Bella Rosa, Wine Country

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May We Suggest

Getting to know the area can be daunting. We can offer a few suggestions for you to consider when trying to decide what exactly you want to do.

Our philosophy when tasting wine is to try to stick with one varietal for the day. When that's not practical, we try to move from one varietal to another as the day progresses. We've found if we try to taste a wide variety of wines at various establishments, our palette becomes faded before we finish at the second place. Our suggestions are based on keeping it simple.

Other things we keep in mind are that we really are not able to taste well after four places or so, and we are also often a little sleepy from the soporific effects of the wine. We like to start at the furthest stop on our list and work our way back. Back depends on whether we're coming home directly or dining out somewhere.

I suppose the last thing to comment about is that our list does contain some places that are only open for tasting by appointment. In these cases, regardless of the size of their reputation, the establishments tend to be very small and often have limited staff and inventory. They do appreciate that you show up on time for your appointment. When a bottle of wine is opened for tasting, it will not keep for the future and whatever isn't used for tasting that day will come out of their inventory. If you don't think you are prepared to make a purchase at these small places, it's best not to visit. If you need alternative suggestions, please let us know.

Here are a few suggestions: Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
In addition to absolutely lovely vistas, Alexander Valley produces some outstanding cabs. I would say next to Staggs Leap (appellation) cabs, Alexander Valley is my choice for this complex drink. To start you tasting at the north end and enjoy an enchanting drive with wine stops along the way back, begin your journey at the charming Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Just across the way, beneath the overpass is Trentadue Winery, a charming family estate winery with a long Alexander Valley history.

From Trentadue, head slightly north to Clos du Bois with a marvelous Bordeaux style wine. It is not-to-be-missed.

From there you may want to move into downtown Geyserville and step into the Meeker tasting room. Meeker has interesting Cabernet's created from grapes grown primarily in Mendocino County. It is a charming wine tasting room in an old bank building. They've retained the character and have a very long list of wines in their portfolio.

While you're in downtown Geyserville, you may want to stop and have a delightful lunch at Diaviola Pizza, for a nice meal using locally available ingredients and house-made salumi and sausages.

From downtown Geyserville, take Hwy 128 and a leisurely drive through Alexander Valley. You'll wind your way through several miles of lovely vineyard land where you'll come across numerous places well worth a visit. We always enjoy Stryker Sonoma, Stonestreet and we never pass up Sausal when we're in the neighborhood.

Breakfast and a Short Wine Excursion
A multi-varietal day, with breakfast is not a bad idea if you're not sure what wines or regions you might enjoy. It's always nice to fortify yourself before you start tasting, especially if you want to try a number of different varietals. Start out at Singletree Cafe in Healdsburg for a traditional american style breakfast. This will help prepare you for the effect of sampling a variety of wines. Singletree is highly recommended by local residents often with a special smile when they mention the chili.

Leave Singletree and head north on Healdsburg Ave and take a left at Dry Creek Road. Head out into the Dry Creek Valley (beneath the freeway overpass) and continue on nearly to the lake. Once you've passed Dutcher Crossing Winery on the left, you'll see Ferrari Carano, also on the left. We especially enjoy the Sienna. Do not leave before taking a stroll through the beautiful gardens (weather permitting).

Next, head back toward Healdsburg (a right turn onto Dry Creek Road) just a short way and turn in at David Coffaro. This is a unique experience filled with innovative ideas and wines designed to be affordably drinkable.

When you leave Coffaro, again head back toward Healdsburg. When you reach the freeway entrance, take the South 101 onramp. Head back toward Santa Rosa until you see the Fulton Road exit. Take the exit to the right, and as soon as you merge onto Fulton Road, there is a right turn into Kendall Jackson. They offer a coupon on the website for a free Classic Tasting for two.

When you leave KJ, you'll be heading back into town. Turn right out of the driveway and cross over River Road. When you reach Guerneville Road turn left and follow it into town until it changes to Steele Lane. You'll be back in no time!

West Dry Creek Road Trip
Well, Dry Creek Valley is known for it's Zins, however there are some excellent wine tasting experiences along this beautiful road where you can find some other delightful wines. If you are ready to make purchases if you find something you like, this little trip will most likely produce some startling results.

Start at the far end of the valley with the organic wines at Preston of Dry Creek. Note the L. Preston is a Rhône-style blend: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignane & Cinsault.

Moving back toward Santa Rosa, you'll find yourself at Quivira where you can sample their Petite Sirah, Syrah or Mourvedre.

