The Lizard Chronicles

Some of this is true. Some of this is better. –Too Much Joy

That California Trip Part 3: How to Succeed at Wine Tasting June 1, 2014

We began the third day of our second flitterwochen with a visit to Hop Kiln Winery, the tasting room and marketplace for which are in the Walters Ranch Hop Kiln. The kiln was built in 1905, a time when hops were a major industry in California. Now it’s a historical landmark and a pretty cool-looking old building. There was even a mini hop kiln in the pond out back.

The tasting room at Hop Kiln Estate Vineyards

The tasting room at Hop Kiln Estate Vineyards


Mini Hop Kiln

Mini Hop Kiln

Dry Creek Vineyards was our next stop. This was our second visit to Dry Creek, and it conjured up memories of our honeymoon. Back then we were novice at wine tasters, and we learned some important lessons for a pleasant day of wine tasting.

  • Eat—and not just the crackers some of the tasting rooms provide. Keep snacks and water in your car, and eat a bit between wineries, even if you’re not all that hungry.
  • If you’re making a day of wine tasting, stop for lunch, particularly if you did not follow the previous guideline of bringing some snacks along with you. Even if you are sipping and spitting (and honestly, I’m not sure who does this except perhaps the pros), your palate will probably appreciate the change of scenery. I can’t seem to say it enough lately: lunch is important.
  • Five wineries in one day, not enough to eat, and winding roads = sick Liz. One less-than-fond memory from my honeymoon involves sprinting from the inn parking lot to our room, thankfully not losing my lunch (or lack thereof) anywhere in between. Even with enough food, five wineries is a lot to tackle, particularly if you get to chatting with the people serving at the tastings and they go “off book,” letting you try additional wines you might enjoy. Depending on the number of pours at each, and the types of wine tasted, three or four wineries in one day is usually plenty for me. Any more than that, and I get wined out.

Of course, I follow my own guidelines, so lunch was next on our agenda. We stopped in Healdsburg and ate at Bear Republic Brewing Company because sometimes, after tasting many different types of wine, what you really want is a beer to refresh your palate. Nothing puts Ian in touch with his inner child quite like Speed Racer, so he was quite taken with Bear Republic, which had homages to the classic cartoon in its decor and the names of some of its brews. I even got adventurous and sampled a sour (nonfruity) beer. I’m notorious for having a sour tooth (as a kid, I used to eat plain lemons and rhubarb stalks), so it’s somewhat surprising I hadn’t gotten around to trying one of these yet. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was in the mood for at the time. Generally, I think I prefer sour beer to have an accompanying fruit flavor (oh cherry lambic, how I love thee), but I’m open to trying more sours.

We kicked around in Healdsburg for a bit after lunch and then headed to Martinelli Winery, a small, family-owned winery in the Russian River Valley. In addition to tasting wine and hearing about the history of the Martinelli family, we saw a video of manager, Lee Martinelli Sr. farming Jackass Hill, one of the steepest (60% slope!), nonterraced vineyards around.

After that, we headed back to the inn, where we lounged in the courtyard for a while and wrapped up the day with dinner at the historic Union Hotel.

Union Hotel

Union Hotel




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