Tuesday, Day 21
Sep 7, 2010
|Departed our campsite at Edgewater Beach about 10 minutes early. We're getting this packing up and un-packing routine down after almost 3 weeks into the trip! It takes a lot of coordination and communication to make it work smoothly and efficiently - sometimes I think in a relationship we get rusty on the communication part.
First stop was to the Wildhurst Wine Tasting Room in downtown Kelseyville to pick up some more of their 2007 Zinfandel. During our tasting there on Saturday, we each bought a bottle based on our tastes and ended up drinking both. Decided to re-stock that one.
On the way there the workers were harvesting pears. This area of California has about as many pear trees as SCarolina has peach trees. Appears to be very labor intensive as they were using ladders on every tree and each tree had a minimum of 2 workers. The village is hosting a pear festival the weekend of the 18th. They had some baggies of dried pears available for sale at Wildhurst. I've had dried pears before, but not like these....full of flavor and very yummy!
Next we took the backroad back to 101. Once again, it was 19 miles of very twisty turny curves - they won't let any vehicle over 39 feet on the road due to the tight curves, but we got to see different views than the regular highway offers.
Stopped in Cloverdale to re-stock the fridge; also wanted to buy some more tortillas - they were white corn tortillas with a little wheat added to give them a better texture. Got three more packages which will probably get us through the week.
Drove past all kinds of wineries again along Route 101 - we needed to re-fuel, so when we got to Healdsburg we got off 101 fueled up and took.....guess what....another side road. Bet we saw over 50 wineries in as little as 5 miles. This is the beginning of the Russian River Valley area. We visited the "J" winery and tasting room - it's right next door to Rodney Strong.
To contrast the winery styles, pricing and personalities: Napa tends to be stuffier and they charge more for the tastings. The further out you go, the more down-to-earth the personnel are and the more economical the tastings are. Mendocino charges $10 for a flight of 6; Up in Lake County they charged $5 if you wanted to keep the glass or nothing if you bought something. At "J" - Russian River - they charge $20 for a flight of 5, but they'll let you share a flight. At first glance, a very contemporary facility and based on the well-versed personnel, we expected a "stuffy" experience....but luckily our expectations were NOT met. We'd had the wines before at the Wine Fest in Hilton Head, but they're availability is limited locally.
I love their pinot gris; chardonnay is okay; typically I don't care for Viognier, but the "J" was very yummy - good for sipping on a hot summer day. This winery is known for their pinot noir - they had several from different appelations ranging from $50 per bottle to much higher.
They also offered a dessert wine called Ratafia....the vintner reserves a very small amount of the best lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir fruit from the harvest; they then gently press the fruit and chill the juice to prevent fermentation. When the harvest slows, their winemaker begins to experiment with blends of the juice and then adds brandy. The brandy used comes from Germain-Robin which is a local producer nereby in Ukiah. Germain-Robin eau de vie is made from a blend of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit. The young Ratafia wine is then transferred to old French oak barrels for aging. Very yummy. She also recommended that you use the Reidel Vinum Spirits glass to drink it as the neck of the glass forces the tongue to taste the spirits and takes the nose "out-of-play."
Two other items were new to us there. One was J Pear Liqueur which is a twice-distilled pear eau de vie that is infused with de-ionized water (rain water) and liquid sugar to produce a liqueur. Technically, a liqueur is a brandy that has sugar and flavorings added to the distillate.
In 1995, Bartlett pear juice was fermented dry in stainless steel tanks. The juice was then double distilled in unique copper Alambic stills, yielding a pear brandy (eau de vie) of approximately 50% alcohol. The pear eau de vie was aged for 10 years in 90-gallon Limousin oak barrels. To make the liqueur, distilled water and liquid sugar were added to bring the alcohol level down to 30% (60 proof). The sugar broadens the palate and takes away the heat, bringing forth a pear essence. The liqueur was then cold stabilized and aged for an additional six months before bottling.
J Pear Liqueur shows wonderful bright pear essence, butterscotch, chamomile, and vanilla aromas, followed by hints of apple pie and cinnamon notes revealing aged cognac-like character. Predominate flavors of baked pears, honeysuckle, butterscotch and honey lead to a lingering finish of Barlett pears.
The other is Pinotage which is a hybrid grape of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. J's source of this grape comes from 2.5 acres of their Backdoor Vineyard—a significant Pinotage planting when you consider that only 20 acres of this varietal are planted throughout California. Careful hand-harvest, fermentation in an open-top tank, post-fermentation maceration and aging in a combination of American and French oak all give this wine its rich character.
We had planned to go to Rodney Strong after the visit to the "J" tasting, but we had such a good experience (and spent way too much on wines and spirits) we decided to forego the visit to Rodney's place!
Back to the next set of back-roads....! It was approximately 40 miles of a cut-over from 101 to the coast and many, many times it narrowed down to single-lane. It was the hairiest ride I've ever taken - but what a beautiful drive. We first circled the dam of Lake Sonoma and then continued up the mountains. To complicate matters even further, livestock roamed the roadsides as the hills were too difficult to fence. Our path then took us thru the Redwoods and they were so large in height and width that the RV was dwarfed; the growth was so dense that you needed headlights in some places. The down-side was no guard rails, no center line markings - but occasionally you'd see a Road Narrows - One Lane Traffic sign. (NO SHIT!!). Our road dead-ended into Route 1 and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Pacific.
The temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the wind picked up at least that many miles per hour - the drive up the coast was approximately 24 miles to the Manchester Beach KOA. The coast up in this northern part of California is very rugged - similar to New England, which I've probably said before.
We aren't sure if we are staying 1 or 2 nights, but will determine that in the morning. We were both exhausted after the "stressful" ride thru the Redwoods.