Amador County Trip 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

i picked up the wines I had Perry bring back to Reno. All the wines I bought are in the cellar now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Today, we leave back for Reno. We checked out of the hotel early and decided to pick up "brunch" from The Amador Vintner's Market in Plymouth. We arrived there at 10:30 am and guess what?..They are only open Friday through Sunday! So, we went to this nearby place which looked promising- Incahoots BBQ place. But, lunch was not before 11 am. So, we decided not to waste time and headed towards the wineries. We noticed that Bray was open. We looked guessed it...shade and parked our car under an oak tree.

Below are my parents in front of the Bray tasting room. There was one gentleman inside who was pouring. Like we have encountered here a lot, he was very friendly. Papa sat outside in the shade with Layla. Whenever, we tasted anything we thought he would like, I ferried a liberal taste out to him. My dad's response to wine is very visceral. He either likes it or he hates it. Rarely in between. No peachy early notes on entry with a balanced mid palate, soft tannins and long finish kind of response from him. Also, he prefers a "kick". What's the point of drinking if no inebriation is involved. But, he is usually on the money about a good glass of wine. He was a sport about watching Layla while we tasted within. We tasted a white called Verdelho, a Portuguese variety, which was quite aromatic and had a lemony taste to it. The 2004 Brayzin Hussy Red, besides the double entendre overtones, tasted of the Zin and Sangiovese it was composed of. Good value at $11/bottle. The 2003 Barbera was quite soft and well balanced but intensely fruity. The 2004 Tempranillo and Zinfandels were very nice too. The 2004 Alicante Bouchet was really dark but a little less on the fruit and finish. They should probably blend it into something! We were glad we stopped here. The 2005 Petit Sirah was a big tannin wine which probably needs a few years in the cellar. Bray is a good place to get a good value.

We bought some wines and headed right back to Incahoots. It was an interesting joint with a Native American (Western, as Vijna put it) theme. They had a good selection of wines too. We ordered pizza to go. And then took it all to Vino Noceto. The consensus was that we needed the shade of a big oak tree to park and a mister was essential today. Did I mention that it was hot? Yes, it was scorching. While Vijna and my parents arranged the plates and food, I ran in to the tasting room and bought a bottle of their fine 2005 Rosato (well chilled of course). We had a wonderful, memorable picnic.We drank a bottle between the four of us and towards the end we were all philosophisizing about the connection of the wine to the Earth, Christ had wine mostly and not water and all that. We left the comfort of that big oak very reluctantly.Anyways, from there we headed towards Dobra Zemjla. We heard they had good zins as well. Milan, the owner and winemaker was there to greet us. He looked like Mark Twain, but was Croatian. So, I guess he was a Croatian Mark Twain. He was very jovial and charming. So was Victoria, his wife. The latter had painted an image of Milan which was very Gollum-like and depicted him carring his precious precious wines from his cellar. This artwork adorned his Milan Ruz, a non vintage house blend of Zin, Syrah and Sangiovese. We also liked his 2003 Zinfandel. They had two smallish dogs - Rat terriers, I think. They played with Layla. This of course made my father very nervous as he was in charge of Layla. It is not easy holding a "playful" 80 pound puppy on a leash.
From Dobra Zemjla, we headed towards Sobon Estates. This happened to be the first winery in California! After going around the place a couple of times, I found a patch of shade for the van. The wines were really good. And reasonably priced. The tasting room was staffed by a very friendly and knowledgable lady. She had us taste pretty much everything. We did not resist her attempts much! The stand outs were defintely the zins. The 2004 Fiddletown and 2004 Rocky top were really nice. Both were very fruit concentrated and the former had a long finish. The 2003 ReZerve Zin was full bodied and it too was full of berries and earthy. Nicely done. the 2003 Zin port and 2004 Orange Muscat were good examples of their kind. Of course, we ferried out tastings for my dad, who gave the wines a good "review".
We finished our Amador trip with Sobon and it was fitting. Of course, no account of Amador county would be complete without the picture of a barn!We decided to head back to Reno by Hwy 50. Actually that was Vijna's idea. My idea was far more entertaining. I wanted to see how far a sparsely filled tank would carry us. By the time, we were ascending into the mountains, it started to feel like a bad idea. Vijna was getting worried and I could feel that Papa was getting worried too. It was an arduous climb (poor gas mileage) and there were no gas stations to be found. Mercifully, we reached the summit and coasted downwards towards Lake Tahoe. At Myers, we pulled into a Chevron. Our Grand Caravan which holds 20 gallons, topped at 19.90 gallons. I guess, I could have gone on for another 8-10 miles..
We arrived in Reno, not worse for the wear and without ado, moved all our wines into the cellar. Whew!!I think despite the heat and the constant moving around, we managed to bring them all intact by a careful management of finding shade, air conditioning and a large dose of luck. I don't want to hear otherwise from any of you. But, we all had a nice time, heat not withstanding. I think, we should go back to Amador. But, April or May would be better choices.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

If it gets any hotter, I would vacation in the netherworld!! It was really, really, hot. One vexing thing about Amador County is that it seems hard to find a shaded spot to park one's car. This is really a problem, when you have precious precious wine inside. I always looked for a shadowy patch under trees to get some relief.
Anyways, we were done with breakfast early. I woke up real early, because Layla had the urge to get some "business" done at 6:30 am. We left Jackson right after breakfast and reached Sutter Ridge at around 10:30 am. but, they were closed and we were nt sure, if we wanted to wait 30 minutes more there. So, we left for Plymouth. On the way, we stopped at Drytown Cellars.

