A Los Olivos Tasting Room You Don’t Want to Miss- Andrew Murray Vineyards

Last weekend, my husband and I planned a trip to Paso Robles to do a little wine tasting.  On the beautiful ride up the 101, we decided to take a detour into Los Olivos, a quaint little town in Santa Barbara’s wine country.  It’s a beautiful area decorated with wineries, tasting rooms, and restaurants.  We decided to make a stop into Andrew Murray Vineyards’ tasting room at the invitation of the winery.  I had heard a lot of great buzz about Andrew’s wines and his rock star wine making abilities.

Tracy hosted our tasting and was very knowledgable about Andrew and the wines he passionately makes.  She took us on a fantastic journey through eight of Andrew’s wines.  Seven of the eight wines were Syrah and each bottle was unique and intricately different. 

We started with one of the winery’s latest releases, the 2009 Syrah Tous les Jours. The grapes for this vintage come from vineyards in both the Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles.  This Syrah tasted of a melody of dark cherries, cranberries, and spices.  Incredibly smooth and only $16.  It is undoubtedly one of the best Syrahs I have had in this price range.

As we moved through the tasting, we discovered one Syrah that was better than the next.  The stand out of the tasting for me was the 2009 Syrah Terra Bella Vineyard.  The wine hails from the west side of Paso Robles.  It poured a striking and beautifully intense violet.  Flavors of rich berries, toasted oak, spice, and vanilla were followed by a long, dry finish.  This wine was both big and balanced, showing lots of elegant personality.  My favorite wine of the tasting and a great value at $36. 

If you are spending some time in the Santa Barbara area, this is a tasting room you don’t want to miss.  Andrew Murray lives up to his rock star winemaker reputation and I am now a groupie.

(for more information visit www.andrewmurrayvineyards.com)

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Sauvignon Blanc Heaven at Honig Winery

While I was in Napa, Linda Cordair (from Quent Cordair Fine Art in downtown Napa) pointed us in the direction of Honig Winery in Rutherford.  I had heard some great things about their Sauvignon Blanc, but never had the chance to try any of their wines.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a fun and laid-back staff. (no wine snobs here!)  The tasting room was adorned with beautiful dark wood and very relaxed…we even had the option to do our tasting on their couches. 

We started our tasting with Honig’s 2009 Rutherford Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.  It is a refreshing and lively wine with notes of peach and citrus with a crisp finish.  Very elevated in style and nicely priced at $25.  We then moved on to a couple of Cabernets.  The 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet was our favorite of the two…full of dark fruit and spices finished off by a touch of oak ($40). 

The grand finale of our tasting was Honig’s 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.  The aromas of vanilla and honey drew me in while the tastes of citrus and apricot followed by a long, honey finish won me over ($55).  This is an incredible dessert wine…we brought a bottle home and I am thinking it won’t last too much longer than the weekend. 

Honig is a great place to relax and try some wonderful wines.  The whole tasting room staff is wonderful and they all got involved to make sure we had a great tasting experience.  Give them a call if you would like to stop in!  For more information go to www.HonigWine.com

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Tasting with Craig Camp at Cornerstone Cellars

One of the best experiences I had in Napa was a tasting with Craig Camp, managing partner of Cornerstone Cellars.  He invited Brandon and I to join him in Yountville to try both Cornerstone and Stepping Stone’s wines.  We arrived at their tasting room near famed Bistro Jeanty and Bouchon restaurants.  The tasting room is beautiful with a relaxed atmosphere…a place that makes you want to sit down, enjoy the wine, and have great conversation.

Managing Partner Craig Camp

Craig is great guy who is passionate about giving people exceptional wines.  We started the tasting with Cornerstone’s sister label, Stepping Stone.  Stepping Stone has outstanding wines for a great value.  Each wine seemed to impress our taste buds and make us wish there was more than just a sip or two in the glass.  The 2010 Stepping Stone Riesling is aromatic and refreshing with a dry finish.  The 201o Syrah Rose delivered a field of strawberries that enveloped my palate.  Both of these wines retail for only $18.

Tasting Menu at Cornerstone

The Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc was a favorite of mine (so much so that we brought home 3 bottles!).   It is one of the better Cab Franc’s I have had…wonderful acidity and a lift at the end makes this a steal for $35. 

After wrapping up with the Stepping Stone we had the privilege to taste Cornerstone’s wines.  The 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet is 100% Cabernet and tastes of dark cherries and spice.  The wine has silky tannins and a spicy finish.  The 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet, the flagship of Cornerstone, is a breathtaking wine.  Rich with smooth tannins and a lively finish…the wine should age gracefully but also impressed us now.  

2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet

At the end of the tasting, Craig brought out a bottle of Pinot from the back that has not been released yet and we were lucky enough to be some of the first to taste it.  The 2009 Cornerstone Pinot Noir is something to get excited about…silky and smooth with dark berries.  The finish is a crescendo of spice…it starts out subtle and explodes at the end.  I asked to buy a bottle (probably should have begged) but I guess I will have to wait until the fall like everyone else 🙁

Be on the lookout for this Pinot!

We were so impressed with the wines that Cornerstone produces.  There aren’t many wineries out their that produce one wine that is better than the next but somehow Cornerstone has done just that.  Check them out at www.CornerstoneCellars.com and whether you buy the $18 Syrah Rose of the $75 Howell Mountain Cabernet, you won’t be disappointed!

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A Great Wine For a Summer BBQ- Big Pink 2009 Rosé of Zinfandel

I am always looking for the perfect wine to bring to a summer BBQ…something that will be a crowd pleaser and go well with warm weather and summer foods.  After a visit to Annadel Estate Winery last fall, I was introduced Big Pink Rosé.  Annadel, owned by Dean Bordigioni, is one of the most beautiful properties in Sonoma County and hosts some of the most picturesque weddings I have ever seen (their weddings have been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Real Simple magazine, and C Magazine).  It was easy to be romanced by the property but what I really liked was Big Pink.

About the Wine- From the Winery

Big Pink 2009 Rosé comes from the Alexander Valley and is a Rosé of Zinfandel.  It has 14.5% alcohol and retails for $20.  (Big Pink is named after the Harley on the bottle below…Bordigioni once owned a Harley dealership, this particular model started off red, but due to a faulty paint job, faded to pink…not such a tough motorcycle now, huh?) For more information see www.AnnadelEstateWinery.com

Now the Fun Part- Tasting the Wine

Big Pink 2009 Rosé pours a light red.  The nose is full of sweet berries including strawberries and raspberries.   The wine has a “big” berry taste and ends with a smooth, dry finish.  While Big Pink is not a refined Rosé, it is a fun wine and very easy to drink…especially when the weather is warm.  This is a great summer wine so you may want to hop on their website and grab a bottle..or you can do I as did and order a case! 

My Wine Rating- B+

*Wine Pairing Note- I have been asked a lot lately about wine pairing for hot dogs since summer is coming quickly.  Big Pink Rosé is among one of my favorites to sip with hot dogs on a warm summer day!

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