Saturday Fun Day

What was supposed to be a Silver Oak day turned into so much more.

We headed from Calistoga to meet the most wonderful bestie ever, Margaret, at Dean & DeLuca  in St. Helena.  If you haven’t been to  D & D I can only compare it to Oakville Grocery meets Sur La Table meets your local wine store meets the Whole Foods produce department – ON STERIODS.  Margaret isn’t there yet so I decide no harm done I will look around D & D.  I step through the doors and hear heavenly music from above, my vision gets misty and I act like a child hopped up on sugar.  “Oh Honey look at this, and look at this, and look at this…..HONEEEEY!!!!  He is not listening….. In fact he’s not even within shouting distance; we’ve been down this road before, so he knows how this goes.  Until I get my frantic rushing and oohing and ahhing out of the way he steers clear.  After  bouncing my way around the store I end up at the deli counter contemplating a sandwich (for later of course-it’s only 10 am!).   My Hubby is testing the waters and making his way toward me as he can see I’ve calmed down. I no longer see visions of large bags crammed full of wonderful items I will never use and forget about, so he knows it’s safe.  Funny thing is, he has plenty of things to show me!  We leave the store with 2 whoopie pies (a childhood favorite of mine), an ice pack (for the woopie pies) and a bottle of water.

The Room
Margaret still hasn’t arrived so we wander next door and discover the Flora Springs tasting room called “The Room”.  Beautifully appointed with concrete, glass and lots of cool light fixtures we belly up to the tasting bar.  It’s too early for reds (it’s only 10:30) so we decide to do a white wine tasting flight. I’m halfway through the tasting and have found a chard I like, when I hear from behind me OH, MY, GOD!  It’s Hubby and I think something bad has happened because he rarely talks like that.  I turn around to discover him holding a piece of red luggage.  What????? is all I can think – luggage?  It’s not just red luggage, it’s a Wine Check.   Wine Check is a wine shipper inside a padded case – with wheels!  Since shipping our favorite wines home is always costly, this allowed us to bring home a 12 pack case by air, via our checked bag and since we flew Southwest, bags are free, so we scored free shipping.

Flora Springs Winery
Founded in 1978 on a once abandoned “ghost” winery, Flora Springs  is so named for Flora Komes the founder, as well as the natural springs that run through the winery property.  They participate in organic and sustainable farming and have added solar panels to cover the energy needs of their red wine production at the historic stone winery.  Flora herself, is turning 100 this month and her family is counting down the celebration with a series of videos that capture her life, the story of the winery and her love for her husband Jerry.


The Wine
Not to be forgotten, my favorite white tasted at The Room, was the 2009 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.  This beautiful Chardonnay has pear and peach on the palette with a nice balance of acidity and minerality.  While only 21% of the blend undergoes malolactic fermentation it still exhibits a bit of richness and complexity with a dry finish and notes of pineapple.  YUM!

There is more wine fun on the way so stay tuned…….

Until next time, Cheers to you!

Cuvaison S Block Chardonnay

courtesy of

Toastyoakvanillahazlenutfig.  That’s how I was describing my new favorite Chard to hubby.  You see he was working late and I was stressing about my lack of inspiration for my next blog post.  Recalling recent memories of our wine country vacation led me to the Man Room where all of our wines are stored. In there is The Rack (which is for wines I’m encouraged to pull from) and then, there is The Chiller.  This is usually off-limits to me (which is a good thing) unless Hubby is home and can supervise, but that’s another story for another post. So, as I am pilfering The Rack, I notice the S Block Chardonnay saying “Hellooooo….”.  Honestly, I couldn’t remember what this tasted like but obviously I enjoyed it enough to bring it home.  The first sip had me sitting up in my chair asking “Have we had met before? and, How could I have forgotten??”.

