Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exploring Wines: Part 7, A Weekend in Sonoma

This weekend I am in California Wine Country enjoying the beautiful sights and tastes of life in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Admittedly I am somewhat partial to Sonoma, Napa is probably better known, more developed and busier with tourists. (I prefer the quiet, more relaxed atmosphere of Sonoma). My trips to wine country are preceded by great deal of planning and preparation to maximize our time here. We select which wineries we want to visit, schedule appointments for tastings, make dinner reservations, etc. It sounds very scripted but I've learned from experience that its all too easy to lose a few hours of a precious weekend get-a-way waiting for a table or driving around aimlessly. Over the years we've found our favorites wineries, and have signed up to a few wine clubs (where they send wine to our home regularly). In addition to discounts off of list price, being a member of a wine club brings other perks, such as free, private wine tastings with friends, etc. It really enhances the wine tasting experience when you can sit down and talk about each wine and savor the experience. It sure beats standing in a crowd 3 or 4 deep, elbowing to get to the wine tasting bar to sip. We visited a number of great wineries in both Sonoma and Napa Valleys, and discovered several great wines that we've added to our wine cellar at home. During this weekend, we visited Ledson, Cade, Kunde, Rubicon Estate and the Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves. Each have their own unique aspects of wine making and varieties offered. Over the years I've been visiting the wine country, tasting and collecting I think I've visited over 30 different wineries. California wines have come a long way in their history. Up until the Paris Wine tasting in 1976, American wines were previously viewed as inferior to European wines. Today, California wines in particular rival and compete with the finest wines available as world-class. I may not be an expert, but from my perspective, these wines in Sonoma sure are terrific!

Wine is the subject of this week's episode of The Palm Springs Savant & Co radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. My guest this week is Mr Jerry Padilla, Assistant to the Winemaker at the famed Ledson Winery & Vineyards in Kenwood, CA. Ledson is nestled in the Sonoma Valley, housed in a magnif
icent castle that stops passers-by from the sheer beauty of its structure. Inside are some of the most fantastic wines we've encountered here in California. It was this reason that prompted me to invite Jerry as my guest for the show this week. He did a great job explaining wines and shared a great deal of valuable information.

I thought I'd share some information directly from the Ledson website about Food and Wine pairings. I couldn't say it better myself, so here it is, from Ledson:
"Though it can sometimes seem complicated and intimidating, harmonizing food with wine should be a natural and enjoyable process. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer; it is essentially all a matter of taste. Trust your instincts, often times the flavors you think will go well together, do. With a little common sense and a few basic tips, you will be able to navigate through this culinary challenge like a pro."
  • Balancing Weight & Texture
    Choose a wine and food that are similar in weight, or body. This will help to make sure that one does not overwhelm the other. For instance, a thick sirloin steak would pair wonderfully with a bold Cabernet Sauvignon. A lighter wine would be lost to the heaviness of the steak.
  • Balancing Flavor Intensity
    Pair light-bodied wines with lighter, more mildly flavored foods and fuller-bodied wines with heartier, richer, and more intensely flavored dishes.
  • Matching Flavors
    This is when common sense comes into play. We often top fresh fish with a squeeze of lemon juice because the flavors complement each other. For the same reason, a crisp, Sauvignon Blanc with citrus flavors would be a good choice to drink with this meal. Likewise, an earthy Pinot Noir would go well with a mushroom dish. Follow what your palate already knows and it will most likely be a winning combination.
  • Opposites Attract
    Sometimes the best pairing for a food is to find its opposite. Opposing flavors can often play off each other, creating new flavor sensations and cleansing the palate. A classic example of this is pairing spicy Thai food with a sweet dessert wine such as Riesling or Gewurztraminer. The sweetness will help highlight and tame the spicy flavors in the dish.
For more information, check out my prior posts from the Exploring Wine Series here on this blog:

Exploring Wines: Part 6, Learning Grape Varieties

Exploring Wines: Part 5- Key Attributes of Wine

Exploring Wines: Part 4- Pairing Suggestions with Turkey

Exploring Wines: Part 3- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandels

Exploring Wines: Part 2, Tasting & Enjoying

Exploring Wines: Part 1

Tune in to The Palm Springs Savant & Co Radio Show #109 to hear this fascinating episode on wines! -Rick Rockhill


KathyA said...

We love both Sonoma and Napa -- but are partial to Sonoma, too. I love walking around the square and the deli a few blocks off the square is wonderful. Have you visited Chateau St. Jean?

In Napa, one of our favorite places is Greystone - the home of the Culinary Institute of America.

grace said...

"God's country" as the locals refer to it! Beautiful weather for this weekend. Love the photo of the grapes, besides the wine, the grapes plucked right off the vine are so delicious, they are like candy.


Anonymous said...

I think too many people fuss over wine. I don't know. I just pick what I like and go for it.

I had a wonderful glass of sauvignon blanc last night. It was crisp with a tropical fruit undertone, but not sweet... Loved it...

But give me a good pinot noir, or a good french red like a chateauneuf-du-pape and I'm in heaven!

Merrie said...

Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful. Have you ever tried the Pinot Noir from Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley)? We had it several years ago while traveling in the area It was one of those "nirvana" wine experiences.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I don't know a great deal about wines, but I have had a lovely White from Kunde...A Chardonney, as I recall. It was quite a long time ago, but I remember being very impressed.....
Have you ever seen the film "BOTTLE SHOCK"? It is about the California Wines being introduced in France for the first time, and competing---It is based on a true story....It's a good film. Alan Rickman plays the man who comes from England and chooses a number of California Wines for this very first competition in France.
I've always wanted to take a trip to Sonoma and Napa, but it just never happened. It sounds like you know exactly what one needs to do to make every moment count, Rick!


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