Today we will be moving to the Lodge of Sonoma in Sonoma and if I had any doubt we were leaving San Francisco today our departure was confirmed when we passed the bellman in the hall with our luggage as we returned from breakfast. As I sat looking out the coach window we drove down familiar streets passing by many of the sights Julie had pointed out just days before. The trip out of the city is punctuated with the crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge under a sunny blue sky, a much different view of it than the one I had from below in the fog. The landscape quickly begins to change from a modern urban plan to one of sprawling suburban streets and then finally to the rural agricultural setting of Napa Valley and Sonoma County that we are seeking. Land prices here have skyrocketed over the years to the point that today prime vineyard land is going for about $250,000 an acre leaving little room to grow any crop other than grapes because doing so would be economically infeasible.
Before checking into the hotel we will be visiting the Benziger Family Winery where we will learn how they practice Bio-Dynamics in the production of their wines. Nathaniel, a 30 year employee explains how Bio-Dynamic agriculture takes the idea of co-existing with the land to a higher level. They use beneficial insects, bats and owls to control pests while bottling and racking with the correct phase of the moon just to name a few of their environmentally compatible techniques. Existing in harmony with the land is paramount in this farming discipline and it is best expressed in the belief that wines produced using this method are not necessary better wines but wines that more accurately reflects the true character of the property. This can be tasted in the Benziger wines as the complex flavors imparted by the deep root penetration of the vines into the different soil layers or the different tastes due to the amount of sunlight exposure the vines recieve. With less sunlight the fruit will develop with more of a herbaceous flavor but if the light is increased a palate of red fruit and cherries will be prominent. After a wine tasting we gather in the wine cave for a gourmet lunch which used vegetables grown on property.
Our next stop was for a wine tasting at Sebastiani Winery, the most recognizable winery in Sonoma that pioneered the modern wine industry in the area. After the tasting we are walked through their production facilities allowing us to get a close look at the presses and the fermentation tanks. That evening we met the hotel’s sommelier Chris Sawyer at his wine education class. Chris was very knowledgable and entertaining as he took us through a tasting of four examples of Merlot produced locally. Later we enjoyed dinner at the Caneros Bistro with our new friends Kevin and Lucy:-). The emphasis in California cooking is on fresh whole foods that are organically grown. This was certainly the case for the Carneros Bistro whose gardens were just outside the restaurants windows.
- Sustainable Wine Farming: the Story of the Benziger Winery (wine.answers.com)
- Benziger Family Winery (wineguysradio.com)