. A winemaking mecca since the mid 19th century, today the area features about 800 wineries, nearly half of the total wineries in the state. American Viticultural Areas are to appellations of origin as grapes are to fruit. AVAs are delimited grapegrowing areas distinguishable by geographic, climatic and historic features, and the boundaries have been delineated in a petition filed and accepted by the federal government. In size, AVAs range from extremely small to extremely large. AVAs are one kind of appellation, but not all appellations are AVAs. An appellation can also be a political designation, such as the name of a country, the name of a state or states, the name of a county or counties within a state.


Napa Valley

Established in 1981, the Napa Valley AVA covers 225,300 acres of land, encompassing almost the entire county of Napa and is home to 400 wineries. Within that area, there are 45,000 acres of vineyards planted. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Napa Valley with a total of 18,200 acres, and Chardonnay is the most widely planted white wine variety with 7,300 acres. Napa produces about five percent of total California wine.

The Napa Valley is bordered by two mountain ranges—the Vaca on the east and the Mayacamas, rising well above 2,000 feet and bordering the adjacent Sonoma County, on the west. Mt. St. Helena (4,343') stands sentry at the northern end of the appellation where the valley ends at the town of Calistoga. This is the warmest locale in the region. About 30 miles away, near the city of Napa, the southern end of the valley opens to San Pablo Bay, an interconnecting arm of the San Francisco Bay system.

A uniquely diverse winegrowing appellation, the Napa Valley formed—much like the rest of the North Coast—through a geological evolution active with colliding tectonic plates (large pieces of the earth's crust), volcanic activity and changes in sea level as water alternately advanced and retreated over the southern end of the valley several times. As a result of these geological events that took place over a 60-million-year history, the Napa Valley has soils of volcanic, maritime and alluvial origin, with more than 30 different types identified.

Defined by mountain ranges and a proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the Napa Valley enjoys a temperate climate with a long growing season of sunny, warm days followed by cool evenings. Within the Napa Valley AVA, there are 14 other AVAs with distinct microclimates and terrains formed by a varied topographical configuration of hills, exposures and elevations. The Napa Valley AVA is also part of the North Coast AVA.

  Sonoma County

The appellation of Sonoma County totals more than one million acres of land of which 60,000 acres area planted to winegrapes. The county includes 13 distinct AVAs as well as being a part of the North Coast AVA. The larger Sonoma Coast AVA has with 517,000 acres. Chardonnay takes the lead as the most planted variety with 15,100 acres, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the next most planted variety with 11,900 acres. The area produces about eight percent of California's total wine production.

Sonoma County is 52 miles wide and 47 miles long and is currently home to 260 wineries. On the east, Sonoma County borders Napa Valley along the Mayacamas Range. About two million years ago, volcanic eruptions deposited a series of ash and lava called the Sonoma Volcanics throughout much of Sonoma and Napa Counties, especially along the Mayacamas Range. The western edge of the County is the California coastline along the Pacific Ocean. Sonoma County borders Mendocino County in the north and Marin County in the south.

Luther Burbank called Sonoma County "the chosen spot of all the earth as far as nature is concerned." A vastly diverse range of topography, including numerous small valleys with distinct microclimates, the Russian River and the Pacific Ocean, all characterize the region. A moderate climate with a cooling maritime influence, Sonoma County embodies ideal and diverse grapegrowing weather: from valley to hillside, moist ocean coast to dry inland, and cool southern regions that complement the warmer, more northern areas.

  Mendocino County

Mendocino is an approved American Viticultural Area with 275,200 acres. The total area planted to vineyards is 16,700 acres. About 4,300 acres are planted to Chardonnay, 1,900 acres to Pinot Noir, and 2,600 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon. Approximately 25 percent of the total vineyard acreage in Mendocino County is certified organic. There are 10 official American Viticultural Areas in Mendocino County. There are 56 wineries and over 250 growers harvesting approximately 62,000 winegrape tons, representing about two percent of the state's wine tonnage.

Located directly north of Sonoma County and about 90 miles north of San Francisco, the Mendocino wine region is bounded by California's Coastal Mountain Range, the Pacific Ocean and the great northern redwood forests. A mountainous region, it is part of the seismically active Coast Range and is also the place where the San Andreas Fault reaches the ocean. Almost 60 percent of the county is blanketed with coniferous forests. Most of the vineyards are located in the inland valleys in the south and east areas of the region. The vineyards growing white wine grape varieties are located on flood plains and alluvium along the Navarro and Russian Rivers. Most of the red varieties are grown on the bench lands above.

  Lake County

The western portion of Lake County comprises the North Coast AVA. It encompasses the Clear Lake AVA, which in itself has 168,900 acres of land, the Red Hills Lake County AVA, and High Valley AVA. Within Lake County, a total of 8,530 acres are planted to winegrapes. This is expected to double in the next few years, as many new vineyards are being planted. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety with 3,300 acres. Sauvignon Blanc is the second with 1,790 acres. Fourteen wineries are located in the region. About 20 out-of-county wineries purchase Lake County grapes from independent growers. Lake County crushed 32,000 tons in 2005, about one percent of California's total winegrape tonnage.