Allen, who is the winemaker, was there to greet us. Correction. Actually, it was his delightful children, who were playing outside who greeted us. Allen himself, embodies the family winery concept. His love for the land is evident. Especially, when he said that children should be allowed to play outside in the dirt, lest they get too distant from all that is important. His wines are very good too. Of special note are the Amador county Zinfandel which is a wine with delicious raspberry notes. His 2004 Primitivo is a serious wine with chocolate, cocoa and smokiness. Will be awesome with a steak! Last but not the least, is the Vino de Mocca, a wine liqueur with smell and taste of coffee, cocoa and orange. Yummmy. And, did I say, he has delightful children. While we were tasting, they played with a water soaker with my kids. By the time we were done, both Danica and Alex - but mostly Danica - were wet!!! Not necessarily a bad thing today, considering how high the mercury climbed today.
Then we went to Domaine Terre Rouge. There was no shady spot available to park the car. But the tasting room was cool and the staff was friendly. We tasted the Dry Rose which was very Provencal with strawberries and watermelons. Perfect for a day like today. Then there were the Syrahs, the intensity (and price) directly proportionate to the altitude of the vineyards from where they were harvested. The 2000 Easton Zin was from a vineyard that as planted in 1865 and drank like a good Old Vine Zin. The Muscat a-Petits Grains is a delightful white port. My mom thought it was a hoot holding a double magnum of their Syrah.
We drove just down the road and decided to stop at Vino Noceto. And guess what?....there was a large oak tree with lots of shade...yes...SHADE...I quickly drove underneath it and discovered to my delight that there was a water mister festooned on the tree. Cool water sprayed upon our van which now lay under the shade of this big oak tree. There was also picnic tables underneath it. Perry and Cate decided to join us. They made the two hour drive and we were very happy for their company. We waited until they joined us. Then we entered the Vino Noceto tasting room to try their extensive list of Sangiovese. They were all good (have you noticed that I haven't encountered a bad wine today?). But, the notable ones were the 2003 Noceto Sangiovese and the OGP Zin from the same vintage. The former was being touted a daily drinking wine. But, I thought it had more than enough complexity to be marketed as a finer Sangiovese. We "sniffed" the Grappa they had on sale. Based on that, we bought a bottle. Oh, what the heck!!
My dad was getting hungry. So, we decided to get lunch. The problem is that there is no eatery of note close to these wineries. So, we had to drive all the way to Plymouth. Perry, Papa and I took Perry's car and we found The Amador Vintage Market on Main Street. We were truly fortuitous, because they had an impressive selection. We bought sandwiches (Italian Club, Black forest ham&cheese, Reuben, Curried chicken), crab cakes, smoked salmon and gelato. We had a great picnic under the oak tree. We washed it all down with water and diet soda. I know, we should have had wine but we weren't done tasting for the day. It was my mother's 65th birthday and she thought it was perfect so far.
Very reluctantly, we left the comfort of the shady oak tree and drove towards Story winery. The limousines outside should have tipped us off that it was going to be crowded. And shade. It was almost 3 pm and the sun was merciless. They were serving the whites outside. The Chenin Blanc was not bad. The reds were served inside. Picture a tin can. Place it outside in the blazing sun for several hours. Then squeeze inside with a lot of people than it was designed to hold. Then, drink several Zins in rapid succession. Well, that's how it as. We fled the place in search of shade.
We bypassed Karly initially and decided to take the dirt road that led to TKC. The initials stand for the three daughters of the owner. The middle child, Karina, was the pourer. There were no other cars there and I pulled over to a shade offered by the winery building itself. It is truly a shame that there were no other tasters there, because the wines were truly good. They had 2 Mourvedre (2000 and 2001) and a couple of Amador County Zinfandel. All three of these wines were excellent. The Mourvedre had the desired meaty, smoky, berry taste that we like and the Zinfandels were very Amador.They had a tannnic beast named D-O-G as well as a very elegant Syrah Port. This is a very small winery, but their offerings are very good.
Then we backtracked to Karly and made it there as it became 4 pm. The tasting room staff was gracious and allowed us to start tasting. Buck's 10 point 2004 Zin was a veritable fruit bomb. We loved it. The 2004 Sadie Upton Zinfandel is much more restrained and elegant. You won't believe it has 16% alcohol. Very nice. Then they had this Orange Muscat which was full of honey, figs and oranges. It was served chilled as well as frozen. The latter was like eating a fine sorbet. Cate and Perry drove back to Reno. They were nice to take some of our purchases with them and store in Perry's cellar. That way they will be shielded from this heat.
As we were driving back, I remarked that it was not 5 pm yet and we might be able to make one more winery! My suggestion was vetoed. Apparently, the pool was beckoning.

