Showing posts with label Santa Rosa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa Rosa. Show all posts

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Leaving Santa Rosa for Michel-Schlumberger

This trip to Sonoma was filled with great food, phenomenal wine and quality family time. It was the latter two I got to concentrate on my final day.

We all enjoyed every moment of the Mayacama house in Santa Rosa that Inspirato has available to its members. The hot tub was especially popular with the kids. I was happy just soaking up the views and I explored the community a bit before we left.

I loved to watch the deer frolicking through the wooded areas before I checked out the tennis courts and swimming pool. There was still time to head to the very large country club. It was quite impressive inside and out, complete with a gym, spa and restaurants. There was even a concierge available for those unlike me who didn’t have all of their plans made for the stay.

Unfortunately, our time in Santa Rosa was running out. We were heading to one of my favorite wineries and I was excited about taking the family there. Michel-Schlumberger offers something for everyone and I knew my brother and his family would be especially interested in their green practices. 

The always welcoming Jim Morris, Michel-Schlumberger’s Vice President of Marketing, took us around on a private tour. We stopped first at the bee hives, where he talked about the importance of their pollination. Next to the hive is the stream where local fifth graders helped bring in fingerlings from the dam to help rebuild the dried out creek. 

The kids were also fascinated hearing about the Monarch Butterfly Waystation and the importation of owls to help keep the gophers away. (The geese, ducks, chickens and bass in the lake are more than welcome to call this winery home, however.)

We went past the various pepper and onion plants in the “Salsa Garden” to the top of the vineyard. The rolling hills were even more beautiful than I had remembered as we looked out at the 100 acres of land, 87 of which are planted with 16 varieties of grapes.

After a tour of the winery, where we got to taste a bit of the grape juice before it is actually wine, we (at least the grownups) got to sample some of the latest Michel-Schlumberger offerings and were not disappointed. The 2010 Pinot Blanc is a perfect mix of lemon and grapefruit, light enough to complement any food.  I loved the 2010 La Nue Unoaked Chardonnay, with enough butter and vanilla to make you feel like you were drinking pound cake.

In the reds, not to be missed at Michel-Schlumberger is the 2009 La Source Syrah, with a bit of viognier to keep it from being as dry and spicey as most, and the 2009 Zinfandel, a fruity blend with a hint of black pepper, yet retaining its light body.  I also enjoyed the 2007 Le Sage Merlot, blended with malbec and cabernet franc, with fruit in the front and spice behind.

We chatted with Jim a bit longer before it was time to bid him and Sonoma farewell.  I’m sure I won’t be gone for long.
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I’d like to take a moment to wish my readers a very happy new year. It’s been quite a year for me, from Australia to California, and many places in between. It looks like 2012 is going to be just as exciting. I’ll be starting my stories in the new year with a new hotel in Chicago, my first beer (you’ll have to keep reading to find out about that one), a trip to the island of St. Maarten and a visit to a ski resort in the Sierra Madre Mountains. I’m also planning a few overseas trips in the new year and, of course, lots of wine and spirits!

I leave you with my favorite photo of 2011, from Kangaroo Island, Australia, where I got to sit right next to these frolicking sea lions.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Luxuriating in Mayacama and Feasting At Coppola

I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I would like, so it worked out perfectly that they were able to join me in Mayacama, an incredible development in Santa Rosa. It’s within this community that Inspirato has a  property for rent.  This spacious villa is not available to members until the spring (and booking up fast), but I had a chance to check it out first hand.

With four bedrooms and a den with a large couch, we were able to spread out nicely throughout the house.  My nephew Jake started my day out right by making me a very special (and chocolately) brea. He had a party to go to with my brother so it was a girls’ day and I had a very special one planned at one of my favorite places in Sonoma – the FrancisFord Coppola Winery.

You wouldn’t normally pick a winery to spend the afternoon with an 11 year old and a 13 year old, but the famed director built this place with the family in mind. I love to look at the movie memorabilia and am still in awe every time I go here and stand in front of those Oscars, the Godfather’s Desk or the war torn clothing from Apocalypse Now
Then there’s the swimming pool, the bocce ball courts and the Rustic Restaurant. The place is built just the way the owner wanted it, to share with the family.

My sister-in-law Claire joined myself and the girls as we climbed our way to what looks from the outside like a castle. This was my third visit to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it (or their wine). I took them around to take a look at the movie gallery and store, where Francis and Eleanor Coppola also sell some of their favorite wine, food and decorative items from around the world.

It was a warm day and we had a perfect table at Rustic overlooking the vineyards. The menu is filled with Coppola’s favorites, mostly Italian, but all cooked with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The meal always starts with “Aunt Christine’s Pettole,” which to me are the zeppoles I would get in New York, even served the same way in a paper bag. It was tough for us to narrow down the choices, but we made some excellent ones in the end:

Short Ribs, Argentine Style
So tender and flavorful;


Moroccan Bastilla
A flaky, slightly sweet chicken pie that was both delicious and unusual;

Linguine alla Vongole (linguine and clam sauce)
Not on my plate, but everyone else enjoyed immensely;

Bumbola Con Broccoli E Salsiccia
A tasty bowl of pasta with Italian sausage, red wine, fontina cheese and just a dash of cream.

I had a perfect Coppola Diamond Collection Sauvignon Blanc with my lunch while Claire thought the Chardonnay (a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition) was wonderful. We decided to wait for dessert and take the tour first. It was my first time taking a formal tour at the Coppola Winery and I learned some things that I hadn’t before about the details of the property.

Bob was our tour guide and he first took us outside to see the vineyards. There are 24 acres of grapes on this property in Geyserville, but it’s not nearly enough to make the 45 wines Coppola produces. They use 135 growers in the county, but produce everything except the sparkling wine right here. We did some sampling here which included the fruit-filled 2009 Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon. I know this wine well as it was the very first  cabernet sauvignon I ever liked and you can count on this winery to consistently produce a good one.

We continued the sampling up at the tasting room, where I discovered some more standouts, including the 2009 Director’s Cut Zinfandel, fruit forward and white pepper back, the way zin should be, and the 2008 Director’s Cut Merlot, with ripe red fruit and just a hint of spice. I also got my first taste of the 2010 Francis Coppola Reserve Russian River Viognier, filled with citrus, especially lemon.

After the tour, we went back to the restaurant for dessert, sharing the Panna Cotta and the Italia's Cream Puffs, both of which can satisfy any sweet tooth quite nicely. We then headed back to the Inspirato house where the whole family enjoyed the beautiful night on the deck. I had never seen anything quite like this deck before, complete with lounge chairs, couches, a fireplace, a large barbecue and a hot tub. It was the perfect night to take advantage of that hot tub and we (at least the adults) poured some wine and watched the full moon over Sonoma.