Lake County surrounds Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California. The vineyards are planted throughout the county, from the agriculturally rich valley at 1,370 feet elevation (lake level), to the rocky red volcanic soil at more than 2,000 feet elevation around Mt. Konocti—a dormant volcano in the Pacific Rim chain. These elevations provide cooler winter conditions and a later start to the growing season. Summer growing conditions are suitably warm to ripen the grapes and the elevation allows rapid cooling in the evening. Few grape pests can tolerate the altitude and cool climate. Lake County growers are committed to sustainable farming and participate in year long educational programs to this end.

  Marin & Solano Counties

Marin County has 80 acres of vineyards and 13 wineries. Bordered on three sides by the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, the area grows mostly the early maturing Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay. The northeastern half of Marin is officially in the North Coast AVA. A small portion of Solano County, forming the southeast tip of the North Coast AVA, has three AVAs, covering an area of more than 21,200 acres. It too receives the cool maritime influence with ocean breezes flowing through the San Francisco Bay and the Delta.

The vineyards and wines of California's North Coast are recognized worldwide for their quality and diversity. There is a sense of place that identifies the region as well as the people. From the days of the Gold Rush of 1849, this part of the state has embodied the pioneering spirit and innovation that still energizes the California wine business.


(Wine Institute sources contributed to this article.)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of thousands of lodging and dining options in the North Coast region can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in the Resource Directory are links to the sites of most, if not all, of the wineries in this region.



Saturday, 19 May 2012 13:42

Great Bicycling in Sonoma County

cyclist in occidental8 SMALLTake either of two roads from Occidental to the coast.

Less than an hour north of San Francisco is some of the best bicycle riding in Northern California. You can travel flower-lined country roads that pass organic farms, ride under towering redwoods or pedal down quaint lanes past vineyards and wineries. You can also try winding routes that follow the gentle Russian River to the wild Pacific coastline.

The area is synonymous with good riding. With 2,250 kilometers/1,400 miles of lightly traveled secondary roads and a growing system of off-road bike trails, Sonoma County appeals to a wide variety of riders. Whether you are a dedicated cyclist attacking mountain passes or a weekend pedaler eager to sip wine and cycle through the vines, Sonoma County can provide you the perfect track. It's no wonder Bicycling Magazine listed the area as one of "The 7 Greatest Rides on Earth."

An avid cycling community is here. Perhaps the most notable is star resident and professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer. Serious bicyclists come to train as well as to compete. Sonoma County was at the starting line (and Stage 1 finish) for the Amgen Tour of California, May 13.


Here are some ways to explore the county by bicycle:


Challenge and Train

Two challenging rides in the county are the Kings Ridge-Tin Barn Road near Cazadero and Coleman Valley Road near Occidental. The Kings Ridge ride, favored by pro racer Levi Leipheimer, is a challenging, hilly course. It is considered one of the most beautiful, fulfilling bike rides in the world. The Coleman Valley ride is a landmark climb in Northern California and was featured in this year's Amgen Tour of California.

The Sonoma Coast 60-kilometer/40-mile ride is best done in the early morning before the motorists hit Highway One. It includes a couple of challenging hills. A good starting place is the town of Occidental through Monte Rio and Duncans Mills along Highway 116 to the fishing village of Bodega Bay.

The Geysers 80-kilometer/50-mile loop (1,000 meters/3,500 feet of climb) is very remote, with no services and very challenging terrain between Geyserville and Cloverdale. Suitable for fit, experienced riders only.


Sip and Cycle  

Come for one of the popular wine-tasting rides, known as "sip DryCreek5 Sign SMALLPastoral Dry Creek Valley offers tranquil riding. Photo by George Roseand cycle," where you can stop along the way every mile or so to taste wines at one of the more than 300 wineries. There are ideal places along the way to linger with a picnic of fresh wine country produce, breads, pasta, olive oil, fruit, cheese and chocolates.

The West Dry Creek Road near Healdsburg is a picturesque ride with a few rolling hills through vineyards and country roads. Many of the wineries are only minutes apart. Another great route is Red Winery Road in the Alexander Valley between Healdsburg and Geyserville. This is a quiet, peaceful, flat and virtually traffic free area with beautiful oak dotted hills and miles of vineyards.


Bring the Whole Family

Explore the many paths as you pedal through Armstrong Redwoods under the giant trees in a truly tranquil and peaceful setting.

The Joe Rodota Trail, a segment of the West County Trail, is paved and runs between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. It's built on an former railroad right-of-way; several bridges have been constructed over the old trestles. The trail is especially popular in the spring with the vivid blooming of the wildflowers. It is an excellent place for bird watching year-round.

The West County Trail between the towns of Sebastopol and Forestville is a paved path and relatively flat with a few gentle climbs. An unpaved horseback riding trail runs parallel. The West County Trail and the Joe Rodota Trail offer beautiful farm and agricultural views.


Leisure and Moderate Trails

The leisurely 32-kilometer/20-mile Sonoma Valley ride explores the scenic Valley of the Moon. Begin at the Sonoma Plaza, ride past the historic General Vallejo home and continue on back roads through the town of Glen Ellen to the Jack London State Historic Park. The winding roads and gentle climbs allow you to soak in the beautiful views of lush greenery, vineyards, streams and oak trees.

