Sunday, April 22, 2007

One day in the El Dorado wine country

Yesterday our good friends and neighbors had rented a limo and invited us to come along for a day of wine tasting in Shenandoah Valley (45 min from Sacramento, CA). I am not the one to decline such an invitation and after accepting I was told that I was in charge for the itinerary. This is how our day panned out.

We started of with a visit to Villa Toscano. I had been there before and really enjoy their wine and the beautiful architecture and surrounding garden. Being after noon we were all starving and started with a meal from their Gourmet Bistro. We all shared a mix of freshly baked pizza, salad, panini, anti pasto mix, cheese and crackers. You can enjoy it at a table in their garden or in the big tent they have set up in it. And so it was time for tasting... They poured around 15 wines + four futures right out of the barrels. They produce chardonnay, viognier, sauvignon blanc, sangiovese, barbera, merlot and several bottlings of zinfandel. Although all the wines showed very well the zinfandel is the wineries forte. The 2003 Fox Creek Old Vine being my favorite. The oldest vines in this vineyard is over 110 years old. Producing a very round, concentrated zin with some lighter spice and made in a little more elegant style.

After this we moved on to Terre Rouge and Easton Winery. We had a great tasting here were they did a separate tasting for the eight of us in our group. The gentleman who did the tasting explained the grape and style of wine for every tasting he poured. Very educational and a great opportunity to ask questions and get in depth information. They had a really good sauvigon blanc here. The 2004 Sierra Foothills Sauvignon Blanc is aged in oak as opposed to the more traditional stainless steel tanks. That gives this wine a little bit rounder, more creamy, palate with some vanilla oak, but still shows tropical fruit, great acidity and freshness as it has not gone through malolactic fermentation. A great wine to sip on in your backyard a warm summer day. The other standout was the 2001 Amador County Mourvedre. A traditional grape in Rhone blends, here on its own with great dark fruit and berries and the characteristic spiciness.

Our next stop was supposed to be Vino Noceto. They had their annual spring release party, and it was so packed that we decided to stop at a newer winery, that we had not heard of, next door instead. Stonehouse Vineyards and Winery offers Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. All of them really nice wines, my favorite being the 2003 Shenandoah Valley Zinfandel with ripe blackberry and cherries, a hint of oak and spice, all nicely balanced with medium round tannins. Stonehouse is owned by Mitchell and Maarit Shultz, and reacting to Maarits name as seemingly Scandinavian my husband found out that she was born in Finland but grew up in Sweden. As you can imagine I got very excited and the two of us talked for quite a while. Great and unexpected treat to be conversing in Swedish on our little trip! Mitchell and Maarit are friends of Thomas Kinkade and therefore have the privilege to feature a Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery in the wine tasting room. Visits for wine and art...

Last stop before dinner was the Bella Piazza Winery. This winery have the same owners and wine maker as Villa Toscano and is also located in a very beautiful building surrounded by a great garden with water features. You can tell that not only the wine but the architecture and surroundings are very important to the owners. Just like at Villa Toscano, they had a massive list of about 15 wines being poured and then four futures in barrel tastings. Again all very good and well crafted wines. They grow a few not to common grapes around here, Primitivo and Montepulciano, that was a real treat to taste. Another fun wine was the 2002 Bella Rosso. A blend made from Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, Barbera and Cabernet Franc. A really smooth red, with soft but ripe black fruit and berries, a hint of spiciness, and good balance of acidity and tannins.

After all of this it was time for dinner. I had made reservations at Bidwell Street Bistro in Folsom and upon arriving we started of with three plates of appetizers shared at the table. Grilled Ahi Tuna with Sesame Asparagus, Prince Edward Island Mussels and Tiger Prawns in a Savory Broth, and Grilled Wild Boar Sausage with Corn Meal Griddle Cakes. All three very good, but the standout was the Wild Boar Sausage, packed with flavor. I ordered the Garden Salad which was nothing special, but my husband really enjoyed the French Onion Soup. For entree I choose the Roasted Halibut on a bed of Cauliflower Puree, Creamed Leeks and a Ruby Port-Currant Sauce. This was Delicious! The Halibut was cooked perfectly and the subtle flavor of the fish was not over powered by the mild cauliflower puree and creamed leeks. It all played very well together and despite of the mildness of the ingredients this was a very flavorful dish. I will order this again in a heart beat. For dessert we shared Profiterols with Vanilla Bean Gelato and Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce. Hard to mess up and it was a great ending to our meal. Over all a great dinner!
So our day ended and it was time to go home...

There are a wide array of great wineries in El Dorado County, far to many to visit in a day or two... Find more information at this website where many of the, however far from all, are featured.

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James said...

Hi. Great write up. We were just in Shenandoah Valley last weekend for the Young's release party. If you've not been to one of their release parties, it's a great time.

Terre Rouge does a nice job. Too bad you didn't make it to Vino Noceto. One of the more unique lineups in the area.

Glad to hear Bidwell St. Bistro is still on top of its game. Haven't been there in some time but I've always had great meals and service there. And that wild boar sausage is awesome!


Victoria said...

James, thanks for your comment! I actually haven't been to Young's, even though I have had their zinfandel several times. I need to fit that in when we go up there next time.
I have been to Vino Noceto a couple of years ago, and they do have some different and great wines. I was hoping to take my friends there for them to see and taste, but that will have to wait until next time as well...