Winery Reviews

June 24, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox - KitFox Vineyards (Part 1 of 3)

KF_Logo_PRINT.jpgMaybe I should say, "crazy for the fox." I have four new wines to bring you, but I don't want to hit you all at once so I'm going to split them into pairs. I really want you to remember these wines and relish them as much as I have relished tasting them. So when you have a minute, check out KitFox Vineyards. They're a small California property but it is remarkably evident, they have big heart.

The Vogel family have been farming the land for four generations (nuts before wine) and have the unique distinction of being the sole producers in the upstart Salado Creek AVA. And they seem to possess the requisite passion for growing the grapes as well as turning them into wine -- stunning wine, but more on that later.

SPRING---SUMMER-FOXY-WHITE-.jpgI'll be honest, I was a little nervous -- I really wanted to like the wines because I like their story. I'm a sucker for a strong family business. Add to that the classic and upscale bottle styling and a cheeky marketing campaign and I'm drawn in before the first glass is poured. So what happens if the wines are mediocre? It happens. I've seen it before. Great packaging, great story, okay wine. As I hinted above, that is not the case here. They sent me four wines to try and I followed up with a little light reading and the best part of this gig, lots of tasting. Tune in for Part 2.

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September 5, 2007

Westport Rivers Winery


We spent some time at the Westport Rivers Winery this weekend, and we can't explain what a great time we had. We bought a few bottles of wine, sat in some adirondack chairs and overlooked the vineyards, and took in the view. We sampled some wines we'd never had before, relaxed, and overall had a damn fine time.

The wines we tried, you ask? Two of our favorites so far this year - one was a Rkatseteli, and the other was a rose of Pinot Noir. Both were extremely economical ($18.99 and $12.99, respectively), and the Rkatseteli (no, we'd never heard of it either - learn more here) is the front runner for "Best White Wine of the Summer" if you ask us.

Learn more and check them out at

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July 30, 2007

Vermont Wineries Get a Leg Up

We have to admit, when discussing domestic wineries, we're more prone to think of California than Vermont, but apparently there are some vino makers in the state. We lived in VT for years and years, and we had no idea, but we're definitely planning to check out the ones we can find. It should be easy with the Grandview Winery, which is located in East Calais (pronounced cal-US), because of its proximity to the home of some folks very near and dear to us.

We found a very interesting article (to us, anyway) in local paper the Times Argus about the trials and tribulations of making wine in the Green Mountain State. For more info on Grandview Winery and their selection of grape and other wines, check out their website. We hope to do a full writeup of the place next time we make it up there.

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July 24, 2006

Visit the Wine Shack on the Oregon Coast

Wine Wshack

We've never been to the Oregon coast but now we want to go. Not only does Oregon have some great wines - they've got some great coast and wines. GO FIGURE. Where else could you visit the Wine Shack?

It's a sure sign the Oregon coast is no longer a rugged place: sipping your way down the Oregon coast has become so huge it's now hard to imagine the region without a glass of vino being close at hand. A new wine bar recently opened in Yachats, and another is being planned for Rockaway later next year - all proof that wine tourism is encroaching on not just Oregon farm country, but the Oregon coast as well.

At Oregon Coast Beach Connection News

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February 27, 2006

It's just!

Gosh that reference to 1970s Saturday Night Fever music was corny but I couldn't help myself. Moshin, located at 10295 Westside Road in Healdsburg, CA., was the next winery we tried, about nine long winding miles away from the Family Vineyards. Cellar Rat Alan Baker, who seems to have about nine million times more wine knowledge than I do, recommended Moshin, so we thought we'd do the drive and make it the last tasting of the day. I'm glad we did it. Moshin, unfortunately, only makes two wines under $20, the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles (made from a blend of 88% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc grapes. $20 a bottle) and a
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles (Made from a blend of 88% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc grapes. $16 a bottle.) I tasted the 2000 and thought it was a nice mac and cheese Cabernet with balanced fruit and oak. A great table wine.