Starting and ending in Petaluma, the 48-kilometer/30-mile Spring Hill-Chileno Valley ride is a pleasant tour of the dairy lands along the border between Sonoma and Marin Counties. Much of this trail is on quiet back roads and is very scenic; some sections offer moderate to fairly serious climbs.


The following Santa Rosa-based companies offer bicycle rentals or tours:


Getaway Adventures & Rentals


Bike rentals or guided personalized tours; gourmet lunches available.


Rincon Cyclery


Located just blocks away from excellent riding sites - Spring Lake Park, Howarth Park and Annadel Park. Staff will help you find the right bike and the right trail or road to ride on.


Other good places for cycling information:


Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition


The coalition also has a bicycle map online, or available for purchase a printed map.


Santa Rosa Cycling Club


Excellent site for group events and rides.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Sonoma County lodging and dining options can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.



Whether grown from the fertile earth or harvested fresh from the sea, Sonoma County's eateries embrace an eat-fresh philosophy that offers visitors a true taste of wine country.

Sonoma Co wine at picnic tableDining has close connection with the land.

Venture out beyond your resort's borders to discover a food lover's paradise: 500-plus restaurants ranging from Michelin- and Zagat-rated to casual wine country cuisine use freshly harvested, locally-grown produce.

Pay attention as you explore the lush countryside; the bounty you see today may be on your plate tonight. An abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs blanket the countryside. Cattle, sheep, and pigs graze the landscape, chickens and turkeys scratch in the pastures, and goats and cows offer up fresh milk and cheese. Dungenesss crab, salmon and briny oysters expand menu choices.

While the "locavore movement" is changing the way the nation eats, here it’s been that way for hundreds of years. Sonoma County Farm Trails is evidence of this rich heritage. It's a culinary charm bracelet of more than 200 orchards, farms, ranches and vineyards throughout the county, offering everything from apples to zucchini.


Some notable restaurants to visit would include:


Santé Restaurant is the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn's (www.fairmont.com/sonoma) premier dining room and has earned a national reputation for its outstanding food. Literally meaning “to your health,” the restaurant is a celebration of innovative California cuisine and good taste. Recipient of a prestigious Michelin Star as well as the AAA Four Diamond award, Santé is the only restaurant in the Sonoma Valley to receive these accolades.

Guests enjoy a seasonal menu, in a warm and casual yet stylish setting. Designed to exude the California wine country experience, Chef Andrew Cain showcases the region’s abundant local products and world-famous wines. Only the freshest local produce, meats, poultry and seafood are used to create elegantly simple dishes that let the natural flavors of the food speak for themselves.

The Farmhouse

Located in the small town of Forestville, California in the Russian River Valley Region of Sonoma County's famed wine country, the Farmhouse (www.farmhouseinn.com) represents the finest level of Sonoma inns, restaurants and spas - where sublime guestrooms, farm-fresh food and seasonal body treatments come together in one unforgettable experience.

Nestled in the heart of the Russian River Valley wine region, the "country-chic" Farmhouse is a Michelin-star, top Zagat-reviewed restaurant for the San Francisco Bay Area and has been a San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurant four years running. Chef Steve Litke offers "sublime" seasonal California-French cuisine showcasing local, artisan ingredients. The restaurant's signature dish is "Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit," rabbit prepared three ways, all delicious.

Viola Pastry Boutique & CafeBy opening Viola Pastry Boutique & Cafe (www.violapastryboutique.com), Jennifer McMurry celebrates her grandmother, Viola, who was the heart and soul of her family. McMurry has always wanted to share her grandmother's love of food and cooking with others. Cakes, cookies, pastries and cupcakes head the pastry menu.

Want something savory, a full menu for breakfast includes eggs Benedict, breakfast sandwich or burrito, chillaquiles, huevos rancheros, and veggie hash. Sandwiches, soups, paninis and more are lunch and dinner fare. Did we mention pastries?

Applewood Inn

This Sonoma County restaurant, located in the Russian River Valley, is highly regarded for its exquisite cuisine, soothing atmosphere, polished guest services, and its mellow earthy ambiance. The cozy restaurant was built to recall a French barn, yet gives one the feeling of being at a fine Italian villa. The restaurant is part of Applewood Inn (www.applewoodinn.com), a Sonoma County bed and breakfast boutique hotel.

Jackson's Bar and Oven and Petite Syrah

Diners rave about popular chef Josh Silvers’ two Santa Rosa restaurants - Jackson's Bar & Oven (www.jacksonsbarandoven.com)and Petite Syrah (www.petitesyrah.com). Both in historic Railroad Square, Jackson's is a more casual, family-friendly eaterie, with a menu that centers on dishes from the kitchen's wood-fired oven. Petite Syrah, created from Silvers’ elegant Syrah Bistro, offers small plates in a wine country casual atmosphere.

Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe

Chef Jeffrey Madura, former head chef at the epitome of wine country restaurants John Ash & Co., has opened the doors to his own cafe. Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe (www.jeffreyshillsidecafe.com) sees Madura moving away from elegant evening service to a hot breakfast, lunch and brunch spot.

