California Dreaming: A Wine Lover’s Weekend Slideshow

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The Sunday-afternoon light is beginning to fade when we get to Frank Family Vineyards in the old Kornell winery on Larkmead Lane, but our spirits are lifted by a welcoming glass of small-lot blanc de blanc sparkling wine with winemaker Todd Graff (pictured), followed by a tasting of the winery’s Napa Valley line of wines and an exquisite dinner with owner Rich Frank at Calistoga’s Solbar restaurant. And so to bed.

Credit

Roger Morris

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What better way to start a new day than breakfast in bed at Meadowood, the elegant resort and spa in the east valley hills? And what a better breakfast than huevos rancheros with a piquant salsa and crusty flour tortillas with thick, hand-cut bacon on the side?

Credit

Roger Morris

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I wake up during the long drive to Paul Hobbs winery in western Sonoma County and by 10 a.m. I'm ready for my first wine of the day. After a chat and a few wines with Hobbs, very well-regarded for his consulting and winemaking skills, team winemaker Josh Hensch treats us to some 2012 barrel samples fresh from the cellar.

Credit

Roger Morris

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Times are exciting at Reuling Vineyard. Winemaker Matt Taylor (left) and owner Tim Reuling explain how the Sonoma Coast vineyard — whose chardonnay grapes won a 99 Parker rating in the 2008 Aubert bottling — is laid out and pruned, while a flock of Shetland sheep in the background show us how the grass is mown.

Credit

Roger Morris

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Inside, Jackie Reuling prepares a new-launch lunch to match a bottle of their first commercial wine — a 2011 Reuling pinot noir to be released this spring. A first-rate cook, Reuling says she is adapting her spicy cuisine to fit her more-elegant wines. Thank goodness, she says, that they are making a rosé of pinot noir, which will be available this summer.

Credit

Roger Morris

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Kathleen Inman loves her husband so much that she made him a sparkling wine from their Olivet Grange vineyard for their anniversary. And they liked it so well, she decided to keep it in her lineup along with her estate-grown pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris, thus joining a growing number of Californians producing small-lot, growers’ sparkling wines.

Credit

Roger Morris

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After a bistro dinner in St. Helena, we drive back to Meadowood through the chilly evening as the temperature dips below freezing. I enjoy a brilliantly made Manhattan at the resort’s bar before I retire to my room, where I light a fire and pull up the covers.

Credit

Roger Morris

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There really are sequoia trees at Sequoia Grove along winery row in the middle of Napa Valley. And there really are delicious wines — velvety cabernets and chardonnays — crafted by Mike Trujillo and Molly Hill (pictured), who takes us through a tasting and tour.

Credit

Roger Morris

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It is time to eat again, and today’s lunch begins with a bone-marrow salad and a seafood array at Goose & Gander in St. Helena. Located in the historic Martini House, the restaurant features dishes by local-bounty hunter chef Kelly McCown. If you haven’t eaten there, you need to on your next visit to wine country.

Credit

Roger Morris

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The day — and the visit — ends on a high note, atop Spring Mountain, where winemaker Christopher Howell takes us on a vineyard tour up the mountainsides of Sulfur Creek where the famous Cain Vineyard & Winery is located. The winery itself is at the end of a narrow, winding road that discourages over-imbibing.

Credit

Roger Morris

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But the view Howell shows is worth the climb. And so are the wines, which we taste in barrel and at the table. The next morning, it’s a flight back east, but tonight we are treated to a symphony of Cain wines — Cain Five, Cain Cuvée, and Cain Concept. And I’m glad I’m not the one driving back down the mountain.

Credit

Roger Morris