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Russian River Valley

2018-07-05 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 4 – Sebastopol and Paso Robles

Thursday morning we had to pack up, hitch up, and be ready to roll quite early… about 9:00 am.  We pulled the Airstreams south about 15 miles to the little city of Sebastopol.  We had an appointment at Kosta Browne Winery:

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As mentioned earlier, we all found parking spaces for our Airstreams.  We gathered in front of closed gates – Kosta Browne is not open to the public.  We pushed the “call” button, and announced ourselves; the gates opened and we entered into the courtyard between the winery’s three buildings:

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We entered the first warehouse-looking building and found ourselves in what appeared to be a beautiful contemporary house – Entry with steel stair, Living Room with fireplace. Dining Room across the entry, with matching fireplace, and kitchen/tasting room.

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We began by tasting a fabulous Chardonnay, as we heard the story of Kosta-Browne.  It all began with two friends, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne.  The year was 1997 and the buddies both were working at John Ash & Co., a popular restaurant in Santa Rosa, California.  Dan was the general manager; Michael was the sommelier.  But their real passion was something bigger, bolder, and more brazen than anything either ever had done: They wanted to create Pinot Noir.  The catch: Neither gentleman had experience making wine.  What ensued was a tale of perseverance, dedication, and hard work.

Dan and Michael managed to scrape together $1,400; they bought a half-ton of pinot noir grapes from Everett Ridge, in the Russian River appellation.  They estimate they spent about $400 of their cash on equipment and about $1,000 on grapes. Once the wine was in the barrel, they made enough labels for 24 cases.

Dan and Michael poured most of that first barrel for VIP customers at the restaurant.  The following year—2000 — Dan and Michael set out to make more pinot noir.  After weeks of networking, Michael convinced John Ferrington, the former assistant winemaker at Williams Selyem, to connect him with the owners at Cohn Vineyard, a source for one of Williams Selyem’s single-vineyard designate wines.  Always the charmer, Michael convinced the Cohns to sell him grapes.  They also convinced some customers and friends to invest in their new company.

In 2005, Wine Spectator Magazine gave their 2003 wines 95 point scores. They were unprecedented scores for a winery as small and as new as Kosta Browne. The scores changed everything.  From there, the name of the game at Kosta Browne was growth. With growing numbers of collectors and connoisseurs becoming interested in Kosta Browne, demand skyrocketed, and the brand set off on the path toward becoming the fan-favorite it is today. Vintages sold out.  The list to be on the list grew.  Michael and Dan found themselves in the difficult-but-not-shabby position of telling friends and customers that they’d have to wait for the opportunity to purchase wine.  It all added to the mystique. They were able to move into their own dedicated winery facility.  Almost overnight, Kosta Browne became a cult sensation.  It was an overnight success that took eight years to happen. The rest, as they say, is history.

I was part of that early fan base. Although it took me 4 years to be allowed to buy wine, it was well worth the wait.  Today was my first visit to the winery!

After a little tasting we toured more of the facility:

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After the tour we returned to the tasting room for more samples.  Since they have no wine to see, we bid a fond farewell to Kosta Browne.

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We pointed the Airstreams south.  Destination:  Paso Robles… We arrived in north-east Paso Robles at about 5:00 pm.  It was hot.  Very hot.  But a cloud cover was starting to form.  We pulled into the vineyards of Record Family Wines.  We parked the Airstreams next to some oak trees and tried to find some shade.

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At about 6:00, Randy and Anne Record, the vineyard owners, met us under the oak trees; they were shortly joined by their daughter, Mindy.  Mindy is the vineyard manager.  Record Family Wines sells about 90% of their grapes, leaving about 10% to make wine.  Randy lined up the bottles on the bed of a flat bed truck, and we began to taste as the sun dropped low into the western sky.

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About 10:00 we finally turned in.  The temperatures had dropped and we had a lovely night’s sleep.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-07-04 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 3 – Russian River Valley

Today is Independence Day!  We celebrated being free of leading the Wine Tasting Caravan!

We had a leisurely morning, then we set out for the coast.  It is about 17 miles along a winding road to the town of Jenner.  There isn’t much to Jenner, but we could see across the river to Sonoma Coast State Park, along the ocean front.

 

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We drove around to the park, found the closest parking lot to the coast, and walked.  And walked…

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We walked along the beach, back to the mouth of the river.  There were kayakers and canoers  in the river, and a few hearty souls on the beach.

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Then we spotted what looked like rocks arranged along the shore. Upon closer investigation we found that they were Harbor Seals and their pups!

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We walked many more delightful areas of this beach, then headed further south…

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We headed south to Bodega Bay.  We found a nice restaurant for lunch – Bluepoint Cafe – that had a lovely view over the bay and the harbor.

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We returned to River Bend RV Park in time for dinner – BBQ hot dogs, potatoes salad, potato chips… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

2018-07-03 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 2 – Russian River Valley

Today is our first day of tasting, and what a day it is!  If you know anything about wine, you know that the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast are synonymous with great Pinot Noir!  Today we visited three great wineries and then had dinner in the “capitol” of Russian River Valley, Healdsburg.