After 20 years as executive chef at John Ash & Co., Madura left in 2008 to spend more time with his family. He realized he loved not working nights, but he missed the creativity of cooking. Now, if you want to sample his fare, be there early. The cafe is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Sonoma County and other North Coast areas can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


sonoma county farm scene  SMALL and wine barrel 

The vintage of 2011 was a great one for Sonoma County wines, as the wine industry's top publications and wine competitions honored many of the region's top producers, and the 2009 vintage of Sonoma County wines, most notably Pinot Noir, garnered outstanding coverage.

The 2011 San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 American Wines report featured 27 Sonoma County wines, significantly more wines than any other region in the report. Sonoma County wineries were prominent among the sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon categories, a testament to the diversity of the region's appellations and climates.

In the Wine Spectator's October 15, 2011 California Pinot Noir issue, the cover story headline proclaims "How Pinot Became Sonoma's Signature", a huge coup acknowledging the evolution taking place as vintners and growers learn more about their sites, clones and nuances in winemaking. Senior editor James Laube's story, entitled "California's Burgundy" chronicles the wine's evolution in Sonoma County from the 1980s to the 2009 vintage and highlights 20 Sonoma County producers and 15 great vineyard sites before extolling the virtues of the critically acclaimed 2009 vintage. "In terms of the number of great wines,'09 is head and shoulders above any other vintage in California Pinot Noir history," Laube writes.

In another exciting acknowledgement of Sonoma County's Pinot Noir quality, 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was ranked the number one wine in the Wine Spectator Magazine's Top 100 Wines of 2011, a huge accomplishment considering that over 16,000 wines from all over the world are reviewed each year by the publication. Ten Sonoma County wines were in the Wine Spectator Top 100 for 2011 from regions throughout the county, including Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Alexander Valley, and Knights Valley.

The Wine Enthusiast honored Pinot Noir from Sonoma County in 2011 by naming Joseph SwanVineyard's 2007 Trenton Estate Pinot Noir the number two wine of the year in their annual "Enthusiast 100 Must-Have Wines of the Year". Editors of the publication also lauded Bob Cabral from Williams Selyem, one of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County's pioneering wineries, as Winemaker of the Year in their 2011 Wine Star Awards. Russian River Valley was nominated this year as the top region of the year, as well.

Sonoma County Chardonnay also earned kudos from top wine publications. The October 2011 issueof Wine & Spirits "Best Chardonnays of 2011" featured 2009 Flowers Sonoma Coast Camp Meeting Ridge and 2009 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay in the top two spots among 579 wines reviewed. Two wines from Iron Horse Vineyards, 2009 Green Valley Native Yeast Chardonnay and 2009 Green Valley Heritage Clone Chardonnay, took two more of the top six slots in the review.

Diane Wilson, of Wilson Winery in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, won several awards including"Best Wine by a Woman Winemaker" at the 2011 International Women's Wine Competition.

Editor's note: For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions,and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call (800) 576-6662.


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Sonoma County can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


(Editor's note: These observations from a very special tasting of Inglenook wines first appeared in our electronic pages in 2002. They remain relevant today as Francis Ford Coppola, a man with an appreciation for history, has continued to acquire Napa Valley vineyards that supplied grapes to this icon of California wine. In 2011 he bought back the Inglenook trademark so that he could use it for the highest quality line in his winery operation. Readers can learn about the resurrection of the fabled Inglenook brand at Historic Inglenook Estate to Release First Wine with Classic Label)


By Dan Clarke

Inglenook 1941 Cab MEDThe legendary 1941 

For all the mystique about older wines, not many of us really have much first-hand experience with them. Not even wine writers.

In the modern world most wines are purchased shortly after they are released. The red wines of Bodeaux and their American counterparts (comprised mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) go on sale about three years after their grapes were crushed. Those of us who write about wine spend an awful lot of time tasting, analyzing and pontificating about these new vintages. Often we predict which ones will age well, though we may not have extensive experience with their previous editions. It is expected of us.

So while we spend most of our time tasting new wine, we love to sample older vintages. Doing so validates (or refutes) our predictions. The exercise usually involves wines five or ten years old, at times somewhat older.

Last Friday I was privileged to experience vinous history. The Niebaum-Coppola Estate occupies the property that once was home to Inglenook. Francis Ford Coppola didn’t have to inherit the mantle of greatness of the legendary Napa Valley property (interim corporate entities squandered that opportunity in the 1960s and 70s), but he chose to do so. He believes that the glory that was Inglenook’s is the heritage he continues in his Rubicon wines. Since 1974 he has been purchasing segments of the original historic Niebaum Estate, home of Inglenook wines, and after extensive restoration, winemaking returned to the original chateau with his 2002 crush for Rubicon.

John Daniel Jr. was the name associated with the glamour years of Inglenook—the decades of the 30s, 40s and 50s. He was known as a man who never stinted in the pursuit of quality. He made what must have been a difficult decision to sell the winery in 1964. Things were never the same. After a very few years the emphasis went to lower prices points and larger production. Today the name Inglenook still appears, but only on cheap jug wines.

