Backyard Wine Tour (ain’t CA great!)

Post lovingly contributed by Kelly.

When trying to think of something fun to do on the Sunday of Joel’s birthday, my sister Gina had a great idea.  She suggested we hit some local wineries for a pleasant afternoon of wine tasting.  Genius!!  Although I thought I might encounter some odd glances as a pregnant lady double-fisting pinot noir’s waddling up to the bar for another “tasting,” I decided to take one for the team (for Joel’s sake of course).

I knew we had some wineries near the San Jose area, but I had no idea how many or how close by!  When we googled wineries near San Jose, three jumped to the top of our list:  David Bruce (we’ve enjoyed many a David Bruce Pinot throughout the years), Byington, and Savannah-Chanelle.  While we knew of Byington and Savannah-Chanelle through glasses “here and there,” we weren’t familiar with their full offering or their specialties.  So we picked our winery-trip-trio based on “known and loved” and “let’s experiment.”

Our first stop was David Bruce.  There were five wines on the complimentary tasting menu:
· 2003 Saignee
· 2000 Gimelli Vineyard Pinot
· 2000 Chalone-Brossseau Pinot
· 2002 Russian River Valley Pinot
· 2001 Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah

Plus as a special treat we got to taste the 2002 Shell Creek Petite Syrah.

It is a rare and beautiful thing when you enjoy *every* wine on a tasting menu.  David Bruce does not disappoint.  Although I only tasted about a milliliter of each wine, each sip had me fantasizing about being able to drink a full glass again.

The 2003

Saignee was perhaps the biggest surprise.  We weren’t very familiar with Saignees, and typically we steer clear of rose wines.  We were pleasantly surprised by the 2003 Saignee.  It was more fruity and sweeter than a pinot (which one would expect), but it wasn’t syrupy at all and tasted quite refreshing.  We smelled/tasted grapefruit and peach, and enjoyed a clean finish.  Perfect for a hot day.

While all the wines were very good, my personal favorite was the 2002 Shell Creek Petite Syrah (I typically enjoy big jammy wines anyways, given I “grew up on” Napa Valley Zinfandels).  This Petite Syrah tasted like blackberry jam, with a hint of leather and a little spice to it.  In the words of the Cambell’s soup commercials, “Mmm mmm Good.”

Another wonderful surprise ala the David Bruce Winery tasting room was the map they had of all the local wineries.  We were flabbergasted at the number of wineries virtually next-door that we have never visited!  (That will be remedied over the next few birthdays.)  Here is the website to find more info on Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries.  Here is a copy of the map. Let us know if there’s any places you recommend for our next afternoon outing.

Next on the list was the winery down the road – Byington.  The view was spectacular, and the tables outside were perfect for a picnic or sipping some wine with cheese/chocolate.  They also host special star-gazing dinners that sound like a lot of fun (and had quite a good-looking menu).

The five complimentary tastings at Byington included:
· Santa Cruz Mountains 2004 Saignee
· Redwood Hill 2002 Chardonnay
· Sangiacomo Vineyard 2002 Chardonnay
· Van Der Kamp 2002 Pinot Noir
· Bates Ranch 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Byington Saignee tasted very different from the David Bruce Saignee.  It was much dryer, with a more mineral taste.  There was still some fruit (strawberries and cherries), but it definitely was not as fruit-forward. 

The Sangiacomo Vineyard 2002 Chardonnay was more of a “typical” Californian chardonnay – buttery with some apple, while the Redwood Hill 2002 Chardonnay had a strong green apple aroma with a clean apple finish.  The Redwood Hill Chardonnay had a more earthy/minerally taste than I typically prefer in a chardonnay.

Our last stop for the day was Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards.  When we drove up to the tasting room, we were a little frightened that we were going to need to pick straw out of our wine glasses and would be forced to milk cows as we did our tasting, as the barn-like building threw us for a loop.  We were pleasantly surprised when we opened the door to find a spacious, well-decorated, homey tasting room with tables to sit and chat next to the tasting bar. 

Savannah-Chanelle had two tasting lists of seven wines ($5 for each list) – one of all pinots, and one with a mixture.  We bought one of each and shared among the three of us.

Most of the wines were fairly typical for Santa Cruz Mountain wines – a lot of earth and minerals with the pinots having leather, spice, and coffee flavors.  The one interesting find was the 2002 Syrah Port from Monterey County.  I’m not typically a huge fan of port (although I have to get a plug in for my favorite port of all time – the Justin Obtuse) because it’s typically too overwhelming and bitter syrupy for my taste.  However, this port was more of a “wine” than a “port.”   With its vanilla and blackberry flavors, it would be very good (well-balanced) with a piece of dark chocolate.

In addition to tasting wines, they had a variety of mustards to taste.  The champagne and the curry mustards were fabulous – I would highly recommend taking time to venture across the barn with a cracker or two to check those out.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon.  For a great way to spend the day – or a way to celebrate a special occasion – I highly recommend a trip to the local wineries.  Next time I’ll do a better job of planning by bringing our good digital camera, a cooler with ice for bottled water as well as to keep wines we buy at an even temperature, a mini-picnic basket with a blanket, some cheese, and some dark chocolate treats from See’s Candy.

Happy Birthday Joel.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

Author: Joel Vincent

Growth Hacker and wine lover

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