Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Incredible Weekend

note: more photos online @ Rick's facebook page...

While I can't go into a lot of detail here regarding my trip to wine country this weekend, I must at least provide some killer highlights in hopes that you can use the notes when planning your next winery tour.
  1. To begin, there are just fantastic brewers in this region! While not every brewery out there produces the most memorable beers I have had, they all seem to make 'good' beer that is a welcomed break from the wines of the region. We stopped at Silverado, Calistoga Inn, Stumptown, Bear Republic, Downtown Joe's & Russian River, each having something that made the stop worth while - simply incredible.
  2. Hop Kiln Winery (pictured above) is an absolute MUST SEE winery in Sonoma Valley - just outside of Healdsburg. This place was originally built in 1903 by 20 Italian immigrants and errected in 30 days, using rock for the structure. They were forced to struggle with the World Wars and America's "Nobel Experiment", and eventually left the facility to the bats and squatters. In the late '70s it was turned into a winery and in the '80's it was refurbished to it's original look. They are a winery to be certain, and their Zin is worth the purchase, but this place is a wonderful reminder that before California was "Wine Country" our history was all about beer. I can't say enough about this stop, the generous tour of the old kilns and machinery that is largely off-limits really sunk in as something I'll not soon forget. If you love beer and are planning a winery tour in Napa/Sonoma valleys, add this place right now - you won't regret it. Oh, and next door to these guys is another wonderful winery - can't recall the name, but you'll see it.
  3. Breakfast at Russian River was a great way to start my day - the Sanctification with its 100% brett fermentation was absolutely perfect!
  4. Closing Russian River down the night before certainly didn't suck either.
  5. Calistoga Inn may be the most picturesque brewery I've every seen - the whole package just worked. Outdoor seating, fantastic food, good beer and great live music made this a stop my wife and I plan on repeating. If you're there on a romantic tour, this place is perfect. When you're out on a crazy weekend with friends, the outdoor beer garden is the best spot to drink.
  6. Bear Republic, on the other hand, seemed to offer little more than the beer and food experience you find in a good restaurant. Granted, I sat indoors and wish I would have enjoyed their wonderful outdoor seating. These guys, by the way, make a lot of beer right there in Healdsburg and have recently opened up a new facility in Cloverdale that allows them to sell in six-packs!
  7. I don't think I said enough good things about Hop Kiln. The scenic valley view they have there seriously make this one of the most beautiful stops I have ever had in my many trips to wine country.
  8. I got to try a 100% spontaneously fermented beer this weekend... and it was fantastic. Won't say where it was or when you can find it, but know that the rumors are true and the buzz is warranted.
  9. I finally got to see what a 'ropey' beer really looked like. Incredible, a bit ugly, but the beer was quite nice.
  10. Downtown Joe's in Napa - this place is one of those places I went in not liking, but walked away with a ton of respect and appreciation for what they are and what they do. Good beers all around and a clientelle who just seem to love a good cold beer after a warm day of beer tasting. Yeah, I need to say I was wrong in thinking they were something they weren't - luckily you all never knew that. :D
I guess that's it. You'll read more about this in weeks to come.
- Rick