Friday, September 9, 2016

Russian River Valley

While I am staying in San Francisco for a few months I decided to explore off the usual path of Napa and Sonoma.
I spent 1 weekend around Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley.
Saturday was around Russian River Valley and it was a short day with only 3 wineries.

As usual I got there before the wineries were even open. And I randomly drove around and drove into a random winery. This has never failed me and it always led to fun places made even fun by the surprise and the adventure.

1. Battaglini

I started with Battaglini. The winery was bought by a couple of Italian origin more than 20 years ago. They were looking for a small 1/2 acre winery. But they found this 30 acres winery with really old vines who's grapes were being sold and they fell in love.
The owner has been making the wine ever since.
They have very interesting wines, made in the traditional style ( read: to be aged before you drink it , and with wild yeast off the grapes).

They have received quite a few prizes for their Zins. The most concentrated ones come off the slopy part of the vineyard where water is scarcer because it accumulates on the flat part. They therefore make 3 qualities of Zin : no slope (cheapest), medium slope  ( medium price) and steepest slope and most expensive. The prices are around $40. The slope combined with the extremely old vineyard ( grown in the old round shape vs the modern straight lines cuts) makes the Zins certainly unique and worth a detour.

What I retained even more in fact was the $18 2003 Chardonnay. Yes, you read well, 2003 Chardonnay that has the color of honey and a surprisingly low price. The price is low because most likely nobody buys aged Chardonnay. And personally I loved it. Everybody has difference taste in wine, and lucky me, I strongly prefer to be in the minority.  I left with a few bottles.

2. Hook and Ladder

We than randomly , of course, drove into Hook and Ladder. Not too far in fact from the quite famous DeLoach , of which I used to be a club member until I couldn't drink their wine fast enough.

What attracted us to drive in ? The red fire truck parked by the road in front of the vineyard.

Walking in I could tell they didn't have a lot of pretention.
And lucky I was.

They had a very impressive selection of grapes, among the most diverse I've seen in the region: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cab Sauv, Pinot Noirs,  Cab Franc etc. And in most of them multiple qualities of course. Quite a menu. And my favorite part ? The prices were in the $15 to $30 range.

I really think that keeping the wine below $30 makes it much more accessible and fun.
So many wines everybody had a different favorite. I left with the Sangiovese mostly, but also had a few other ones.

This business (or wine ?) strategy reminded me DeLoach's reasonable prices and great quality, at least for their entry level wines. ( I personally think the best quality to price for wineries like DeLoach and La Crema are their entry level wines which are typically $15 or so and I think have 80% of their $40 wines).

And guess what ? The owners of Hook and Ladder used to own DeLoach until they sold it to the French family. And they are at it again. I would certainly like to keep Hook and Ladder in sight.

And bonus points :  As great price to quality think alike on wine , they recommended Al's Place restaurant for a Michelin star restaurant at reasonable prices  in San Francisco. We went a few weeks later and Al's Place is probably among the top 3 most innovatives restaurants I've been at an unbeatable $75 per person ( very reasonable I think !). A must visit !

3. Russian River Vineyard

Do not be confused : there is a vineyard called Russian River Vineyard, in the region called Russian River. Somehow the name was not taken and they took it.
The best part : they have a great restaurant on the property. You MUST try the burger.
The wines ? Great , very good. But a little sad that they didn't have much under $65 except a "Beaujaulais style" Pinot Noir. And you know what ? I personally don't care much for the French Beaujolais , but I loved this one. But for $35.... I still feel it was a little steep.

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