But first. Valdez.
We found a bottle of their wine a few trips ago at the Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, and decided to give it a try. And we're so glad we did - it's wonderful. In February, they just opened a huge facility in a warehouse space in Cloverdale. There's not much else in Cloverdale...
Ulises Valdez moved to the states from a small town in Mexico in 1985 when he was 16. He started farming the vineyards, and had dreams of making enough money to move back to Mexico and open a small business, maybe a grocery store. Little did he know that 25 years later, he'd be managing over 1,000 acres of vineyards and making some delicious wines.
They just bottled their first set of magnums, and he was so excited to show them off.
We had an amazing visit with Ulises, his wife Adelina, and the winemaker Mauricio. Not only did we get to taste their delicious wines, but we got a full tour of the brand new facility, and a trip to a nearby vineyard.
He was so proud and excited to show everything off, he jumped in his truck and had us follow him a few miles away to one of his vineyards at St. Peter's Catholic Church in town. He passion was palpable. It was just so amazing to spend so much time with him.
These are very old zinfandel vines, and Ulises was explaining to us how short and stocky they are, and talking about how fat and chunky the bases of the vines are.
We hated to say goodbye, but knew we had to let him get back to work, and we needed to head on north to Anderson Valley.
First stop - Mary Elke vineyards.
This tiny tasting room was homey and full of wine barrels. There was another couple there from Alabama - it's always fun to talk to some other people to see where all they're visiting. The tasting room manager Dan was very nice, and the wine was good. We didn't spend too much time there, but we were glad we visited.
We headed to Boonville General Store to get a quick sandwich, before heading to Goldeneye.
We grabbed our sandwiches and headed back out. They were exactly what we both wanted. Light, fresh, and delicious handmade sandwiches.
Goldeneye was beautiful! They greet you at the door, chat for a few minutes, then ask you to go find a good spot on the patio and bring your wine out to you.
The grounds were just amazing. You could definitely tell that they are related to Duckhorn in Napa.
Their wines were delicious. They also brought some roasted almonds, 2 cheeses and a few small toast crackers to enjoy with the wines. We shared a tasting, which is something we often do. It helps with costs when there's a tasting fee, and then you're drinking a lot less. This makes it possible to visit several places in a day.
Then we headed way up the hill to Esterlina.
I've been struggling with how to tell you about this winery visit. I don't just want to skimp over it, but also don't want to drag on about it. I feel that I need to be honest about the visit, but am not going to go into too much detail. I have never been so upset about any winery we have ever visited, and we've been well over 100 at this point, including some of the very best in the Santa Barbara area, Sonoma, Napa, Virginia and Washington. In a nutshell, the views are beautiful, but the wine bland. The tasting fee is extremely high, IF they decide to charge you for it. Their customer service is horrible, and their policies are completely inconsistant. I will never recommend for anyone to visit that winery, which is really something I take extremely seriously.
After we left there, luckily we had 1 more place to visit...it saved the day in Anderson Valley. Back down the hill, we stopped into Lazy Creek Vineyards.
The tasting room was small and unassuming but very lovely inside. It had a beautiful combination of rustic chic furniture. The lady who was there, Vicky I think, was wonderful. Come to find out, she's married to Dan we'd met earlier in the day at Mary Elke! Her friend delivered her new kitten while we were there, and it was very fun to be apart of their exciting day! The wines were wonderful and the glasses they served their wines in were completely beautiful. You can almost see the red glass in the picture below, the big tulip shape. We really enjoyed talking with the ladies and tasting the wines!
After the long drive and our adventurous day in Anderson Valley, we wanted pizza and a casual dinner. Husband had heard about this great local pizza place in a strip mall, so off we went in search of Rosso.
And it was fantastic.
The place was pretty big but packed. Luckily we grabbed the seats at the bar or it would have been about a 30 minute wait - we were too hungry for that! They're expanding, opening 2 more in Petaluma and Sebastopol this fall.
I'd love to have a place like this around the DC area - great, fresh food with a casual atmosphere and delicious wines!