What a year of travel around the West Coast and the world in search of vines and wines. The year started out with a trip to Napa and Sonoma, where I visited the CrossBarn winery in Sebastopol. I got to meet globetrotting winemaker Paul Hobbs and enjoy some fancy wines. But one white wine under $30 really made an impression on me:
Pair the 2011 CrossBarn Chardonnay With a Sunny Sonoma Day
On the Napa side of this visit, I stopped by Cain Vineyard and Winery. We wound up a twisty road to Spring Mountain. If you’ve only experienced the valley part of Napa Valley, visiting the mountain districts is like being on another planet:
Winemaker Christopher Howell provided a geography lesson and education on the region as a whole that was remarkably instructive. I also highly recommend picking up a bottle of the legendary Cain Five and stashing it away for a decade. In the interim, drink some of the intriguing and original mutli-vintage Cain Cuvee blend. Get the whole story:
Cain Vineyard and Winery: Truth in the Vineyards
I checked out High Line Park in New York City on a sunny, cold winter day. Which got me thinking about Gruner Veltliner. What else is there to think about?
High Line Park and Gruner Veltliner: Contemplating Time and Space
And since no visit to New York is complete without a visit to Terroir in the East Village (note: they also have a location on the High Line you can enjoy in the warmer months), I stopped by there. Of course, they had not one but two esoteric wines by the glass for happy hour:
Slovenian White Wine Makes Happy Hour Happening in New York City
While visiting Cava country in Spain’s Penedes region (not far from Barcelona) I discovered a surprising white wine made from the Xarel-lo (pronounced “char-el-oh”) grape. It’s one of the three main grapes used in making Cava, the country’s most famous contribution to sparkling wine, but in this case renowned producer Segura Viudas uses Xarel-lo to make a still white wine, the Creu de Lavit. I also endured many “Where’s Waldo” cracks, but since this vintage Chicago Bears hat belonged to my Dad, the jokes bother me not.
For Spanish White Wine, X Marks the Spot
A barnstorming trip from Beaujolais then south to the Northern then Southern Rhone was like a wine dream come true. Actually, it wasn’t like one; it was one!
Not only did I get to explore markets, help cook lunch, appreciate Beaujolais Blanc (made from Chardonnay), but, most importantly, I got to sport a cool apron:
Underrated: Aprons and Beaujolais Blanc
There was plenty of red Beaujolais as well, including the iconic Morgon (one of the top “crus” or sites for Beaujolais) from Domaine Marcel Lapierre. (Marcel’s son, Mathieu, is pictured.) But much like the Crossbarn Chardonnay, sometimes it’s the affordable gems that linger with you a lot longer. Possibly because they are more within your financial reach on a regular basis. But it’s also awesome to know that a winemaker puts as much care and thought into the less fancy wines. And, truthfully, I covet the Morgon Wagon:
Raisins Gaulois: Just Add an Ice Bucket
Of course, I did get a bit fancy when it came to wines on this trip. And none more memorable than the astonishing white wines of the Northern Rhone. The best are based on the Marsanne grape and can age beautifully, but their richness and lingering elegance makes it hard to resist such immediate pleasure. The town of Tain L’Hermitage is at the base of the most famous vineyards of the region, producing white and red (from Syrah) Hermitage. You can see the vineyards (the famous hill of Hermitage) in the background, but while we were in the town square I was transfixed by this bull head sculpture:
Northern Rhone White Wines: Reflecting on the Unforgettable
Much more in 2013! So much eating. Like six hours of dim sum, the best sandwich ever, and the best pizza ever! Plus raw elk. Also more Sonoma, Napa, Italy, and (of course) Tacoma. Please continue.