It was also my mother's 65th Birthday. We had a nice dinner at Mel and Faye's diner in Plymouth.
This has been a good day indeed. But, very hot. I probably already mentioned that.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Finally. We left at 730 am. The lovely young lady below, near the van is my wife Vijna.

We packed everything we thought we needed in the van and set off on US 395. The eastern Sierras were on our right as we drove.
We went through Carson city and just before Minden, turned right onto US 88.
This was a very scenic drive and we went past several beautiful mountain lakes including Caples Lake and Silver Lake. We think this would be a nice place to come for a day trip from Reno. Very soon, after several vertigo inducing turns and twists, we came to the turn-off for Omo Ranch road. This was a twisty descend, which led us to Fairplay.
We followed the road signs and reached Cedarville winery.
Apparently a car had backed up into their sign and therefore as Jonathan had suggested, we took the road by SingleLeaf winery. Jonathan (pictured below) was waiting for us. There were a couple of other visitors.
Jonathan, without further ado, launched into the winery tour. Essentially, he told us how they came about to be there. He also showed their crusher-destemmers, fermenters and finally showed the impressive cave where the barrels were kept. One of the things that struck to me was how clean and meticulously organized this facility was. Jonathan exuded a pride about his work which translated into his wines. We tried an 2005 Viognier-vey fresh, grassy, melony flavors. Also a 2004 Grenache-medium bodied, some cocoa and berry flavors, medium finish; a 2004 Zinfandel which was very elegant in how the fruit was shown without the 14.9% alcohol demonstrating it's heat. Well done. The 2003 Syrah had a Cornas like nose and the taste did not disappoint either. Typical Nothern Rhone feel to this wine. We walked out with 3 bottles each of the Zin and syrah.
The weather was HOT. It made me very nervous to leave the wines out in the van. It felt about 97 degrees outside.
On the way out we stopped at Single Leaf Winery. It was quite warm and hence we didn't linger for long there. However, of the wines we tasted, the 2004 Petite Sirah was quite an impressive wine. Purplish with a lot of red berries and well rounded tannins. I figure, this will show well through 2010-2011. we bought 2 bottles as well as one each of their Zinfandel port 2003 and 2004. The 2003 had more candied fruits (which I liked) and the latter had more spice to it (Vijna was drawn towards this). Seen above, is my mom with an emptied glass!
Then bravely (it was geting hotter), we decided to make one more stop at Mount Aukum. It was out of the way..quite out of the way...up a hill actually which probably is undrivable in winter. But once up, we were rewarded with a magnificent view( regretfully, we took no pictures at this point) as well as an impressive array of wines. the focus was on Rhone wines (made us happy) and we particularly liked 2004 "4 of a kind", a very happy marriage of Rousanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc. very pleasant acidity and longish finish. bought 2 bottles. We also liked the 2003 Eldorado Zin and the 2003 Sierra Foothill Zin. My dad stayed with Layla and didn't get a chance to try any wines today. Perhaps tomorrow, we will rectify that.

Then we headed towards Jackson. On the map, it is no more than 20 miles. But perhaps, we were tired, hungry, heat exhausted, but mostly hungry and the drive to Jackson seemed longer. We checked in, got some food from a local restaurant....and spend the rest of the afternoon( it was 3 pm) watching TV. After the sun was almost near the western horizon, we spent an hour or two in the pool. The kids had fun. So did I.

Tomorrow, we will spend some time exploring the local wineries. Danica and Alex decided that a fitting end to the day would be jump upon the hotel beds.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Vijna and I went to the Reno Tahoe airport and picked up our van. It was a spanking new, shiny red Dodge Caravan. Cool. It had leather seats and all. Tomorrow we shall head towards Amador County. I feel this blog needs some pictures. Even I am tiring of simply typing in stuff. Alright...keep watching for pretty pictures too. Here is part of the Sierras as seen from our balcony. Tomorrow, we will be on the other side of that range.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

2 more days...

Cate and Perry might make a day trip from Reno, on Sunday, to join us. Perry is my friend and drinking buddy. So, I think that would be fun.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We finally booked a rental for our trip. We got a good deal through Dollar Car Rental on a mini van. We have 4 adults, 2 children and yes..the big puppy. We will also need the space for getting all those wine back. So, we are all set now.
Rooms -check
Car Rental-check
Camera and accesories-check
State of Mind-check

3 more days to go...