While we were in Woburn, we received an e-mail from desperance
: "Just another data point," it said. "There's a supplement in the newspaper today about Amador, up in the Sierra Nevada. It's two and a half hours from Sunnyvale, according to the internets - and the Shenandoah Valley has forty-odd wineries, including some of the oldest Zin vines on the planet..." That'd be the San Jose Mercury's 'Eat-Drink-Play' supplement, and I'd link to it, but when I try to go there, I get adware, so take my word for it.
Anyway, I read the supplement. I was pretty much hooked at "hundred-year-old zinfandels" (though the cool kids seem to be moving into barbera), but wine-and-food destination among the Gold Rush towns - that's irresistible. Which is how I come to be writing this on my patio at the Sutter Creek Inn
, under the grape arbour. (Ours is the Cellar Room, if you wondered, but don't be put off by the name).
By the time we were installed last night, it was five o'clock: we'd stopped a couple of times en route, and reception was slightly chaotic - we had trouble finding anyone to book us in (it's all twisty garden paths and rustic outbuildings), and then the person we found denied being the housekeeper, and wanted us to be an Irish couple he was expecting... But by five we were ready to go and taste at the only one of the town's nine wineries that we expected still to be open.
Immediately across the road, though, Driven Cellars
(who aren't on that list) still had the 'Open' sign up, and made us very welcome, even though it became apparent that they simply hadn't had a chance to take down the signs. The 'driven' name comes from the patriarch's collection of defunct automobiles, and the bright, sunny showroom was decorated with one or two dramatic pieces: a rust-red petrol pump, a radiator grille. It's clearly a family affair, and the woman who served us was relaxed and frindly, assuring us that our late arrival was no problem, and that she thought they should shift their opening times an hour later, anyway. She was dismissive about their white wines, and assured us throughout the tasting that her favourite of the wines was the last one we would taste, the primitivo - and we agreed with her. I was pleased to have tasted zinfandel from hundred-year-old vines, but we bought a bottle of the primitivo.
Back across the road, the doors were still open at Scott Harvey
, where they were having a 'Locals' Night'. "Are you local?" asked our server; "Say yes." So we said that we were indeed local, from just two doors down the street, and proceeded to taste our way through a succession of delicious wines. Scott Harvey trained in Germany, and knows that it is possible to make white wine with subtlety and elegance, even in the California climate. His Jana sauvignon blanc (Jana is his wife, and her name goes on the wines made with grapes from Napa) has just a touch of riesling, and lots of rounded fruit - I would not have identified the main grape as sauvignon, there was none of the green vegetable acidity I associate with that grape. Premier Beso is a blend of grapes from Amador (chardonnay, riesling and something called symphony). We also tasted three zinfandels: a 'Jana' old vine, fresh and fruity, a J&S Reserve, spicy and beautifully structured, and a Mountain Selection, big and soft, and I'd probably have liked it better if I hadn't been knocked out by the previous wine. (Our server then produced a barbera, so we could see why people were moving towards this grape, and it was very persuasive. It's not that I don't like barbera, just that in California I want to drink California wines, but the barbera was excellent).
If I were permanently local, I'd be buying these by the case, especially at Local's Night prices, but as it was we restricted ourselves to a couple of bottles. desperance
, if you're reading, the Premier Beso is recommended with cheese, so if we're doing that cheese crawl...
By now it was eat or fall over, so we went to the Hotel Sutter
and ate their signature dish of brussels sprouts frizzler with bacon and served with a lemony mayonnaise (which they call aïoli, but isn't). Back home, we listened to Scotland deciding not to leave the UK, which is good news for the UK, I think, though not necessarily for Scotland. There was a very high turn-out, which suggests that low polls demonstrate that voters are apathetic, not from original sin, but about the choices they are being offered.
Breakfast in ten minutes. Time to go!ETA:
that of the red wines we bought and took back to Sunnyvale for actual drinking, it was the Driven primitivo which really stood out. I hadn't expected that.