About 70 of us participated in the Inglenook tasting and the Rubicon dinner that followed. Our host was there, of course, as were his wife Eleanor and son Roman. Others from Niebaum-Coppola tasted with us. There was a clear link to the past in the presence of Robin Lail and her husband Jon. Robin is the daughter of John Daniel and continues the legacy in her own way with the John Daniel Cuvée from Lail Vineyards. Some television people were there and I recognized fellow wine writers Dan Berger, George Starke and Alan Goldfarb, among others. We were part of a fortunate group.

The tasting included seven Cabernet Sauvignons spanning four decades. We began with the youngest wine, the last one made on John Daniel’s watch, a 1963. We concluded with the first Inglenook wine to celebrate the repeal of the Volstead Act, the 1933 vintage. Master Sommelier Larry Stone supervised the uncorking and decanting of the wines. Because of the size of our group, not all of us had samples from the same bottles, of course. Variation from bottle to bottle could mean different tasting experiences. My observations seemed to be more-or-less similar to several of my colleagues. Quantification of the experience wasn’t the point, though. You don’t count beans when you’re experiencing history.

I would have loved it if every friend who really appreciates wine could have shared the table with us at last Friday’s tasting. Since that wasn’t possible I’ll provide the harvest notes we were given for each vintage (as taken from the writings of Charles Sullivan, Stephen Brook, Michael Broadbent and James Laube), as well as my own thoughts:


Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, C-3,

Napa Valley 1963, 750 ml


Harvest Notes “A very wet rainy season was followed by lots of frost and a cool summer. September was cool and foggy. The early October rain hit with 50 percent of the crop unharvested. There was a race to get grapes in, and pickers were scarce. Last vintage under John Daniel family ownership. The Napa Valley Wine Library was formed. A record year for California wine production.”


This wine is nearly 40 years old. Thinking of it as John Daniel’s last wine brings a little sadness, which is amplified by realizing that the grapes were crushed the month before Jack Kennedy was assassinated. I wonder if I have ever tasted this wine and the 1958 and 1959 vintages that will come next. It’s certainly possible, but that would have been a long time ago. When the fraternity party invitation read B.Y.O.B., I tended to drink Almaden Mountain Burgundy, not a bad wine and, at $1.25 affordable for a college boy. But it was not Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon.



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, J-6,

Napa Valley, 1959, 750 ml


Harvest Notes “A dry year with a scorching summer. St. Helena hit 111 degrees on July 10th. The vintage started on August 28th and was rapid and fairly orderly. Hot weather cut crop, but yields were satisfactory. A huge September 17th rain frightened growers, but excellent weather followed. Very hot in Napa, but some memorable cabernets. Napa wine production was 5,752,000 gallons with an average grower price of $67.38. Vineyardists earned $201 income per bearing acre.”


I’m relieved to find that this wine is still vibrant. If not youthful, it certainly isn’t over the top. It was a great nose, with minty, menthol/eucalyptus aromas. This is a wine that makes you sit up and take notice.



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, F-10,

Napa Valley, 1958, 750 ml


Harvest Notes “Vintage was early and orderly. Warm weather lasted into November. An extremely good vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon. The number of wineries declined from 38 to 30 since 1951. Prices went back up, with national wine consumption rising steadily.”


Less minty than the ’59, but fine Cabernet aroma. This wine is wonderfully balanced and has a long finish. An elegant wine. (Might I have had it before? Maybe in the early ‘60s on a special date at Restaurant Antoinina or while looking for sophistication on trips to San Francisco as a college student).



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1943, 750 ml


Harvest Notes “Winemakers of the era considered 1943 only ‘good.’ Vineyardists left monumental numbers of buds on their vines, making 1943 the largest vintage here since 1888. In 1943 the wine list of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel contained twenty-eight table wines from Napa producers. A decision was made by founding fathers (Martini, Tchelistcheff, Daniel, Abruzzini, Stelling, Stralla, Forni, the Mondavis and Brother John) to meet regularly and discuss matters important to Napa wine, be they technical, financial, cultural or gastronomic. Martini was the first president and Daniel the first vice president. They were most concerned about government price controls on grape prices. Later, in 1983, the group became a formal trade organization, the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association.”


The 1943 is a little dimmer than the ’58, but still remarkably good. It smells and taste like an old Bordeaux. (This vintage is a year older than I am--and maybe in better shape?).



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1941, 750 ml


Harvest Notes “The 1941 vintage was almost featureless, except that Napa producers made several great wines . . . the Inglenook Cabernets . . . were fifty-year wines. Some great wine, notably Inglenook Cask. Heavy spring rain, ten cold days, bloom delayed. Very warm summer. Dry autumn, late October harvest. Napa wine production was 5,288,000 gallons with an average price per ton of $24.50.”


The wine still has good color and composition, but not a lot of nose. It’s still an elegant wine, though, with a very long finish. (For years I’ve heard about the California vintage of 1941, but hadn’t the opportunity to taste it until now. What a treat! It would have been wonderful to track this wine all through its history, maybe tasting a bottle every year or two. I wonder if anyone has been able to do that? No matter. I have experienced this 61-year-old wonder this evening).



