Connection is the word I would use to describe my most recent trip to wine country. It was a connection to a community I love and have missed. A connection to the wineries that I have covered from afar for almost two years. And, perhaps even a reconnection back to what I love about wine and why I write this blog.
Not stepping foot in a vineyard or winery makes you forget what it was like to see and absorb the beauty of the vines, the smell a barrel room and the well choreographed but seemingly hectic poetry in motion of a harvest. While experiencing virtually was definitely needed during the Pandemic, and wineries did an amazing job in pivoting, you couldn’t get the same immersion and it was sure nice to take my own pictures.
After attending in 2019 (and returning to a tornado in Dallas), I learned that weather would not be a factor in keeping me from attending this year’s Jordan Winery Halloween Party. It was that epic. After being in a quarantine from the people and wineries I love for almost two years, it was an invitation we immediately accepted. The theme was “Alien Invasion” and after COVID canceled last year’s party, nothing was going to stand in the way of Jordan Winery showcasing the hospitality they are known for showing their guests. More to come on that.
We arrived Thursday afternoon. That evening we went to catch up with old friends at one of favorite restaurants, Valette.
Valette was born from two brothers,’ Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini’s lifelong dream of creating a unique dining experience in our hometown of Healdsburg. They describe their mission of providing local farmers, winemakers and artisans with “a canvas” to showcase their crafts. We got to try both of Dustin’s restaurants during this trip and as expected, everything was amazing.
A bonus for us is that we got to see some long-missed friends in the business. Bill Smart from Lambert Bridge and Ed St John and Julie Pedroncelli from Pedroncelli Winery. I met Bill at Lambert Bridge several years ago and Ed and Julie when I was invited to attend their 90th anniversary celebration and a media relationship very quickly became a friendship.
Friday morning, we grabbed breakfast at the Dry Creek General Store and then headed for a tasting.
I thought it perfect that many in a group that I consider to be part of my wine family would meet at a family-owned winery. Kokomo, was founded by Owner and Winemaker Erik Miller. My first #wbc experience in 2010 started with many of the people that I gathered with and it brought me joy to see them all again.
Kokomo Winery is located on the East side of Dry Creek Valley with 120 acres of benchland vineyards. The winery was named after Erik’s hometown of Kokomo, IN, and the cypress tree on the label is used in the logo to signify his move West. Kokomo currently produces over a dozen different varietals and several single vineyard designates which are farmed by his partner in the winery, grower Randy Peters. It’s pretty cool to see a partnership between a winemaker and a grower to make terroir-driven wines.
Breaking Bread Winery
Erik’s other winery, Breaking Bread, focuses on natural wines. He noticed a shift toward lower alcohol, food friendly and low intervention wines and wanted to do something different than Kokomo. The name Breaking Bread means to engage in a comfortable, friendly interaction where something is shared and there was a song by Fred Wesley & the New J&B’s Break-in’ Bread that Erik played for us that helped inspire the name.
The winery is focused on dry farming aged vines and keeps grapes in their natural form with no destemming. It results in a lighter approach to red wines and many are meant to be served with a slight chill. You’ll see Zinfandel in unexpected places like in a 100 percent sparkling Zin-based Pet Net, which was fresh and delicious. Erik called it “unriddled sparkling.” Erik believes that Zinfandel should be more inspiring and he’s a big believer in giving this grape its due.
We tasted out of barrels (good juice is coming) and then tried the following:
2019 Breaking Bread Grenache, Redwood Valley – this 100% grenache had notes of cherry, plum, ripe red berry, vanilla and baking spice.
2020 Breaking Bread Field Blend, Dry Creek Valley – this blend of 75 percent Zinfandel and 25 percent of a mix of Petite Sirah, Carignan and Alicante Bouschet co-fermented with Muscat Blanc had notes of raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, herbs and flowers.
2019 Breaking Bread Zinfandel, Redwood Valley – this was a lighter Zinfandel with notes of cranberry, pomegranate, earth and spice. It had a nice minerality and proved the grape can deliver the unexpected.
After a wonderful time, we headed off to meet some friends for lunch at Willi’s Seafood.
Friday night, the out of towners were invited to the newly opened The Matheson Healdsburg, the hottest ticket in town. It’s a farm-focused restaurant, sushi kitchen, dining loft and rooftop cocktail lounge led by renown Chef Dustin Valette. And there’s a wall of wines by the glass using a wine preservation system to keep the integrity, taste, aroma and body of every glass.
Here’s where I start my show and tell session. Our menus were removed before I realized it, so I’ll have just include pictures of our line-up, but it was insanely delicious. A quick overview includes caviar, pumpkin soup, duck, wagyu beef and a chocolate dessert I couldn’t stop eating.
We woke up Saturday and after a much needed workout, headed to Domaine Carneros.
I wrote this Summer about Domaine Carneros about the naming of my friend, Remi Cohen as their new CEO. I gathered with another group of dear old friends and had the chance to meet a few new friends (finally face to face) and one that shared so many memories from my husband’s hometown that I do believe they will find a hidden connection soon.
I’ve never had a chance to visit this spectacular estate founded in 1987 in the Los Carneros AVA. Domaine Carneros was established by Champagne Taittinger to create California sparkling wine with a vision of terroir-driven sparkling wine and preserving the quality tenets of the traditional method production. The business is a joint venture between Champagne Taittinger and Kobrand Corporation founded by Claude Tattinger on a 138-acre parcel in Carneros, Napa Valley.
Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, between Napa and Sonoma counties, the six estate vineyards total approximately 400 acres with 125 acres planted to Chardonnay, 225 acres planted to Pinot Noir, with the remaining acres currently in development. The winery focuses on making ultra-premium Carneros sparkling wines, largely estate grown, and limited production Pinot Noirs.
Domaine Carneros’ château has become a landmark and symbol of the region. The architecture and interior design were inspired by the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie, the historic Tattinger family residence in the Champagne region.
In the link above, I talk more about the winery story and Remi’s story, but I want to focus on the hospitality of this amazing winery. We started with the cheese and charcuterie plate with cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and meat from Journeyman paired with the Sparkling Sampler (Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut, Domaine Carneros Estate Brut Cuvée, Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé and Domaine Carneros Verméil Demi-Sec). We also had a chance to try the 2014 La Rêve Blanc de Blanc. Also tried with the Smoked Salmon Plate from Tsar Nicoulai with toast points and Cowgirl Creamery crème fraiche, this was my heaven.
We also got to dive into the 2018 Famous Gate Pinot Noir, named in reference to an ancient gate on the property given by the Tattinger family, which will be making an appearance with many of the above sparkling wines on my holiday table.
My favorite story that Remi told us that day was her mom’s reaction when she told her she got the job at Domaine Carneros. “Maybe you’ll find a Duke or a Baron.” Her response was, “Mom, I got the Chateau.”
Celebrating Halloween Jordan Style
It was a great time, but we had to head back to the hotel to start getting ready for the Jordan Halloween party.
The Halloween party is an event where people dress to impress. The winery took an interplanetary state and people drank Jordan wines, danced with aliens and talked amongst the barrels. I’d describe the people as joyful. Joyful to come back and celebrate, see friends we haven’t seen since the pandemic and have an amazing costume party at a beautiful winery.
I left this trip rejuvenated about my writing, reconnected with a lot of people, excited about the stories to yet to tell and even ready to write the story about the samples I have to tackle.