Napa Valley (the most popular post ever)

My most viewed post of all time is this one: Napa Valley – A New Adventure

I find this extremely interesting, yet not too surprising. Interesting because my blog name is Sonoma Cork Dork. Not surprising because of many reasons including the most sought after wine valley to visit is still Napa Valley.

I can’t tell you how many visitors and tourists mix up Napa and Sonoma and never really know where they are. The often say things like, “This is my first time to Napa Valley” or “I love tasting wines in Napa”. I don’t take offense to it because I believe that they really don’t know where they are. I also don’t look at this as a bad thing. After all, the more visitors to the area the better, right?

It’s just clear to me that when people are looking for wine related information on the web they often type in Napa before any other wine region. And this is where I think Sonoma may be behind the times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sonoma is often talked about as more laid back, country, and a place you are likely to meet and talk with the winemakers. By contrast, Napa is often described as an adult-Disneyland. Both regions offer great wine, beautiful vineyards and big and small wineries.

Napa really started marketing itself as a wine destination in the 60’s when Mondavi opened up his winery. He realized the potential of direct to consumer sales and used to drive his car slow on highway 29 then turn left even slower into his driveway to bring people to the winery. Maybe not the most effective marketing, but it was a start. Before long Napa was really booming and visitors started to flock to the area.

Sleepier Sonoma has been playing catch-up ever since. We hear a lot of visitors say they really enjoy Sonoma for it’s quieter tasting rooms, smaller tasting fees and friendly staff. So, why then, do we see less visitors every year? It’s a mystery.

Sonoma also makes about three times as much wine as Napa. That has everything to do with geography. Sonoma County is a much larger area (about 60 miles north / south and 25 miles east / west), compared to Napa (about 20 miles long by 1-5 miles wide) – a huge difference. You would think at some point that Sonoma would overtake Napa with visitors, just from the amount of wine that is distributed from the area, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. And I’m okay with that.

As I said before, the more visitors to the area the better. I truly believe that. Visitors will see our marketing efforts and discover this great region I call home. After all, I’m still discovering it. There are over 350 wineries in Sonoma and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to all of them, but I’m going to try and I’m going to write about it every step of the way.


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Traveling Tuesdays: Adobe Road – Sonoma Tasting Room

Today I visited the Adobe Road tasting room on the historic Sonoma Plaza. My father-in-law had been wanting to visit for some time and we decided to head in. They open at 11 at we were the first customers of the day….

The quaint tasting room is located on the West side of the plaza right in the middle of the block. We were greeted by the very friendly tasting room manager and welcomed in to the room like we were family.

They taste 4 wines for $5 and also have a higher-end flight for $10. A real bargain given the quality of the wine.

I very much enjoyed their Mendocino Grenache which had an awesome retail price of $15.

All the wines were good to very good and are made just over the hill in Petaluma from vineyards throughout Sonoma County and beyond. I also found out that the owner is an avid race car driver and owner of a very successful racing teams in NASCAR and the Rolex Sportscar Series – good stuff!

And in true Sonoma fashion turns out my father-in-law sees the tasting room manager often on the ‘bike path’ walking her dogs. Ahh, small town living. Everyone knows everyone. Maybe not completely true, but it happens a lot.

I would definitely recommend a stop in to the Adobe Road tasting room on the plaza. The wine is great, the atmosphere is inviting and the staff is friendly, knowledgeable and fun. Not to mention the room is open until 7 and you can purchase a bottle and hang out on their back patio. It’s a fantastic Sonoma experience.


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Freixenet, Rockaway and some killer BBQ…

A couple of nights ago we hosted a dinner party. We love doing this. It’s a great chance to open some nice wine and kick back enjoying the evening. So, I fired up the BBQ at 9:30 in the morning to slow cook a brisket all day. More on that in a minute, but first the wine!

A lot of people need an excuse or special occasion to open a bottle of bubbly, but not us. And certainly at the price of $6.99. Thank you Trader Joe’s for having this wine on display!

This Cava (sparkling wine from Spain) was bright, crisp and refreshing. Maybe not the most exciting sparkling wine I’ve had recently, but quite a value.