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1934, 375 ml and 750 ml


Harvest Notes “The vintage . . . was of good quality . . . Good quality. Independent vineyardists organized to form the first cooperative winery. Grape prices collapsed from 1933 euphoric heights.”


These last two wines are in very short supply tonight. Vintages poured prior to this provided a small glass for each taster. Each glass of the 1934 and the next wine must be shared by two tasters. Color is very dark, dense. The first whiff and the nose seems unusual. The aroma reminds me of knockwurst, a word I’ve never used in describing wine. The first sip reveals a taste much better than the odor might have hinted. Later sniffs reveal some floral odors—maybe a little bit like violets. It gets nicer as it goes along. Not a long finish, but what ’34 does? (At harvest time my father was running cross country during his senior year at San Mateo High School).



Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1933, 375 ml


Harvest Notes “The Napa Valley crop was very short and 5,000,000 gallons of wine were produced. The weather for harvesting grapes was ideal—reported in mid October. First harvest after prohibition.”


All of the 1933 tastes and some of the 1934 have been poured from ½ bottles. Accepted wisdom is that the larger the bottle, the slower and more gracefully the wine will age, but these bottles were what was available. Would the wines have tasted different/better if they had come from larger bottles? The point is moot, of course, but I can’t imagine wines this old tasting any better or more youthful. This wine is still remarkably young in appearance. There seems to be a little subtle spice in the background—not a characteristic normally attributed to this variety, but I find it pleasant. It finishes nicely and very long. (My mother was in junior high school in Medford, Oregon at harvest time. No doubt her father was pleased about the end of Prohibition, though it didn’t cramp his style too much according to most family recollections).


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in the Napa Valley and the rest of the North Coast can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.



Inglenook Estate has announced that it will produce the first premium wine bearing the Inglenook label since the Estate was disassembled in 1964. The 2009 vintage of Inglenook CASK Cabernet will be released in late spring of 2012.

One year ago, Francis Ford Coppola successfully completed the process of reclaiming the Inglenook trademark so that his celebrated Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley would thereafter be known by its historicInglenook 09 Cask  SMALL ING engraving FNL original name. At the same time, he hired winemaker Philippe Bascaules, previously of Château Margaux in Bordeaux, to assume the position of Estate Manager and Winemaker for Inglenook. Inglenook and its wines have played a prominent role in defining Napa Valley as one of the great wine regions of the world, with a legacy dating back 130 years to the founding of the Inglenook Winery in 1880 by Gustave Niebaum. The 1941 Inglenook Cabernet, which is considered one of the greatest wines ever made, was produced from vineyards that are still part of Coppola’s estate in Rutherford. The legendary 1941 vintage remains an inspiration for Inglenook Estate today and for the fortunate few who have the opportunity to experience it.

The estate wines will return to their historical labels as well. The new label heralds the original Inglenook Cabernet label of the late 1950s, of which it is almost an exact replica, and features a classic design showcasing the façade of the Inglenook Estate and the name of the grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. Francis Ford Coppola commissioned a retired US Mint artist to create the etching of the chateau that appears on the new label.

Inglenook and its wines have played a prominent role in defining Napa Valley as one of the great wine regions of the world, with a legacy dating back 130 years to the founding of the Inglenook Winery in 1880 by Gustave Niebaum. The 1941 Inglenook Cabernet, which is considered one of the greatest wines ever made, was produced from vineyards that are still part of Coppola’s estate in Rutherford. The legendary 1941 vintage remains an inspiration for Inglenook Estate today and for the fortunate few who have the opportunity to experience it.

The choice of the 2009 CASK Cabernet as the first wine to bear the new Inglenook label is fitting. The CASK Cabernet is a tribute to the highly stylized Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Inglenook during the John Daniel, Jr. era of the 1930s and 1940s that saw many of the greatest historical Inglenook vintages ever produced. This wine epitomizes the kind of Rutherford wine that inspires and stimulates debate among connoisseurs.

The 2009 vintage is a deserving choice to represent the greatness of Inglenook Estate, as well. Philippe Bascaules offers his first impression of the vintage: “When I tasted some samples of the 2009 vintage, I recognized the incredible potential of this property. I understood Francis Ford Coppola’s desire to bring the quality of the wines to their fullest potential.”

Bascaules works closely with Stéphane Derenoncourt, the famed Pomerol-based winemaking consultant who has been the consulting winemaker at the Estate responsible for the 2008 and subsequent vintages.


Inglenook Vineyards was founded in 1880 by Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish sea captain who used his enormous wealth to import the best European grapevines to Napa. Over the next several decades under the guidance of the legendary John Daniel, Inglenook built a reputation as the source of some of the finest wines ever made. By 1975, however, when Francis and Eleanor Coppola first purchased part of the famed property, the Inglenook Estate had long since been broken up and its name sold off. The Coppolas spent the next twenty years reuniting the vineyards and restoring winemaking to the historic Inglenook Chateau. Today, in addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon that dominates the Estate, the Inglenook acreage is also planted with Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and eight acres of white Rhone varietals that produce the estate's flagship white, Blancaneaux. Inglenook is now completely restored to its original dimensions and is once again America's great wine estate.


