Monday, July 4, 2011

Kid-Free Sunday in Dry Creek Valley

This was our second day of the long and arduous walk from our private cottage across the well appointed grounds of the Honor Mansion ( to our delicious breakfast awaiting us on the back deck of the main house. The mimosa of the day today was wild berry. In general I am a bit of a traditionalist believing that this breakfast beverage be mixed with fresh orange juice. However, I may be converting over to the dark side on this one.
Upon loading our picnic lunch into our 2012 motorized vehicle, comfortably equipped with air conditioning, I happened to note to my partner that while it was 11:00 a.m., it was already nearing 90 degrees and the mercury was rapidly heading north. I found this a perfect opportunity to point out that under our current plans at this very time tomorrow we will have already been in our bicycle saddles for more than an hour. Additionally, since we were driving north in our climate controlled automobile on the very same Dry Creek Road on which tomorrow’s bike/tasting tour would be traveling, I noted that perhaps we should do a bit of reconnaissance on route to better understand any possible elevation changes required via pedal power during tomorrows ill conceived trek in the unforgiving heat. I am holding out all possible hope on this one.
Our first stop was at Mauritson Winery ( just north up Dry Creek Road from Healdsburg. We were met by a very friendly and informative tasting room person by the name of Jan. She took us through a wide variety of their wines, highlighted by the ones made by grapes coming from a relatively new California AVA known as Rockpile. Mauritson is the only winery to have vineyards at Rockpile, which is unique for it’s dry farmed, rough terrain growing conditions at higher elevations. This means that the grapes need to be heartier to survive, and consequently will carry more flavor. Indeed that is the case. We loved a wide variety of their wines, ended up buying more than a case, and joined their wine club. Great people! Great wine!
Our next stop was Dutcher Crossing Winery (, one of many new wineries that have popped up in this valley over the past decade. Our friends at Honor Mansion arranged a private tasting here. The folks at Dutcher Crossing were prepared for us having set up a nice spot at one of their picnic tables in the back yard, located under a trellis well equipped with misters to help keep us cool. It was worth the warmth as the views were spectacular overlooking their vineyards with the hills in the background to the west. The very hospitable service and wonderfully balanced 2008 Maple Vineyard Zin contributed to our enjoyable picnic lunch.
Returning to the car in the seemingly 133 degree heat I took yet one more opportunity to envision out load to my partner where we may be tomorrow at this time, laying dehydrated on the side of the road, under our bikes. Alas, still no change of plans, yet.
Our last tasting of the day took us to a smaller family owned winery back toward Healdsburg, by the name of Unti Vineyards ( While Unti had a considerably more modest tasting room compared to some of the big names in the area, the tasting room staff, including one of the owners, George Unti, was very well versed in their wines, style, grapes, and culture. Beyond all that they make some very good juice as well.
A short drive back to the mansion, and it was time for a bit of an afternoon snack up at the big house. While relaxing in the shade of the 164 degree afternoon we decided on a quick match of croquet in order to get scorching hot prior to a dip in the pool. I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to allow my partner to get a good sense of the afternoon heat. This did not seem to phase her. 20 min later I was the victor and to the pool we went.
Dinner. Ah, dinner. No cheese pizza tonight. I was treated to a spectacular 8-course feast at Cyrus ( in downtown Healdsburg. What a fabulous event. 2-1/2 hours of tasting food in a way that you may never again. Along with the 8 courses, and a few extra tidbits snuck in between them, they paired 8 different wines to perfection. Their selection were extremely varied and arrived from around the world, with a nod toward old-world style. If you have the opportunity, this is a must stop.
Over indulged, we retired for the evening with still no change of plans for tomorrow’s insanity.
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