KaTrina Wentzel is a co-owner (with her husband, Paul) of The Wine Thief & Ale Jail in St. Paul. Along with her love of wine and travel, she bides her time teaching English at Mounds Park Academy and raising her fabulous children, who have been known to swirl and smell their milk.
So in a departure from my regular blogging, I’m going to be doing a post a day for the next few days while I’m in California for a wine trip. There are many ways to do a California wine trip—and no right way to be sure—but the one I’m on has me in the Sacramento area today, Lodi tomorrow, then Sonoma and Napa for the last two days. For me, traveling for wine also means traveling for food and this trip will be no different. Also (again, every person is different), I tend to like to do my wine trips with one, two, or three wineries a day compared with trying to hit as many wineries as possible. That way my palate doesn’t give out and I really get to focus and know a particular winery well. I hope to give you a virtual trip and take you along on what is sure to be a terrific ride!
August 2: Day 1 We arrived in San Francisco today, grabbed a rental car and headed right to Berkeley for lunch at the famed Chez Panisse. Chef and founder Alice Waters started this bistro in 1971 and has truly championed the farm-to-table phenomenon that has (finally!) begun to catch on. With organic ingredients sourced from local farmer and fishermen and made with great attention, we knew the lunch would be great. We were not disappointed.
Baked Adante Dairy goat cheese with garden lettuces
House made spaghetti with pesto and cherry tomatoes
Wood-oven roasted squid and sweet peppers with escarole, and rosemary
After a fulfilling lunch, we got back in the car and headed to Clarksburg, not far from Sacramento, to visit one of our favorite wineries, Bogle (pronounced Bow-gull). Bogle is great in its own right but, in my world, made even more fantastic by the fact that the company focuses on stellar budget wines. Family owned and run since they started with 20 acres of grapes in the late 1960s, the vineyard and winery are welcoming, really showcasing a feel of a small winery even as they continue to grow.
Jody Bogle herself led us through the tasting, but this wasn’t unique to us. She can be found in the tasting room and office on most days and happily takes customer calls. Really. Her brother, Warren Bogle, is the vineyard manager, watching over the acres of beautiful vines. Her other brother, Ryan, is the control and accounting guy. Want to meet one of the two winemakers? With many wineries that’s a difficult and unlikely request, but not here. In fact, even though as a wine store owner I have some extra perks on a wine trip, any Bogle visitor will be treated to this. It’s the way they do wine. And I love this. I also love the wine.
We tried 11 (count ‘em, 11) Bogle wines today, three of which are only available in the tasting room:
Bogle wines at the tasting room
My favorites of the moment were the Sauvignon Blanc (around $10 or $11 retail) and the Petite Sirah (around $14 retail). The Sauvignon Blanc is all grass and pineapple and grapefruit with a perfect dryness and crispness that just screams for consumption on a warm day. The Petite Sirah, a long-time favorite of mine, is about being big, bold, plush, silky, and lush. Think liquid velvet. Ripe, blackberry and plum velvet. Yum. I also enjoyed trying some of their limited releases that only are available in the tasting room or to wine club members. Today’s sips of the Petite Sirah Rosé and 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon were remarkable. In fact, I’m probably going to join the wine club so that I can try such limited options again.
Chardonnay grapes ... getting close to harvesting season!
Oh yeah, about the wine club ...
3 shipments per year of at least 2 wines per shipment
No shipment will cost more than $45 (plus shipping) - love this
Wines are specially selected, sometimes specifically created for wine members and tasting room visitors. In other words, wines you can’t get around town.
Their wine membership also comes with member-only special events, such as a recent “create your own wine” day where guests worked with a Bogle winemaker to taste through specific lots of wine, created their own blends, then bottled their creations to take home. Granted, events are more likely to be attended by local members, but still, I love this.
If you visit Bogle, bring a picnic lunch. You can sample wines, buy a bottle for below retail, then enjoy it out among the vines.
Eventually it was time to leave Jody and her family vineyards and head into Sacramento where we were settling in. Settling in, however, didn't mean ending the night completely. It meant …
1) Cocktails at Ella, where their custom drinks are not to be missed:
Ella's Flagship Gin and Tonic: housemade quinine tonic, Distillery 209 gin, organic sucanot, sparkling water, and fresh citrus juice
The Original White Linen: Leopold Brothers Small Batch gin, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, fresh cucumber
2) Dinner at Biba, restaurant of noted chef and cookbook author Biba Caggiano. My spinach and ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms was incredible, and so, apparently was Paul’s seafood stew.
To add to the California mystique, sitting at the table next to us was KC of KC and the Sunshine Band. Seriously. And while not why we chose the restaurant, it turns out that it was a favorite of Patty Bogle, the Bogle family matriarch who recently passed away after a long fight with leukemia. We toasted Patty, then, at the end of our meal, our waitress brought out two desserts even though we had declined due to being so stuffed. "Patty wouldn't want you to leave with dessert," she stated. Despite our earlier refusals, we inhaled them before I could take a picture. Like everything else on this day, they were perfect.