Editor's Note: Readers can share Dan Clarke's experience with many of those great Inglenook vintages at Tasting History, A Trip into Inglenook's Past.


Spring in The Napa Valley is the perfect time for getting outdoors and up-close-and-personal with blooming wild mustard and budding vines. Conservation organizations, nature-minded hotels and sporty tasting rooms serve up exciting adventures in the great outdoors with treks that include biking, kayaking, art and yoga.

Trees Hwy 29 SMALLCanopy of trees on Hwy 29Connecting to the LandDedicated to the preservation of the Napa Valley, the Land Trust of Napa County has successfully protected 26,000 acres of pristine wilderness, designating these spaces as public parks and recreational areas featuring fabulous vistas and wildlife corridors.

Throughout the year, the Land Trust offers unique and invigorating field trips, from hikes to wildlife sanctuary explorations or jeep-led tours. On April 29, 2012, the Land Trust began offering a free six-mile "Maggie's Peak Trail Run." The new hike features a trek up the mountainside to the dramatic Devil's Well waterfall and into a serene redwood grove. And this spring and summer, the Land Trust kicks off its new MemberSeries program focused on new ways to connect with the Napa Valley's protected lands, including a 90-minute yoga/meditation session at Archer Taylor Preserve, a century-old redwood forest, and field trips involving lessons in outdoor art and photography. For a schedule of events, brochure and hike sign-up, please visit www.napalandtrust.org.

Tasting the TrailsCycling enthusiasts can pedal over to Velo Vino, a St. Helena tasting room celebrating both cycling and wine, for the sportiest wine tasting in the Napa Valley. Serving Clif Family wines alongside group or custom biking excursions, Velo Vino offers monthly, complimentary cycling adventures suitable for both moderate and advanced riders, ranging in distance from 35-50 miles. Recent rides included cycling along the 40-mile Franz Valley loop on March 24, and on April 21, participating riders biked the 38-mile Old Toll Road route.

Art Inspired Hikes at di RosaSpring is the perfect time for art and nature lovers to visit the di Rosa museum and explore its significant collection of Northern California art. Beginning in April, di Rosa is offering a series of Spring Nature Hikes (April 28, May 5, May 19 and June 9), where guests join experienced guides for the rare opportunity to hike to the top of Milliken Peak at di Rosa, the highest summit in Napa Valley's Carneros region. In addition to sweeping views of the North Bay, hikers' gazes will be entranced with sculptures along the trek to the peak. The hike is moderately strenuous and children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Also offered at di Rosa, every Saturday at 10:00 a.m., April through September, is the two and a half hour "Art and Meadow" tour, which includes a tour of di Rosa's Main Gallery, Historic Residence, and Sculpture Meadow rich in flora and fauna, including resident peacocks. Highlights include the wildly colorful outdoor art populating the meadow, courtyard and 100 year-old olive grove, featuring sculptures by Viola Frey, Mark di Suvero, Gordon Huether, Ray Beldner and the world's tallest file cabinet (Minuet in MG) by Sam Yates. Hikes are free to members, all others $15. For more information about the hikes and tours visit: www.dirosaart.org.

Stay and Hike the Day Away PackageAt the eco-friendly Bardessono hotel in Yountville, a LEED Platinum certified property, the "Hike the Day Away" package includes annual membership for two with the Land Trust of Napa County, which provides access for hiking on private lands and opportunities to enjoy unique members-only excursions. The Bardessono also offers amenities that encourage environmentally friendly adventure, such as complimentary bike rentals for guests and an electric car recharging station. For information and reservations visit http://www.bardessono.com.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of Napa Valley wineries, as well as websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options will be found in the North Coast section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

While known for the “summer camp” vibe of Guerneville and environs, Sonoma County has grown into agay guys picnic SMALL year-round gay and lesbian destination that mixes upscale wine country living with rural charm.

Less than 30 miles north of San Francisco, Sonoma County includes the rugged coast, the celebrated wine country, historic towns and quaint villages. Wine tasting is a top draw, as are spa getaways, sophisticated dining, world-class lodgings, golf and more.

Guerneville, along the Russian River, continues to be a hotspot for fun. The friendly town boasts gay and lesbian bars along its strip, as well as hotels, campgrounds and B&Bs.

Sonoma County offers great activities outside the Russian River area. Wine tasting at one of the more than 300 wineries is popular, as Sonoma County is known for its excellent wines and casual approach to enjoying them. Often the person offering you a taste of the wine is the winemaker herself.



Just north of San Francisco, gay and gay-friendly accommodations abound. Luxury resorts like the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Doubletree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country, Applewood Inn, Gaige House Innand the Vintners Inn offer high-end amenities.

The Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel & Spa and Hilton Sonoma Wine Countryoffer centrally located convenience, and the Sheraton Sonoma County - Petaluma has its own marina. Bed & Breakfasts are found in scenic hamlets and the coast. In Guerneville, the Fern Grove Cottages, the Highlands Resort, the Woods Resort, and Russian River Resort are among the places to go. Monte Rio boasts gay-owned Village Inn and Rio Villa Beach Resort.