Make an appointment to stop in next at Michel Schlumberger and taste some delightful Cabernet Sauvignon. They're on Wine Creek Road, just off West Dry Creek Road.

Back out on West Dry Creek, you'll soon come across the sign for A. Rafanelli where again by appointment you can sample their excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Just past Rafanelli, you'll see Lambert Bridge Road. Make the left turn and after a couple of turns in the road, you'll find yourself right in between Passalaqua and Dry Creek Vineyard Wineries. Dry Creek offers a printable online coupon for a two for one tasting. You won't want to miss the Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Style Cab Blend and Mariner Cab Blend.

From Dry Creek Vineyard, you can see Dry Creek Road which is a much wider road (kind of nice after you've been tasting wine for a while). Turn right to get on Dry Creek and follow it back into Healdsburg. When you reach Healdsburg Avenue turn right and follow it into downtown Healdsburg, where you'll reach North Street. Make a right and locate a good parking space (there is a parking lot in back of the buildings). On the plaza (south side) is a wonderful tasting room for Thumbprint Cellars where if you're lucky you'll be able to sample their blends; Threesome, Fourplay and Climax. Of course anything they make is outstanding, so whatever you find here, you will enjoy!

From here, you'll be ready for dinner. While you're making your appointments with Schlumberger and Rafanelli, be sure to also make a reservation for dinner at one of the outstanding restaurants within walking distance of Thumbprint. We can recommend Willi's, Healdsburg Charcuterie, Spoonbar and Zin for a casual, yet delicious meal. For something elegant, try Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen or for a food lovers dream experience try the oft-compared-to-French-Laundry, Cyrus.

Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley Extravaganza
Frankly this should be a two day extravaganza, so we're including enough superb stops to allow for that. If you only want to do one day, trim the list as you please. Everyone on this list makes a Zin worthy of note.

On Dutcher Creek Road, up near Lake Sonoma is Fritz Underground Winery - a lovely and fun experience. It shouldn't be missed, but you will need an appointment.

From Dutcher Creek Road, you can access Dry Creek Road and head toward Healdsburg to David Coffaro whose zin has that almost honeysuckle flavor.

On the same side of the road, moving again toward Healdsburg is Talty Vineyards where you can taste zins by appointment.

Moving along Dry Creek Road again toward Healdsburg, on the other side of the street is Truett Hurst Winery, a biodynamic vineyard.

From there you can move on to Amphora Winery which is in the Family Wineries complex. Also with great zins in the same complex is Kokomo Wines.

Just down the road is Mauritson with many Zins including a number from the famous Rockpile region.

After Mauritson, you'll find yourself at Nalle Winery which is open on Saturdays 12-5, but all other days requires an appointment.

After Nalle, across the road again, you'll see Wilson Winery which you just can't miss if you're doing Dry Creek zins.

After the vineyard experience, we thought it would be fun to throw in one of our favorite zin winemakers....especially since her winery and tasting room are in Santa Rosa in a less picturesque location. She is Carol Shelton and offers a number of excellent Dry Creek zins which are well worth the time to taste.

So, after full days of wine tasting we always like to come back to Santa Rosa for our dinner experience. There are quite a few places here in town that make a wonderful end to a wine-tasting extravaganza. Our favorite places are Rosso Pizzeria, Flavor Bistro, Bistro 29, El Coqui or La Gare.

Sonoma Valley Historic Excursion
Well, Sonoma has some of the most historically interesting wineries around. Make a day of it and picnic at Jack London's Place now a State Historic Park.

Start your trip in Kenwood at Kaz Winery where you'll find some amazing and unusual wines. Very small production and the family is almost always there to meet you and share their wine.

Next move into Glen Ellen and make a stop at Benziger Family Winery and take the Tram Tour or the Partners Vineyard Tour to learn about their biodynamic vineyards and taste their current wines.

Next, trip a little further up the road to Jack London park and have a picnic lunch. Visit the House of Happy Walls museum and visitor center to learn more about this fascinating writer.

After lunch, head back out to Highway 12 and up to Imagery Estate Winery, Benziger's partner winery. Taste some fascinating wines and learn about varieties you've never heard about or tasted before.

Finally head into Sonoma to visit one of the original Sonoma Valley wineries, Buena Vista. They offer an online tasting coupon.

Before heading back into Santa Rosa, finish up your day at one of the wonderful restaurants in Sonoma, Girl and the Fig (one of our favorites), Della Santina's or Shiso.

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