courtesy of

Let me take you back a few months and share how I found Cuvaison [koo∙veh∙ZOHN] .  A friend of mine talked about an amazing trip he took to wine country where Cuvaison was the highlight so I knew I had to squeeze it in. The Carneros tasting room is in South Napa Valley which boasts concrete floors, floor to ceiling windows and a minimalistic, modern decor.  There is a beautiful outdoor patio area overlooking the vineyard from which to sip their lovely libations.  I was so enamoured with this spot I even became a Facebook fan sight unseen.  Well, that’s not where we ended up.  With about an hour and a half to kill, we headed south from the lovely Chateau de Vie  where we were staying (Hello Phillip and Peter!) and saw a road sign for Cuvaison.  I instructed my driver (fellow wine lover and Hubby) to turn, turn, turn!!  I was a bit perplexed however; where were the vineyards and were was that beautiful glass enclosed tasting room??  It turns out they have 2 tasting rooms and we were at the Calistoga tasting room in North Napa.

We purchased a bottle of 2007 Two Estates Red and a 2009 S Block Chardonnay. The Two Estates is a blend of 57% Cab from the Brandlin Vineyard and 44% Cuvaison Estate Merlot.  Hubby loved this one and even though I prefer reds, this was not a favorite. The fruit didn’t dance on my tongue the way I expected and the tannins were a bit harsh.  As suggested, this should be ready to  drink from 2012-2022.  I will revisit this one and look forward to the full-bodied elegance that is promised.  Now, the S Block Chardonnay – Ohhh Yeahhh!  This is golden in color with floral and honeysuckle on the nose followed by hazelnut, fig and toasty oak on the palette.  It finishes with stone fruit (white peach) and a silky, smooth mouthfeel.  Beautiful!  This chard undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation with no fining or filtration.

Cuvaison employs a slew of green initiatives  such as cork recycling and using solar energy generated from panels at the Carneros winery.  This is BIG in my book; remember, support what you believe in with where you spend your dollars!

Now, I just want to say, I love me some S Block, but our visit to the Calistoga tasting room was less than.  The attitude of the host was arrogant and he made some inappropriate remarks related to Hubby’s favorite baseball team.  Next time we will visit the Caneros tasting room as I have heard nothing but good things.  I am holding out hope for a beautiful experience on the patio with a glass of the  lovely S Block Chardonnay, having a fabulous time.

I don’t have any of my own pictures of Cuvaison so I will leave you with a view of the vineyards at Chateau de Vie, the B & B where we stayed ……

Vineyard at Chateau de Vie

Until next, time cheers to you!

Meiomi – My Oh My!

Love At First Taste
My first experience with Meiomi Pinot Noir  came in a round about way.  I was at a tasting for Caymus Cabernet and the Mer Soleil Chardonnay’s (the unoaked chardonnay called “Silver” and the oaked Chardonnay-Mer Soleil) and absolutely loved both of them.  A few weeks later I had an opportunity to try a Pinot Noir from the same family called Belle Glos “Meiomi” and it is now one of my favorite Pinot’s!

I have to admit I came to enjoy Pee-no’s (as I call them) quite begrudgingly.  Yes, I saw the movie Sideways – twice – even visited the Santa Barbara area looking for my own Pinot revelation….But it eluded me.  I just didn’t understand what all of the hype was about.  Pinot Noir the new Merlot?  Was that like 50 being the new 40?  I wasn’t convinced.  Then I discovered that terroir and the ability to coax beauty out of a finicky grape can yield some pretty amazing juice in the glass.

A Bit Of History
Meiomi (pronounced May-OH-mee) means “coast” in the language of the native California Wappo and Yuki tribes.  Grapes are sourced from Meiomi’s coastal vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.  Young winemaker, Joseph Wagner, has learned his craft from some of the best.  He is a fifth generation winemaker; his father being Chuck Wagner.  Yes, Caymus, Chuck Wagner.  So it stands to reason he knows a thing or two about crafting  beautiful wine.  And the fact that he has been working in the family business since age 16 gives him a leg up.  His wine label, Belle Glos, is named after his Grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, who at 95 is still very much a part of Joe’s life.

