The morning began with a suggestion from Sam and Scott during last night's evening at Barndiva. On a cool, drizzly morning (that had most winemakers freaking out, by the way…), we set off for Bella Vineyards, a little “hole in the hill” (literally) winery at the end of West Dry Creek Rd. This winery does not sell retail, with all of the wine going to visitors and wine club members. I should add “lucky” in front of that, because this was an amazing flight of wines.
Zin is not frequently at the top of my list, but I may have to make an exception for Bella. The modest $5 tasting fee served up the stunning 2005 Lily Hill Estate Zinfandel and 2005 Big River Ranch Zinfandel. Both wines come from old vines, ranging from 85 to 100+ years old. Both were extremely complex, nicely balanced, with the Big River featuring a very long finish (meant for aging, my favourite Zin ever), while the Lily Hill seemed more accessible. Both tasting notes feature words like "spectacular" and "beautiful". Nuff said, you MUST visit this place - this was our great find of the trip. Even better, they had a very nice Syrah, and the prices were very reasonable for the quality. Rob and I went splits on a case.
We were rather reluctant to leave Bella, but the pourer assured us no amount of groveling would result in free pours, and my claims of media nobility were ignored. So off we went to we went to see Unti Vineyards, which served up a nice Grenache at Barndiva last night (Sam's suggestion). Tastings at this winery are "by appointment only", but the Unti folk were gracious enough to host us in a quick tasting of some of their wares. An unusual winery, focused mainly on Rhone and Italian varietals, it seems to be most associated with its Barbera wine. This was sold out, unfortunately, but we did try their 2004 Syrah, 2005 Segromigno, 2005 Zinfandel and 2005 Petit Frere. Last night Scott recommended the Syrah and I agree - another bottle to lug home. Overall, the quality was very nice, especially given the very modest price point on most of the wines.
After that we drove past the Ridge winery. Unable to contain myself at seeing this veritable Cathedral to wine, I had to stop. Seems like Zin heaven was achieved at Bella, so I was rather unimpressed - high hopes combined with a great Zin earlier in the day made for a tough tasting. But I left with a Montebello, regardless.
After that we stopped at Seghesio - a traditional, crowded tasting room, the wines on offer were nice, but the day was progressing and my taste buds were lacking (perhaps it was the burrito truck for a second day in a row...). Even worse, we tried to catch Martinelli before close. Clearly the length of the pour, while free, was inversely proportional to the proximity to closing time. Lapping at the vapours in my glass, I have no idea if the wine was any good.
Then to dinner - an adventure in itself.