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Five Papapietro Pinots for Tasting

I should probably just leave Papapietro-Perry (Healdsburg, CA) out of the blog altogether because the woman pouring treated me like Hillary Clinton at the Cheney family barbeque. Besides, their wines start at $45, which is way too expensive for our Cheapfunwines purposes. But for a $5 cover charge I like to try the expensive ones. That way you can find cheap bottles that taste just as good.

ArrowContinue reading: "Five Papapietro Pinots for Tasting"

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Speaking of Sangiovese

After visiting Amphora, we were off to Petersons Winery, located about 20 feet away. We could have rolled there. Peterson was hosting a luncheon for its wine club members so the vibe was a bit crazy, kind of like Costco on a Saturday except a lot happier. We managed to muscle up to a little table and get our hands on a few clean glasses for tastings with self-proclaimed Cellar Rat Alan Baker, who when he's not pouring, blogs about wine and does accompanying Podcasts, too, for NPR. Busy guy. Alan poured a bunch of wines, a select few that squeaked under the $20 mark.
First was a 2002 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, which my Partner In Tasting (PIT) tried and liked but I didn't taste because I wanted to go straight to the 2001 Sangiovese (yum and $15). I found this wine (100 percent Sangiovese) an elegant and pretty straight-ahead, well-crafted California Sangiovese. Here's how the winemakers describe it: Aromas of toast, ripe cherry and dried strawberries mingle with hints of dusty leather, bacon and smoke to create an alluring blend. I think I missed the toast and smoked bacon. Add a tomato and I could have had a late lunch, too. Peterson also makes a Zero Manipulation red table wine that's $12.50. It's 78% Carignane, Tollini Vineyard, Redwood Valley, Mendocino County 14% Syrah, Gravity Flow Block, Bradford Mountain, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
8% Mourvedre, Norton Ranch, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.

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February 24, 2006

Sauvignon Blanc, but no Bob

(Yes, this picture stinks but it's better than nothing. Apologies.)
Next stop on our February 2006 wine tour (oops, I just wrote 2004. What happened to the last two years????) was Mauritson Winery, 2859 Dry Creek Road.
The Mauritson family has been around these parts forever, growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley since the 1870s. They sold their fruit to Sonoma County wineries until 1998, when they decided to start making wines themsevels. They produced their first vintage that year: a Dry Creek Zinfandel
We tasted a 2002 Dry Creek Zin while we were there (at $24 it doesn't cut our $20 and under rule) and I found it pretty nice. I tasted some jam and vanilla and blackberry. It was a pretty balanced wine, too.
The 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, ($16) a hit with a couple of people we talked to that day, was not my favorite. I found it lemony and crisp, which I like, but too sweet. Jim liked it. He agreed with the winery's description: the bright pink grapefruit aromas in the nose are accented by dried apricot and fresh cut hay. The vibrant mouth feel gives way to clean balanced acidity in the back of the palate.
Before we left, a woman sitting on a stool next to us brought up her favorite Mauritson's employee, Bob. Bob is apparently a lot of fun, so next time ask for him by name!

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A Pink Merlot???

It's a pinky girly wine!
Splish, splash.

So the PIT (Partner in Tasting) and I headed to Healdsburg for the night recently with a plan to hit a bunch of new wineries......Initially my idea was to head back to the ones I've tried and liked, but then thought better of that idea. Why not try a bunch of new places? So that's what we did and I'm glad for it. We tried a lot of great, new wines from seven (count em) SEVEN wineries. It's a good thing I wasn't driving. I'm going to have to learn the fine art of the spit when tasting.
One thing that I am learning about tasting is that the fun places to stop aren't necessarily the places that make the best wine. But somehow, when the people are friendly and nice it makes the faults in the wine a little bit easier to ignore. When the person pouring is pissy, as one woman was to me on this tour, skipping their wines becomes a lot easier!!! You just associate the label with the mean face.

Anyhow, I'll get to the point: the tastings.