Our first stop was at Williams Selyem Winery.  Burt Williams and Ed Selyem started their winery in very simple circumstances in the 1980s and quickly amassed a cult following by producing outstanding wines that were in a style that goes great with, and enhances, food.  When I first read about them, I tried to buy their wines, only to be told that they are sold exclusively to members of the wine allocation list; I was welcome to sign up on the waiting list to get on the allocation list!.  Five years later, around 1995, I was “allocated” (allowed to buy) two bottles.  Over the years my allocation has been increased, and now I cannot afford to buy all the wine they will let me.  Burt and Ed retired many years ago, but their wines still retain their quality.

We began our tasting at their Tasting Salon:

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They had a table set for us and a full line-up of wines to taste:

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After a few wines were tasted, there was a brief tour of the facilities:

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Then we moved outside to learn about the vineyards:

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We returned inside the building, bought  a few bottles, and moved on…

Next stop is MacRostie;  someone told us this was a nice place and we agree;  there was a beautiful building, a greeter with sparking wine to share, and a table set for us:

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Wine was really good, service was great and leisurely, and the views are hard to top!

Finally we moved on to our final tasting for the day:  Rochioli… the Rochioli family has been farming this land, growing grapes, and making great wine for over 80 years…

Again we were greeted, shown to a table under a bright orange umbrella, overlooking the vineyards below.  Wines were presented, comments exchanged, and questions asked…

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It was a grueling day.  Now, all we needed was some dinner; we drove to the town of Healdsburg – dripping with wine country charm. We had some time to kill before dinner; some of our group looked for a place to have a beer, others shopped.  I took a nap on a park bench…

Our dinner was at Bravas, a Spanish tapas/small plates place.  We had a lovely table on the patio in the “back yard”.  We shared many courses: toast with olive oil, garlic, and sea salt; Duck meatballs; Long cooked pork cheeks; Croquetas with creamy chicken, ham, and Gruyere cheese; Chicken thighs with candied garlic; Octopus with smoked paprika and olives… All this was accompanied by bottles of William Selyem and Rochioli wines…

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And that concludes the first day of wine tasting.  An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-07-02 – WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan – Day 1 – Russian River Valley

After a good night’s sleep in The Villa, in a pasture of a winery, we were ready to go!  We stopped at Starbucks for morning coffee, and we headed west on Hwy 12. We went through the Sacramento Delta, through the towns of Rio Vista, Fairfield, and Suisun City.  Then through the city of Napa, the Carneros region, and then into Sonoma County.

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Yes, it is gorgeous!

As we approached the River Bend RV park we called to see if our campsite was open – we were very early again.  We were told that it was not, so we did a little reconnoitering… On Thursday, we will be pulling our Airstreams from the RV park about 15 miles south to Sebastopol, for a tasting at Kosta Browne; then we are heading south to Paso Robles.  Since we needed space to park four Airstream rigs, I wanted to see for myself.  It was an easy drive, and we arrived in downtown Sebastopol in about 15 minutes.  We found the winery (it is not open to the public, and it is located in an industrial zone).  Happily, we found several streets that appeared to have plenty of space to park our rigs!

We headed back to the RV park, checked in, and met our first caravan participants: Don and Marian Hetzler, from Troy, Ohio.  We found that their Airstream is a twin to ours!

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Airstream only made 20-25 of this model between 2000 and 2005: 34′ Classic, with slide-out lounge.  And here we were with two of them!

After settling in we walked abround the park.  We had been here just two weeks ago, so there was not too much new.  The Russian River was still there:

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Soon our other caravanners arrived: Nora Stapleton from Costa Mesa, CA, and Diane and Tim Sommerville, from Laguna Niguel, CA.

As is our tradition, we held a GAM, or Get Acquainted Meeting.  This consisted of happy hours, with food and wine, and lots of conversations, getting to know each other.  We also discussed our itinerary while in this location, logistics of driving to the various wineries, and other technical issues.

And an enjoyable time was had by all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-07-01 – Leaving for the WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan

We left bright and early on Sunday morning.  I love driving in the early morning hours!  We headed west on the 210, which joins the northbound 5 in Sylmar, just as the climb over the Grapevine/Tejon pass (5,000′ elevation) begins…

It was an easy drive. I set the cruise control to 62 mph and never touched the pedals for two and one half hours.  We stopped for breakfast at the bottom of the hill; there was a large parking lot:

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Tomorrow we begin leading the WBCCI 2018 Wine Tasting Caravan.  We will be spending time at some of our favorite wineries in the Russian River Valley (western Sonoma County), Paso Robles, and the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez Valley.  We will be joined by three other Airstreams.  Our “rendezvous” is tomorrow; more on the caravan later.

After breakfast, we headed up the mighty 5, through the central valley, to Lodi.  We pulled into the vineyards of Jessie’s Grove Winery:

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We parked in their “pasture”; it made a great camping spot for the evening:

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We are staying here due to our membership in “Harvest Hosts”; they find wineries, farms, museums, historical sites, markets, etc., who allow you to camp for free; the gentleman’s agreement is that you spend a little money.  We never shy away from wine tasting, so after getting parked, we wanted over to their grove of oak trees and spent some time (and money) in their tasting room.

After sitting in the car all day, we needed to do a little walking; luckily, there were three more wineries about one mile down the road. We picked one that looked good, and we set out.  It was warm, about 95 degrees, but there was a slight breeze, and it was already cooling off.  We found Lucas Winery, tasted wine, bought a few bottles of a very nice Zinfandel Rose’, and headed back to The Villa…

We enjoyed one bottle of the Zinfandel Rose’ and a few simple snacks and a pizza…  Since we had been on the road since 4:00 am, we turned in early.

And an enjoyable first day was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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