The winner for the night though was this Rodney Strong Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet….

This 2005 Cabernet was quite spectacular. I even pulled out one of my favorite Cabernet’s to enjoy along with this one, but it paled in comparison. Maybe it was the bottle. Maybe it was the food. But I think it was just that this wine truly rocked. There’s all this info and data on the back of the label, but it doesn’t matter. What mattered was the wine that was inside. It was so smooth with tons of fruit and the perfect balance of oak and tannin. My only wish for the evening was that we had another bottle to dive into.

The food was pretty tasty too. My wife made some killer parmasan potatoes and I spent all day tending the BBQ for this….

My first ever slow smoked brisket. This was some of the most tender meat I’ve ever had and the smokey flavor worked perfectly with the Rockaway Cab. As if all this wasn’t enough, my lovely wife baked these chocolate espresso chocolate chip molten lava cakes….


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Commuting through wine country, so much better!

Today I drove to San Francisco from Sonoma. Normally, I drive the other way to Santa Rosa. Let me tell you, what an experience.

I left the house early planning for some traffic and as soon as I got in the car I turned the radio on to hear that there was a three car accident halfway to SF. Oh well, I thought as I settled in for a long drive. Sure enough, it was super slow for a good 20 miles. Fun.

But it was all for good as I was going to the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium. It was sure to be a great day of wine talk and inspirational ideas of how to run all operations of The Wineyard better. And the conference did not disappoint. Great information was shared.

Then after the day was over, I climbed in the car and did the reverse of the morning only it was worse because it was raining. Californians do not know how to drive in the rain, so it was an even slower commute than the morning. And the whole time I couldn’t think of anything but how great my ‘regular’ commute is.

Of course, I knew this already. Mostly because my commute takes me past some of the most beautiful vineyards in Sonoma County. All while driving on a meandering two-lane road at the slow pace of about 50 MPH. But that 50 MPH is way faster than I was able to drive today. An interesting observation since I always thought everything was faster in the city. I guess that’s everything except the traffic.

I actually feel bad for the people that have to do commutes like that. My wife was one of them for about 5 years before landing a job close to home. We all make choices and we chose the slower life here in Sonoma and never looked back. I’m so happy we did. Life is great!

This is really just a reminder that life is short and we should all do everything we can to live it to the fullest. More tomorrow on the awesome wine we had last night.


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Studies – should we change habits because of them?

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new study on the effects of red wine and breast cancer and how too much red wine could increase your risk of getting this disease.

Now this study comes out and says drink up ladies, red wine prevents breast cancer.

Um, which is it? Seriously. This is getting a little ridiculous. “Drink this!” “No, Don’t!” “This will help” “This won’t”

I’ve said it countless times before, but I guess it deserves repeating: Enjoy a little of everything, in moderation and likely all will be okay.

Besides, some of that ‘data’ in the study (any study) is probably flawed anyway. After reading this article about a University of Connecticut researcher that falsified data in his study having to do with red wine and resveratrol it makes me believe even more in my statement above. They say it won’t make a big difference because the connection between red wine and cardiovascular health is being tested around the world, but still makes me wonder why so many people believe all of this research.

I’ve never read a story on a study and then changed my habits. Don’t have any plans on changing that either. I’ve made changes before, but only because I wanted to and only with the knowledge that what I’m eating or drinking is actually healthier. Certainly in the past 6-12 months, I’ve been trying to focus on locally grown, more organic (where it counts) foods. But let me tell you that it doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes it is just too expensive, but a lot of the time the items we need just aren’t available – even in California.

So, I’ll continue living my life the way I want to (because this is America and I have that right). You should too. Don’t be too influenced by all these studies and research that is happening. But all that freedom of being able to do what we want somehow lends itself to putting blame on someone else when bad things happen. We always want to be able to say things like, “Damn this cancer, I shouldn’t have had all that red wine”. What? I just don’t get it. Family history folks, still the most likely factor in diseases and there isn’t anything we can change about that.




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New Year’s Eve, just an excuse to party?

To me New Year’s Eve ranks right up there with Valentine’s Day.

