Sonoma Wine -- Hanna, Stryker, and Verité
Hanna was just as beautiful, but less impressive than last time. They have a low $5 tasting fee (refunded with purchase), which is nice. But, I had my heart set on buying their reserve Sauvignon Blanc, and they no longer make it. So, I was sad.
Their larger production wines are solid, and reasonably priced for the region. But, overall, they have moved away from some of the smaller production wines I loved them for and even at the winery, it feels much more like a solid business winery (nothing wrong with that) than a local operation.
Their standard sauvingnon blanc is, as always, a great pleasure to drink, but at $18/bottle, it's not a fabulous value (just a good one), so we bought a couple of bottles, but on our next visit, we may skip them, since we can get it at Safeway (and I will the next time I feel like rewarding myself). Their Bismark reds are good, so we bought one or two bottles, but we left much more in love with the setting and the pictures we took than the wine.
From there, we headed to Stryker to eat our lunch in what has to be one of the most beautiful picnic settings in the world. Our visiting friends had purchased quite a selection of cured meets, cheeses, breads, and tabouleh, so we feasted in grand style with a glass of the 2004 Stryker Rockpile Merlot (at $36 plus a discount for a promotion, this wine was quite a value -- and we brought another bottle home to lay down).
And finally, thanks to little-R's recommendation, we found ourselves at Verité for one of the best wine-tasting experiences I've ever had. We were greeted by a friendly Wine Educator (how cool is that title?) who explained the layout of the winery and the grapes used to make the wine before she escorted our group of 12 to a formal dining-room like setting where we learned she was an advanced somellier who would be leading us on a wine-class-like tasting through the 6 pre-poured glasses of heaven for 90 minutes.
At $25 to taste, it was not cheap. But, I've paid $80 for similar-length wine-tasting classes taught by professionals with her credentials, and she conveyed just as much useful knowledge as they did during those courses.
Unlike many wineries, Verité does not refund your tasting fee with purchase. However, their wines are amazing and their price point is quite high. During the class, you taste and could finish six 1/2 glasses of their great Bordeaux-style stuff while you are walked through comparisons between what is in front of you and the various styles in Bordeaux that the winemaker/vigneron is trying to achieve.
The discussion made me nostalgic for my days in La Rive Gauche when I first learned to drink wine. How spoiled I was...
Given the nostalgia, I was a marked sucker, and while I didn't fall prey to the aged offerings, I did buy the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever purchased. But, it was heavenly now, and the older versions had aged so wonderfully, that I felt compelled to act and store it for a special occasion. Perhaps our 5th wedding anniversary.
Plus, I did the math and determined that given what the sell the bottles for, the value of the tasting in the glasses was way more than the nominal fee they charge (as in, to buy the bottles and replicate the tasting for 12 would have cost $75.83 per person). And, on our exit, the wine educator gave us 4 half-bottles of wine to enjoy when we reached our hotel, which had they been for sale in 1/2 bottle units, would have cost at least $250.
So, upon leaving, I didn't feel like I'd been swindled into spending entirely too much on wine. Rather, I was giddy and filled with expectation of great things to come. So yeah. Verité winery. An amazing local Bordeaux-inspired experience. And it's cheaper than going to France...