Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Day Three at the Wineries

For the last day of our Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, we headed into northern Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, known for Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dry Creek Valley, known for Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc produced from its warm days and morning fog off the Pacific Ocean. These two wine areas definitely feel different than the Russian River Valley…more hills, warmer, lots of colorful leaves still on the vines.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Jordan is a gorgeous 1,300-acre estate in the Alexander Valley with a stunning 18th century chateau replica sitting at the end of its winding driveway. Of all the wineries we visited on the trip, this is the biggest (70,000-90,000 cases per year) and most easy to find wine in your market (now available in all fifty states and thirty countries). I began a conversation with Jordan last September during the #CabernetDay virtual wine tasting event. Very impressed with the Cabernet Sauvignon education they gave me that day, I thought it a good place to visit so we booked a tour.

Jordan started in 1972 when Tom Jordan, a trained geologist in the oil and gas business from Denver, bought this property. Tom and his wife, great lovers of European wine and food, actually tried to buy Château Margaux in the late 1960s until the French realized they were American. Then one night after enjoying an incredible California wine from Georges de Latour’s Beaulieu Vineyard made by André Tchelistcheff they decided to build a winery in California. Now run by Tom’s son John, Rob Davis, their winemaker for thirty-five years (mentored by Tschelistcheff), leads production of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

The winery tour was a treat… worth booking in advance and the $30 per person fee. Maribel greeted our small group of six and lead us on an educational grounds and chateau tour, stopping along the way for lovely wine tastings paired with delicious nibbles from Jordan’s chef Todd Knoll. The property is beautiful and the wine facilities state of the art including their own irrigation system. The Barrel Room is impressive with 4,000 barrels stacked high and the Library full of old wines and artifacts. Our last stop was the Cellar Room, revealed behind a secret door in the Library, where we enjoyed a sit down wine tasting paired with yummy artisan cheeses and the Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

We tasted their ’09 Chardonnay Russian River Valley, ’00 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County, ’03 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley and ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley. My favorite…

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

  • Grape Variety: 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Blueberry
  • Taste: Rich blueberry and cedar
  • Price: $59
  • My thoughts: Delicious blueberry forward wine with a slight hint of cedar…my kind of Cabernet Sauvignon…bold but not too overwhelming!

Jordan wines are definitely worth picking up to try at home and if you’re in Sonoma, they are worth booking a visit. The team was extremely welcoming! When you book a tour you’re automatically enrolled in their Jordan Estates Rewards Program where you accumulate points for exclusive experiences with Jordan. Also check out their website and follow them on Twitter (@jordanwinery).

UNTI Vineyards

In planning our trip, Unti was on my list to visit. But as they are by appointment tastings and I hadn’t made an appointment in advance, I didn’t think we’d get to them. In route to Dry Creek Valley and our third stop, I saw Unti’s sign on the side of the road so we decided to pop in. So glad we did!

Down the dirt road through their vineyards, we parked and went into their rustic tasting room. Gina was there to greet us and invited us in for a tasting. It was Monday and they had plenty of time.

Unti Vineyards is a family affair started by George Unti and his wife Linda in 1997. Their son Mick manages operations and winemaking. Gina is their daughter. George’s family roots go back to Tuscany where his father was from. After years in the grocery business, George got into wine and now they have sixty acres of grapes growing eleven different varietals. Here’s a great map of their vineyards.

Dry Creek Valley’s climate is ideal for growing classic Mediterranean grape varieties. Unti’s goal is to make the best and most interesting wines from their property in partnership with Mother Nature. French Sebastian Pochan has been their winemaker for eight years.

Gina tasted us through their ’10 Cuvee Blanc, ’08 Grenache, ’09 Segromigno, ’08 Zinfandel, ’08 Syrah, ’07 Syrah Benchland and ’09 Petit Frere. My favorite and what we brought home…

2008 Segromigno

  • “This wine is not a traditional Tuscan blend, rather more like a Rosso Piceno from Le Marche where it can be any blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
  • Grape Variety: 92% Sangiovese, 8% Montepulciano
  • Aroma & Taste: Bright cherry, chocolate and dried herbs 
  • Price: $26
  • My thoughts: I love Sangiovese and Montepulciano, classic Italian varietals. Unti has does a great job growing and blending them in California. Unti is the only vineyard in CA growing Montepulciano.

A fun laid back experience awaits you at Unti and some fantastic wines!! Definitely make an appointment to stop by or as they are small production, around 7,000 cases, you can also buy them online.

Michel-Schlumberger Wines

We found our way up into the Dry Creek Valley for our last winery visit…the gorgeous Spanish mission-style estate of Michel-Schlumberger. Another Twitter connection (@M_Schlumberger and @sonomawineguy), I thought it would be fun to stop by to say hi. I tried and loved their Pinot Blanc over dinner at Zazu a few nights before so wanted to taste more of their wines.

The estate was founded in 1979 by Jean-Jacques Michel from Switzerland and originally named Domaine Michel. In the early 1990’s Jacques Schlumberger, who’s family had been making wine in the French Alsace for four hundred years, joined Jean-Jacques and his business partner Ridgely Bullock creating the current name. Known for their excellent Bordeaux varietals they concentrate on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Winemaker Bryan Davidson develops wines that are imprinted with the terrior and nuances of each vintage.

We sat outside on the gorgeous patio looking out onto the vineyards for a fun tasting with Laurie, their wine educator…’10 La Nue Unoaked Chardonnay, ’09 Le Fou Pinot Noir (they are the only Pinot Noir in the Dry Creek Valley, made in true Burgundian style), ’07 Le Sage Merlot, ’08 La Cime Cabernet Sauvignon and ’09 La Source Syrah. My favorite…

2007 Le Sage Merlot

  • “Le Sage,” French for “The Wise,” describes this wine that expresses the terroir of their estate.
  • Grape Variety: 95% Merlot, 5% Malbec
  • Aroma: Aromatic dried flowers and fruit 
  • Taste: Fruity, floral with a spiciness
  • Price: $35
  • My thoughts: While I’m usually not a Merlot fan, I really liked this wine for its many layers…fruit, floral and spice.

We bought a bottle of the Merlot to bring home. And as a birthday gift Jim and Laurie were sweet enough to give me a bottle of their Pinot Blanc! 🙂 The winery offers a variety of tasting options and tours all by appointment.

That wraps up the three days of winery tours. Lastly I’ll share details on our exhilirating hot air balloon ride and delicious dining!

Visit the gallery for more great photos from the trip.