Our final day dawned and another fascinating set of experiences awaited. We drove up into Russian River Valley and close to its border with Dry Creek valley. An utterly sensational morning unfolded at Bacigalupi Vineyards. Twin sisters, Nicole and Katie Bacigalupi hosted our visit and we took a short walk up to their Chardonnay vineyards – the significance being these were the source of 50% of the fruit that went into Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay that won first prize in the 1976 Judgement of Paris.
A stunning tasting of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Late Harvest Muscat ensued. We sat outside in a beautiful secluded spot, the sun was shining and the wines were delicious – perhaps one of the most idyllic tasting experiences of many a tour.
It was then a short hop to Seghesio – one of the big names for top class Zinfandel and an estate that I have dealt with for many years. Tony hosted our visit and took us through a superb selection of both current and library vintages. Given their Italian heritage, we also tasted some Vermentino and Arneis which were great examples. The range of Zinfandels were top class and we finished with the Omaggio 2007 – a Cabernet based wine only made in exceptional years. A buffet lunch was taken on their upstairs patio where we had the pleasure of Andy – their winemaker – giving us some really good insights into the winemaking process.
If that wasn’t enough, we still had time to meet Anthony at Premonition Cellars. This was literally a unit on an industrial estate where three winemakers buy grapes and make wine. It was wonderfully organised chaos as we were visiting at a key moment. Grapes had just arrived, some were being pressed, there were numerous bins full of fermenting fruit and not enough room to swing anything. It was a fascinating experience and unlike any other on any tour. The wines were great but more importantly, it reflected the true spirit of entrepreneurship. If you want to make wine in California but don’t have vast funds or a long family history of winemaking – you can still do it!
It was very exciting seeing the whole process in such a different context.
Dinner on our final night was at Della Santinas – a lovely Italian restaurant in Sonoma. Sitting outside in their beautiful patio garden we tucked into a range of antipasti, pastas and traditional main courses. Washed down with Californian wine of course!
A great first tour to California, many revelations and fabulous wines. Quality is stunning, prices are outrageous but it is a lot of fun out here!