Cheryl’s View
I tend to like medium to heavy bodied Pinot’s with earth, spice and pronounced fruit that can stand up to food and still impart the nuances of the wine.  Well, Meiomi delivers on all accounts!  On the palette, I get dark cherry with some spice and a bit of earth, finishing with silky tannins.  Food enhanced all of these flavors so I knew we had a good pick to go with Melissa’s Ono and Black Bean Salad.  Ono is a mild white fish similar to Mahi Mahi and the Black Bean Salad was full of flavor with peppers, red onion and Italian parsley, so this wine was the perfect accompaniment.  Interestingly enough, both Melissa and Charlie (the wine steward at my favorite Fry’s Signature store) recommended the Meiomi to pair with the meal.

We finished the evening with Ethel M Chocolates.  The dark chocolate truffle and the milk chocolate caramel were given a resounding “Yes” from around the table for pairing with the wine.  Another successful night of  “Field Research” completed!

Meiomi is found at high-end grocery stores, big box wine stores and yes, even Costco!  The price ranges from $18 to $25 a bottle, so while you’re at it buy 6 – you get a better discount!

I’d love to hear about your favorite wine experiences, so please share.

Until next time, Cheers to you!

Can you say…….Chappellet?

One of my favorite times to visit  Napa Valley is during harvest.  My husband and I toured  Chappellet Winery – pronounced  [shap-pehl-LAY] – after tasting these fabulous wines at an industry event and knew we had to visit.  I’ll be sharing with you a few of the highlights of our trip including the winery tour, the wines we tasted and a couple of our favorite restaurants.

Driving south on the Silverado Trail from Calistoga, we turned onto the road leading up to the winery.  This drive is a slice of heaven, so be sure to pull over and look back at the valley floor for some amazing views.  These beautiful mountain vineyards atop the famed Pritchard Hill, are family-run using sustainable and organic farming practices.  Pritchard Hill is known for it’s rocky volcanic soil which creates intense fruit like no other in the Napa Valley.

Once there, we met our host, Candice, the Director of Hospitality and started the tour with a glass of Chardonnay.  She shared the winery history with us and we then headed to the crush pad where forklifts were bringing in bins of just picked fruit.   The grapes are crushed and the juice is collected in steel tanks and we were able to taste it on the spot.  To my surprise the white grapes tasted like apple juice!

While walking through the vineyard, it was explained that the use of cover crops, bird boxes, and organic fertilizers are used to eliminate the need for synthetic chemicals.  In fact, 90 percent of the grapes grown on Chappellet’s vineyards come from blocks that are farmed using organic methods.  The views here are breathtaking, the scenery epic and there are picnic tables for noshing and enjoying a great bottle of wine.

We usually stay in St. Helena or Calistoga when visiting wine country and the food is always exceptional.  Two of our favorite restaurants are on main street Calistoga within walking distance of each other and I highly recommend both.  Barolo, in the Mt. View Hotel, has an Italian flare and its sister restaurant, Brannan’s Grill, is steak and seafood.  Be sure to say hi to Ron Goldin and tell him Cheryl and Ron sent you!

On a recent getaway weekend close to home we opened the 2006 Signature Cab that we had been saving for a special occasion such as this.  It showed deep, rich, dark berry fruit with a slight bit of mocha and a smooth finish. It was absolutely fabulous!  The following day we attended a wine event with Chappellet in attendance and to my delight, Candice was there (pictured below on the right).  We tasted through the stellar wines she was featuring;  I even joined her behind the table to pour for the other attendees, practicing for my future stint at a Napa Valley winery.

We tasted the 2008 Mountain Cuvee which showed soft, dark, voluptuous fruit with a bit of spice and nicely integrated tannins.  This was great both with and without food.  The 2009 Signature Cab showed similar character to the 2006 but could use a few years in the bottle.  Finally, the 2008 Pritchard Hill Cab exhibited soft tannins, dark black cherry, currants and chocolate with spice lingering on the finish.  This will definitely benefit from cellaring  but was still fabulous that day!

I’d love to hear about your favorite wine country experiences, so please share.

Until next time, Cheers to you!