My recent visit to the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa was absolutely magical. It was a much-needed tonic for having slogged through waaay too many months of COVID and fire-inspired stress. The weight of the world started to slide off of my shoulders shortly after I arrived and it just got better as my visit went on. This place feels good. And so will you when you visit.
Domaine Carneros is visually stunning. You’re driving the gently curving backroads ofNapa/Sonoma/Carneros and voila! There it is, prettily perched on a knoll, like it was teleported there from France.
Disclaimer – I’m a professional wine judge and admittedly a bit of a wine snob, so I’m not as forgiving as your regular wine drinker, but it’s been my longtime practice never to denigrate a wine. I tasted the whole Fre lineup, along with the two offerings from Ariel. Personally, I’d rather drink something else, but here we go:
The Fre Brut was actually drinkable, if you like sweet sparkling wine. It has tons of apple, pear and stonefruit aromas and flavors, wrapped in a mouthful of vibrant bubbles. Personally, I’d cut it with sparkling water, but it’s OK.
The still wines all had an odd, oily mouthfeel and I would mix all of them with sparkling water, but that’s just me. You may just love all of these.
I completely fell for Flora Springs and you will too. Here’s why:
The wines are wonderful, the Komes family and their team is gracious, knowledgeable and absolutely lovely and the tasting room, winery and surrounding grounds are breathtakingly beautiful.
It seems that tasting room staffers, especially the young ones, are trained to TELL you what you will be smelling, tasting and overall experiencing in the wines, instead of ASKING you what you are experiencing in the wines. I’m often sent to tasting rooms on writing assignments and I see this all the time. Even when I tell my tasting room server that I’m there on a writing assignment, it still happens. This is a pet peeve of mine.
Into The Great Wide Open…
A couple of months ago I took a huge leap of faith and left a job that was not a good fit, without having another job lined up. I tend to live my life by intuition, and things usually work out just fine. I have had some wild adventures because of my choices, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I did recently land a fantastic job that is a great fit for my skill set, but more on that later. Grin.
In Sonoma County, where I live and work, if you are a millennial woman, going wine tasting has turned into a somewhat sleazy fashion show. We are talking rompers (or “Rumpers” as my guy friend Rick describes them, because of the garment’s tendency to ride up the butt after a few glasses of wine – quite a show, if you are a butt guy!), open kimonos over what looks like lingerie, mile-high stiletto heels (just great for walking around the uneven terrain around wineries), high-low skirts and dresses, Daisy Duke shorts and cleavage galore. These fashionistas range in size and shape and there are just some things one cannot un-see. I am traumatized.
I am an admitted California wine and food geek and the best thing I ever ate was fois gras on brioche toast, with a perfectly poached egg on top, all swimming in a rich, creamy sauce, paired with a white Rhône wine. It was at a restaurant called “Le Jardin” in Montpellier, France and it changed my perception of what food could be. Every bite was heaven.
Who are these people?
Square Peg Winery is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Brad Alper and Alanna Roth, with the help of Brad’s son Alex. They are beautiful people, inside and out, and together, they make beautiful wine and art. Brad, an ex-commercial airline pilot, grows the grapes, William Knuttel (Rockstar winemaker, who previously made award-winning, critically acclaimed wines for Saintsbury, Chalk Hill and Dry Creek, to name a few) makes the wine, and Alanna makes the incredible art that dots the property and decorates the tasting room. Alex is still in college, but he helps with marketing, social media, and just about everything around the winery.