The latter is a ‘created’ holiday to make sure every year you tell your sweetie how much you love them – shouldn’t you be doing that every day? If you don’t already, start. I don’t need a holiday to remind me to do such things. Sure, like anyone else, we could have a few more romantic nights throughout the year, but busy life and kids get in the way sometimes. I’m okay with that though. It’s a stage in life we’ll never get back.

New Year’s Eve is just an excuse to party. It’s a ‘holiday’ that brings out the craziest people and leads to thousands of DUI arrests and even deaths. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but it is true. I have no desire to leave my small town of Sonoma and drive to San Francisco (or anywhere else) where there are countless parties happening and have to drive back at two in the morning when I’m fighting sleep.

And it’s not just that I’m getting older and no longer in my 20’s (or early 30’s for that matter). I’ve always been this way. I remember the first year my parents said I could stay up until midnight – I fell asleep in front of the TV and missed it. Most years that is still the case.

A couple of years ago, we decided to start celebrating the Irish New Year at Sonoma’s local pub, Murphy’s….










Ireland is 8 hours ahead of us, so that New Year happens at 4:00 in the afternoon here. Perfect. Walk to the pub, have a pint and a shot (maybe some food) and walk home before most people are even getting ready to go out. I highly recommend it.

The holiday we’re celebrating tonight is a new year. Of course, that new year will bring all the good things you have been expecting for the past __ (fill in the blank) new years’, right? Next year is the year you’ll lose that extra 10 lbs. It’s the year you’ll quit your job and start doing what you love. The year where all your dreams will come true. Really? Is it true? Will those things happen to you? I hope so. But in reality they only happen if you make them happen and why didn’t they happen this past year?

I’m not being cynical, I’m a dreamer like many of you out there. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions though. It’s setting yourself up for failure. How many people want to start losing weight when they are fighting a nasty hangover? Seriously. I’m realistic about the goals I set for myself. I need to lose those extra 10 lbs too…and I hope that tomorrow morning I get up and workout or maybe go for a bike ride since it’s going to be a nice day. But I realize that it will take time and sometimes I have very little of that. So at some point can’t we just be happy? Can’t we enjoy the life we have? And next year look back and think, “that was one of the happiest years of my life”.




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I’ve been quiet lately. Not because of a lack of something to say, but I’ve been so busy with my new(ish) work project that it has taken all my free time. More on that soon as we set to officially open the doors and introduce an awesome new wine tasting space in Santa Rosa.

The last few days have been full of culinary and wine (and other adult beverages) overload. It’s exactly what the holidays are for. We had some good wine, most of which we have had tastes of before. We also had a new cocktail made from Champagne, Gran Marnier, cranberry and lime – basically a Cosmopolitan with Champagne. Very tasty.

But my big surprise was this….







What is it you say? I’m not really sure. That’s the beauty of a shiner (a bottle with no labels). There’s no knowing for sure.

Now, this bottle actually came from my neighbor so I know what it is. Or at least I think I do. He told me that it’s a port that his dad has been making since 2006. This is the 2009 vintage. What I don’t know is what grape varietal it’s made from or what was used to fortify it. I also have no idea what the alcohol level is or the residual sugar.

Here’s the deal: None of those things matter. Why? Well, for one it was a gift. And I’ll always enjoy a gift of wine. But secondly, it tastes great. It has everything I look for in a port. Dark fruits, some chocolate, cooking spices and a little sting when it hits the mouth then nearly everlasting flavor. I can taste this wine for minutes and minutes after I took the last sip.

One of the other things I love about port-style wines is that this little half bottle will last me about a week. Just a couple of ounces every night and I get to enjoy it over and over again. Because it is fortified (likely with brandy) it doesn’t go bad quickly like regular still wine. The alcohol that fortified it also acts as an agent to combat oxygen allowing the bottle to be open for several weeks – although mine will never last that long!

Shiners are fairly common when working in the wine industry, but most consumers never really see them. Mostly because you can’t sell a bottle of wine without a label. But many winemakers will keep cases of shiners for personal consumption. I hope to have my own shiners sometime in the future as well. But that’s another post.




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