Monday, July 6, 2009

California Wine Hike with the California Wine Hiker

I haven't been much of a wine blogger lately. Just been short a couple buckets of inspiration. Happily, there are always more inspiring wines out there which gives a wine blog a pretty good shot at longevity, dry spells notwithstanding. We've discovered a lot of new and wonderful wines since starting this blog twenty plus months ago. However, the biggest unforeseen benefit of wine blogging has been getting to know other wine bloggers. It all started with twitter, and then the Wine Bloggers' Conference in Sonoma in October 2008. It's been a fun and rewarding couple of years to say the least.

Russ Beebe, the "winehiker" has been one of my all time favorite wine blogging and twitter personalities since the beginning. We met only briefly at the WBC so, of course I was very excited when he suggested we join him on a wine hike while visiting the Bay Area. Russ has been hiking local trails for years and years and is really knowledgeable about local plant and wildlife species. He's been doing the wine hikes for about four years now and says his concept of wine hiking is not to bring a bottle on the trail but to hike a trail that ends at a winery. Picchetti Ranch and Winery fits the bill perfectly.

There aren't many properties like Picchetti Ranch which offer real open space hiking trails within close proximatey to a tasting room. Russ is hoping to see that change. He says there is an untapped market for wineries willing to cut some real trails and offer outdoor enthusiasts more than just the typical vineyard walk. Picchetti Ranch has grounds with wonderful rustic charm and a perfect post-hike picnic area adjacent to the tasting room. Russ likes to take groups there because the two mile trail that starts on the property offers plenty of year-round interest in terms of flora and fauna. He pointed out several wild flower and tree species including the wonderfully aromatic mugwort and bay tree leaves.

The wines of Picchetti overall are on the rustic side (in keeping with the surroundings), and fruit features prominently. Some had a little too much fruit concentration on the nose for my taste, and leaned toward prune and other port-like aromas. We quite enjoyed the 2006 Merlot which will hopefully benefit from aging to unify the components. We bought a bottle to lay down. Right now its displaying a lot of cherry and a very rich finish which reminded me of white truffle oil soaking into the tongue.

After a pleasant tasting with Smiler at Picchetti, Russ led us down the road to the Cinnabar Tasting Room in downtown Saratoga. These wines were more refined in contrast to Picchetti but still exhibited some of the same flavors of black fruit and licorice which seem to characterize Santa Cruz Mountain wines. Cinnabar just released an interesting Petite Sirah from a new vineyard that shows some promise for future vintages. My favorite was the Cabernet Franc which was just good. I can't really say more than that since I tend to lose track of pulling out individual flavors when a wine is well integrated and not overpowering in any aspect as was this Cab Franc. I think it would definitely show favorably against some of the Long Island Cab Francs we recently sampled.

If it had been any day but a Monday, our adventure wouldn't have stopped there. But, alas, Saratoga businesses seem to have agreed to take Monday off so we didn't get to finish off at the wine bar as hoped. We bid Russ the wine hiker adieu until our dinner later in the week, and thanked him for a most excellent tour.

Just a little plug here: Russ the California Wine Hiker also organizes and leads corporate group hikes--That would be my kind of team building event! Support your local wine blogger and seek him out!

p.s. Sorry the picture is fuzzy--A nice lady who'd just finished her tasting took it! That's Russ on the left.


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I used to like wines but was never really into them although my husband was. There are so many new estate wines on the market a person is spoilt for choice nowdays.

D J R-S said...

You still seem to be doing more wine-related writing than yrs truly...if I make to the Boston area, maybe we could have a 'blogger on hiatus' meetup--? ;)

Taster B said...

Hehehe--yes! Power to the bloggers on hiatus! :)