When hotels and resorts get full, cabin rentals are a good option. Accommodation information can be found at www.sonomacounty.com.



Wine Tasting: World-class wines that consistently garner awards sampled in a friendly, welcoming setting are common to the wine scene in Sonoma County.


Spas: Unique and luxurious spa experiences abound, with wine-country variations using locally grown products like wine, grapes, honey and more for facial and skin treatments.


Dining: Innovative cuisine meets a commitment to fine locally grown and produced products like cheeses, meats, wines, produce and more.


Coast: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed in Bodega Bay, but you don’t need to be a movie buff to enjoy fresh crab, great food and breathtaking scenery.


Redwoods: The Russian River is more than just gay bars and resorts, as towering redwoods offer quiet walks and cool relief from summer heat. Hiking, biking and kayaking are the order of the day.


Gay and Lesbian Events:

SFPride: One of the world’s largest pride parades and parties takes place less than 30 miles south of Sonoma County in San Francisco. Spend some time in Sonoma’s wineries, check out the Russian River resort area or just chill amongst the redwoods before and after Pride Weekend. www.sfpride.org. June.


Lazy Bear Weekend: For Bears and their fans, this week-long “weekend” celebration features nightly parties, campfires, river fun and more. Spread over multiple venues in the Russian River area. www.castrobear.com. August.


Russian River Food and Wine Fest: Celebrating the bounty of Sonoma County, the Food and Wine Fest is a seasonal highlight. Locally made artisan cheeses, chef demonstrations, cookbook signings and anything food related make this a must-see. www.russianriverfoodandwinefest.com. September.


Women’s Weekend: Hot pool parties, bumpin' night life, dancing, craft fair, dining, motorcycle run, auction, live music, camping, shows, contests, seminars. www.rrwomensweekend.com. May and September.


Air Connections

Direct flights to Wine Country from Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego (beginning June 5, 2012), and Seattle on Alaska Air. Nearby international airports are San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.


On the Web

www.sonomacounty.com is the official tourism website of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau

http://inside-sonoma.com/glbt is Sonoma County's official gay travel blog.

www.gayrussianriver.com shows off everything gay in and around Guerneville and the Russian River

www.russianrivertravel.com is an excellent website for general Russian River travel information

www.gaysonoma.com is an online guide for news, events, personals, and local businesses

Follow @gaysonomacounty and @SonomaCoPride on Twitter for the most up-to-date event, activity and travel information.


For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call (800) 576-6662.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Sonoma County and the rest of the North Coast can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


Saturday, 28 April 2012 20:22

Shannon Ridge Acquires High Valley Vineyard

Clay and Margarita Shannon have purchased High Valley Vineyard and will add that property and brand to their portfolio of Lake County wines. The eighty-acre vineyard lies adjacent to the Shannons’ home vineyard in the High Valley appellation of Lake County.

clay and margarita shannon SMALLMargarita and Clay Shannon“Margarita and I have admired this property for a long time,” says Clay Shannon. “The Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet are a great fit for our Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, and our flock of 1,000 sheep have always thought that the grass seemed just a little bit greener on the other side of that fence.” The vineyard will be renamed Betsy’s Vineyard, paying tribute to Clay Shannon’s mother, who passed away from cancer. “It’s nice to think that her memory will live on in this vineyard and wines,” Shannon says.

The High Valley Vineyard wines will be expanded into national distribution. “We really believe in Lake County and the quality that we can deliver in the bottle,” says Clay Shannon. “So purchasing this vineyard and these wines was just another way to confirm our commitment to the region.”

“As we take these wines into national distribution, we’ll dedicate a portion of the proceeds to fight cancer,” says Margarita Shannon. “That’s something very close to our hearts, and it has affected so many people. We want to do something to make a difference.” The Shannons also support Sponsoring Survivorship, a non-profit organization for women in Lake County struggling against breast cancer.

The portfolio of award-winning Shannon Ridge wines includes the Single Vineyard Collection and Ranch Collection, as well as affiliated brands Vigilance, Hillgate, Dos Brotos, Dalliance, Cross Springs, and now High Valley Vineyard. Shannon Ridge’s vineyards are certified sustainable, and are known for their woolly compost machines – a flock of 1,000 sheep, complete with shepherd and a team of highly trained sheepdogs. The sheep do an excellent job of canopy management and leaf removal, and pick the vineyard clean after harvest. They also manage the cover crop in the spring and work hard to reduce fire danger in the surrounding hills the remainder of the year.

About Shannon Ridge Family of WinesClay and Margarita Shannon are committed to preserving their land, not only for the great vineyard sites but also for the bear, elk, mountain lions, eagles and other creatures which live there. Of the approximately 1,400 acres on the ranch, only about 35% have been converted to vineyards. The balance of the land has been preserved for the wildlife which wanders through the property from the expansive wilderness area to the north and east. The vineyards were carefully planned out, leaving corridors open to migrating animals and protecting sensitive nesting areas.


Editor's note: Visitors to Lake County and other parts of the North Coast wine country will find links to the websites of wineries there, as well as hundreds of links to hundreds of lodging and dining options, at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

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