Category Archives: Oenophile

I am a big fan of tasting wine at the winery.

Calera Wine Co.

The same day that we went tasting at Pietra Santa Winery, we also stopped at Calera Wine Co.  This winery is located a little further down Cienega Road and has a very utilitarian look to it; the tasting room is in a warehouse.  We arrived there at about 4pm and the couple that arrived before us were just leaving, so in contrast to the crowd at Pietra Santa, we had the tasting to ourselves.  The tasting room attendant was very knowledgeable about the wine, the history of the vineyard, and very friendly.  They make mostly Pinot Noir at this winery, but they have a few Viognier, Chardonnay and one dessert Viognier.  There are 2 wines that I remember as being exceptional; both are Pinot Noir, which this winery has become famous for.

mills vineyard2004 Selleck Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2004 Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir were both very similar in taste to an untrained Pinot palate like mine.  These Pinots are not your typical California variety, these are more similar to the ones that you would get from Burgundy.  I thought that the Mills Vineyard one was a little fuller in body that the Selleck Vineyard, but both had a lighter flavor and a clean and slightly dry finish.  They did not taste watery, as some Pinots do.  We picked up a bottle of the Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir, and I will be going back to this winery to get some  more of their wonderful wine in my “cellar”.

Pietra Santa Winery

Pietra Santa View 

After re-visiting Leal Vineyards to introduce Robert to their wonderful selection of red wines, we drove down Cienega Road to Pietra Santa Winery.  You turn off of Cienega and travel down a wide road with vines on either side until you reach a building that could be and old church or mission.  This winery, like Leal, has huge wooden doors.  You enter in the winery and see racks of barrels; then walk up a small staircase to the actual tasting room.  The tasting room is in one of the lower floors of the belltower, and has 2 balconies that you can enjoy the view and wine from.  The tasting room was verybusy when we went, so busy that we had to elbow our way to the counter.  I would like to visit again when there were fewer people; I did not get to ask any questions about the wine because they were so busy.  That made my experience of the wine limited and not as enjoyable as it could have been.  We did taste about 8 different wines, 2 kinds of chocolate truffles, and 3 different olive oils.

2001 Pietra Santa Dolcetto – This was my second favorite wine that I tasted.  It was a lighter red wine, with medium body and a clean finish.  It did not give a dry lingering taste on the tongue, which I really appreciated.  I could see drinking this wine with many different foods, or just enjoying it by itself.  So we got a bottle!

Pietra Santa Vache Red Blend (Signature Collection) – This was my favorite wine that I had at Pietra Santa.  Normally, they do not have it available for tasting, but they were offering three of their Signature Collection wines for tasting that day.  This was a heavier red blend than I normally like, but it was very smooth for how heavy it was.  Unfortunately, it was above our budget for that day, so we will have to buy it some other time.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – They had some very nice olive oil for tasting also.  The extra virgin was my husband’s favorite; I liked all of them.  The olive oil tasting was so popular, that we only got to taste it with breadcrumbs!

Because of the crowd at the tasting room, I felt that I did not experience the wines as fully as I would have liked.  Another thing I noticed about the Pietra Santa tasting room crowd is that we were the youngest people there by far, and received a few looks from other patrons for it.  Even though the environment was less that I would have liked, the wine was good.  I want to go back and give them another try, probably on a weekday though.

Leal Vineyards

On Sunday, my husband and I went tasting at Leal Vineyards in Hollister, CA.  Approaching the winery, you drive down a 2 lane road Leal Logowith houses on either side.  Suddenly, at the bottom of a small hill, there is a large wooden gate; to the right is a very nice amphitheatre-like area and to the left is the tasting room.  The tasting room is open to the outside, with many tables and umbrellas, filled with people enjoying their glasses.  I was surprised how busy this small winery was at first, but once I enjoyed their elegant selection, I was no longer surprised that this was a hotbed of Hollister activity.

First we were given Reidel O glasses for our tasting.  This impressed me, the high quality of the glassware and the opportunity to try these unique glasses.  We were poured 6 wines to taste, but I will only mention my three personal favorites: the Chardonnay, the Threesome, and the Godsend. 

The Chardonnay (2005) was full flavor without having an over-oaked taste.  I was told that this was accomplished by aging the wine for 12 months in oak barrels and for 2 months in stainless steel.  I am a big fan of stainless steel chardonnays, they have a much lighter and more citrus flavor than the traditional oak aged ones.

The Threesome (2005) was my favorite wine that we tasted.  It is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre that is a great lighter red blend; Syrah comprising the majority of the mixture.  With the first sip, I could picture myself sitting in the backyard, reading a novel, with the setting sun on my face.  I bought a bottle, of course!

The final wine we tasted was the 2005 Godsend.  This was described as being a “three year labor of love” to make this outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon.  To being, the wine was displayed in a Leal decanter, sitting on the tasting room counter, building the anticipation while you enjoy the opening acts.  This is a rich and full red with a very dry finish; for being unfiltered, it had very little of the chalky taste you sometimes get.  It is aged for 17 months in a blend of French and American oak barrels, and then further aged for 6 months in new American oak barrels.  This is the wine that convinced me to become a member of their wine club.

All in all, this was one of the best tasting experiences that I have had, ever!  Good wine, pleasant atmosphere, and very knowledgeable staff make this winery one of my new favorites.  All images are from the Leal Vineyards website.