This post is dedicated to all the wineries we were able to visit during our trip to wine country – Sonoma & Napa. There was so much to learn about wine, we could have easily spent a week just absorbing all the information on wine from vine to table. As a result of all the new knowledge I’ve gained from my visits to some wineries, I have been inspired to create a new “Wine & Dine” series to my Chicago Cooking/Baking Club. The new series I’m rolling out will start at the end of June where the focus will be on specific wines & food pairings. Stay tuned to the Chicago Cookers & Bakers events, especially if you are in Chicago! Here are some pics of wineries where we visited, along with specific information on each winery:
Family owned and operated, Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards produces ultra-premium, estate-grown and handcrafted wines in the finest traditions of the renowned Sonoma Valley. They currently oversee an operation comprised of their state-of-the-art winemaking facility and 2,000 contiguous acres, of which 700 acres are planted to more than twenty different varieties of wine grapes.
Joe Benziger has been the winemaking artist behind the Imagery Artist Collection Wines since their inception in 1985. Together with original artist/curator Bob Nugent, Joe has taken an idea that married his special wines with the art world’s most renowned contemporary artists and turned that vision into one of the most unique and respected ultra-premium wine collections produced.
Arrowood Vineyards & Winery
The winemaking philosophy at Arrowood is simple: Produce classic varietal wines using grapes exclusively from Sonoma County’s diverse viticultural areas such as Russian River Valley, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys or Sonoma-Carneros. This approach has not changed since the winery was founded in 1986 by Richard Arrowood and his wife and partner, Alis Demers Arrowood. Richard has been making wine for more than four decades. Before founding Arrowood, he was winemaker and the first employee at Chateau St. Jean. There he produced the winery’s first releases: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a wine that may have very well put Chateau St. Jean on the map – a Select Late Harvest Riesling. Arrowood Winery opened while Richard was still the winemaker at Chateau St. Jean, and for the first three years Alis ran the winery while Richard fulfilled his obligations at Chateau St. Jean. She dragged hoses in the cellar, topped barrels and ran the bottling line. She spent weekends entertaining, giving tours and hosting wine tastings. The first Arrowood wines were released in 1988.
B.R. Cohn Winery
Bruce Cohn, founder and proprietor of B.R. Cohn Winery, has embraced a lifelong passion for Northern California’s wine country and its bounty. An equally strong passion for music led to a parallel career in the music industry as the manager for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s perennially favorite American bands, The Doobie Brothers. His down-to-earth attitude, focus and dedication have made both careers flourishing successes to this day. Since its founding in 1990, the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company has greatly contributed to the emergence of California olive oil as a global competitor. One of the first olive oils produced in Sonoma County in nearly a century, B.R. Cohn’s Sonoma Estate Picholine Extra Virgin Olive Oil has ranked consistently as a top California offering, winning numerous local and international awards as well as accolades from the gourmet world. Because the tiny Picholine olives produce an extremely limited amount of oil, the Sonoma Estate olive oil is only available through the tasting room of the B.R. Cohn Winery.
The Valley of the Moon Winery
The Valley of the Moon Winery and Vineyards is distinguished by the marriage of its rich history with a state-of-the-art wine production facility. Embracing the traditions of Sonoma County, one of the world’s most famous wine growing areas, the creation of Valley of the Moon wine begins with hand selecting the absolute highest quality fruit available – from our estate vineyards and those of a few select growers in Sonoma County. Our estate vineyards are planted in the well-drained, rocky, red volcanic soil, characteristic of the southern Sonoma Valley. They enjoy a banana belt-type micro climate, producing traditional varietals which include old-vine Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sangiovese grapes with intense colors and flavors.
The Domaine Carneros château is a landmark of the Carneros region. Completed in 1989, the classic 18th century château-style building was architecturally inspired by the historic Château de la Marquetterie owned by principal founder, Champagne Taittinger. The Pinot Noir Facility sits just behind the main chateau and was styled after a French carriage house. Built in 2003, this state-of-the-art facility houses one of the largest photovoltaic systems on any winery in the world.
Luna Vineyards, long-known as the benchmark producer of Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, is gaining recognition for its exotic white wine blend Freakout, and critically-acclaimed red varietals such as Howell Mountain Merlot, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clos du Val Wine Company
In 1970, American businessman John Goelet sent French-born winemaker Bernard Portet off with a passport and a mission to find new territory with the potential to produce world-class wines. Two years and five continents later, Portet landed in California. Portet got a sense of Napa Valley’s microclimates by driving through the area with his arm out the car window. Struck by the cool evenings and idyllic terrain of the then-undiscovered Stags Leap District, he proposed the area to Goelet. Convinced, Goelet purchased 150 acres of land and founded Clos Du Val, a “small estate of a small valley,” in 1972. Soon thereafter Clos Du Val became one of the first wineries to stake a claim on some of the finest hillside land in the cool-climate region of Carneros, purchasing 180 acres in 1973.