1) Our first stop was Wilson Winery, 1960 Dry Creek Road. We'd never heard of this place, but the huge San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner banner flying outside (Um, not very subtle, but smart marketing!!) inspired us to turn left and take a peek It was worth it. WIlson's is a warm and inviting place to taste. They've got a woodstove running (a nice touch on a raw day like ours) and a table for splitting a bottle. The patio also has chairs and small tables and overlooks the vineyards. The view is gorgeous. Unfortunately, my camera died so I didn't get any photos. DOH

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February 15, 2006

A Vote for Chilean Chardonnay

What a revelation! I've tasted and spat more California Chardonnays then I care to count. They are just so big and boozy and fruity-full of everything. Give me something cold and dry and bright with a grassy nose and I am a happy girl. That's just what we sipped on Valentine's Day with some grilled pork chops and sweet potatoes. No, that might not have been the most perfect Valentine's day dinner or the most perfect wine match, but we went for it anyway, since we had no Merlot in the house and we wanted to raid the fridge of the whites I had bought for my mom to try (oops, sorry mom). Note: I did some research and not only are whites fine with pork chops,the other white meat, but perfect if you grill and serve a little pineapple or fruit with them. I typically squeeze a lemon on my chops and then hit them with a little pepper before grilling.
Guilt drove me out to replace a bottle this morning so we can try even MORE Chards for review in future blogs. Anyhow, this Chardonnay we polished off last night is a 2004 Yelcho from Rapel Valley, Chile. (One of scads of wines from this area) I bought it for $6.99 at Whole Foods, along with another bottle of Chilean to try. I've not drank many bottles of Chilean white so i felt it was darn time to try.
Jim and I both liked this wine. I liked it a lot. "It's crisp," he said. "I taste the pear and it has a nice finish." I agreed. I love a Chardonnay that is bright, crisp and balanced with a light pear taste and a grassy fresh nose.
Very quaffable, I say (God, did I say that?) and very worth the $6.99. We'll see how the $10 bottle fares tonight. DUM DUMDUM DUM.

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February 14, 2006

A Little About Loxton Winery

Last year, my partner in tasting (PIT) and I stopped by a relatively new winery called Loxton in Sonoma Valley. The best part of our visit was meeting Chris Loxton, who let us taste his Syrah and Zinfandel, both which were pretty good. Chris, who holds a doctorate in physics, was super friendly and SO enthusiastic about finally having his own business. He worked at Wellington Vineyards as a co-winemaker until the summer of 2001, when he left to start Loxton Cellars.
For our purposes, wines under 20 bucks, just one of his bottles this year fits the Cheapfunwines bill: the 2003 Shiraz, which is $16. (Chris also makes a 2003 Hillside Zinfandel, ($25) a 2002 Hillside Vineyards Syrah, ($24) and a 2004 Syrah Port, EnglandCrest Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. ($25)
Here's what he has to say about the Shiraz on his website:
With my father and grandfather as growers of Shiraz is Australia, isn’t this the wine I have to make? Perhaps a little more in synch with Australian Shiraz; it has great color, spiciness, blackberry aromas and a rich, ripe and jammy finish that reminds me of cherry cordial. Easily the best Shiraz I’ve made. Primarily made with the Australian Shiraz cuttings planted in the Rubaiyat Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, with some fruit from the Timbervine Ranch in Russian River Valley. While tasting great now, this wine should be even better in 2006. Drink over the next 3-4 years. 246 cases produced.
I'm planning on stopping by Loxton when we head to Sonoma this weekend. (Ugh, it's supposed to rain!!)

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January 31, 2006

Wimpy vs Willy Wonka Wine

Ravenswood's battle cry is No Wimpy Wines and they mean it. Drinking Ravenswood is like taking a turbo trip to the Willy Wonka Wine-o-candy factory. No, I don't like their Zins much, at least the regular old barrel ones they serve up with the $5 or $10 tasting fee. (Can't remember how much it cost per person)
Nonetheless, I love visiting this winery, which is tucked away on a hill in Sonoma, CA., and often hosts barbeques (I've yet the attend one).
Who says you have to love a winery's wines to visit? This place is just fun. The guy who did our tasting when we visited last October was super generous on the pour, very chatty about the year's vintage, teaching us a thing or two about wine. I looked at my watch as my husband and I were leaving. My head was in the clouds and an hour and a half had passed.
Although I don't like many Zins, particularly the huge Robert Parkery ones, I did buy a nice solid bottle of 2000 Sonoma County Carignane that day. It went down fast when we drank it about a month later.

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