Stag’s Leap Winery
The Stag’s Leap Winery’s 90-acre vineyard is divided into 23 separate blocks based upon soil types and exposure to the sun (see map below). Within individual blocks, each varietal is matched to the ideal rootstock and trellising system. The primary varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. Small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Syrah are planted throughout the property to add depth and complexity to the final bottlings.
Mitch Cosentino began making wine in small lots in 1980 in Modesto, California. Ten years later he moved his operation to the Napa Valley. Here, he continues a hands-on, old world approach to winemaking. The use of punched cap fermentation, a labor-intensive, hand-crafted method of winemaking, sets Cosentino apart. Cosentino’s passion for winemaking and respect for traditional methods has resulted in a somewhat untraditional approach. Today, more than 30 ultra-premium, limited production wines are produced with more than 15 varietals.
Robert Mondavi Winery
The Robert Mondavi family believes that great wine is a reflection of its origin. The wines made at the Robert Mondavi Winery express the terroir of the three vineyard properties that comprise the company’s Napa Valley vineyard holdings. The winery is situated on its historic 550-acre to Kalon Vineyard in the Oakville region. The other vineyard is our 400-acre Wappo Hill Vineyard in the Stag’s Leap region which supplies much of our Merlot and the Sauvignon Blanc for our Napa Valley Fume(with accent) Blanc.
Sequoia Grove takes its name from the giant Sequoia trees that dominate our estate on the Rutherford bench in Napa Valley, California. Family-founded in 1980, we quickly gained a reputation for crafting award winning, Bordeaux style wines that emphasize finesse and balance. Today we are still a boutique winery, producing a limited quantity of ultra-premium wines and specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon. Boasting the first underground cellar in the valley our pioneering spirit continues today with our cutting-edge equipment and winemaking process under the leadership of our winemaker, Mike Trujillo.
The Cakebread family, owners of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford, is among the most creative and successful winery families in California’s famed Napa Valley. Since its founding in 1973, the winery has developed a reputation for producing world-class wines. Its success is built on quality, consistency and continuity, characteristics which apply equally to the grapes, the wines, the people and the operation of the winery.
V. Sattui is a family-owned winery established in 1885 and located in St. Helena, the very heart of California’s famous Napa Valley. Their award-winning wines are sold exclusively at the Winery, by mail order, and online direct to their customers and they have no outside distribution. V. Sattui produces more than seventy percent of the grapes needed for our wine production, a high ratio for any winery. But also contract with private growers who tend their vineyards, however small, with the care and concern we require to make their wines distinctive.
Sutter Home Winery
Sutter Home Winery was founded in the late 1800’s and has always produced quality wines at reasonable prices. The Trinchero family purchased the winery in 1947 and has pioneered many industry innovations over the past half century. Continuing the tradition of producing good wines at a fair price, Sutter Home Winery offers a full selection of red, white and blush varietals.
Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley and the first to offer public tours, continues its commitment to offer guests original and inspiring wine country experiences. Beringer’s focus on excellence is illustrated in its commitment to sustainable practices, and our wines express this attention to the environment. Each Beringer vineyard, with its own distinctive soil, climate and terrain, lends itself to particular grape varietals. These vineyards have become recognized as the primary sources of Beringer wines.
Charles Krug Winery
The Charles Krug Winery, first in the Napa Valley and established in 1861, is owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family. Since 1943, three generations of the Peter Mondavi Family have been pioneers and innovators in the Napa Valley wine industry. Today the family continues their stewardship of 850 acres of estate land with organic and sustainable farming practices and state-of-the art winemaking techniques.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, produces big, bold, full-bodied wines that deliver on flavor. Each wine is produced from 100% hand-picked Sonoma County fruit and is a direct expression of our winemaking philosophy of “maximum extraction, minimal intervention.” St. Francis Winery was established and christened after St. Francis of Assisi, in recognition of the Saint’s role as a protector of the natural world and as acknowledgement of the Franciscan order, believed to have been the first to bring European grape cultivation to the new world.
Blackstone Winery was founded in 1990 with the goal of producing approachable, full-bodied, well-balanced wines. For the Blackstone winemaking team, it’s all about quality and value. Their Winemaker Select wines are fruit-forward, easy to drink, and food-friendly – perfect for everyday celebrations. The cornerstone of this portfolio is Blackstone’s California Merlot, the number-one-selling domestic red wine in the United States at any price.