Paradise Ridge Winery

It definitely feels like paradise at Paradise Ridge Winery, located on a 156 acre estate in Sonoma wine country. A great escape, Paradise Ridge Winery has breathtaking panoramic views overlooking the Russian River Valley. This winery is family owned and operated by the Byck family. Walter and Marijke Byck purchased the property and planted the vineyards back in 1978, finally opening the tasting room in May 2006. It seems that every time I visit this winery I find another great bottle to talk about. I couldn't let this year go by without blogging a recent Rockpile wine find at Paradise Ridge Winery.

On my most recent trip out to Paradise Ridge Winery I was able to meet up with one of the family owners, Rene Byck son to Walter and the late Marijke Byck. 

He was very generous that afternoon giving me an incredible tour of the vineyards and grounds. He led me through a tasting of their bottles and this Rhone Rockpile blend blew me away!

Paradise Ridge
2012 Sonoma County Rockpile
The Posse
$60.00 a bottle

This Rockpile is a blend of mostly Syrah with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Grenache and Zinfandel. These Rockpile grapes come from the Branham Vineyards that sit 1500 feet above sea level on steep, rocky terraces over looking Lake Sonoma. This steep, rocky terrain causes these grape vines to be stressed which creates intense bold flavors in the fruit. The Posse has aromas of blackberries, black cherries and chocolate. Tasting first black cherries, black currant and hints of herbs. The blend finishes with intense flavors of earthiness, minerality and rock. A beautiful bottle! Wines that come from the Rockpile appellation always amaze me. The winemaker Dan Barwick puts so much passion and quality into these bottles.

Paradise Ridge is also known for their indoor and outdoor tasting room, so you can be guaranteed an incredible view while you taste their wines. Their "Wine and Sunsets" are on Wednesday evenings that run May thru October. You can enjoy one of their bottles on their deck and watch a beautiful sunset. Paradise Ridge offers a Wine and Artisan Cheese tasting daily by appointment. Also on your visit to Paradise Ridge, you can take a self guided tour of their sculpture garden exhibit. A definite must stop in Sonoma wine country for great wines and a little piece of Paradise!

Laurel Glen Vineyard

My love for intense, structured Cabernets lead me to a great Cabernet find in Glenn Ellen, California. Laurel Glen Vineyard is a Cabernet house of Sonoma Mountain Cabernets. Their Cabernet vineyards sit a thousand feet up in the slopes of Sonoma Mountain. This high altitude and rocky soil have proven to be the ideal location for their mountain Cabernet. 

Laurel Glen's Cabernet Vineyard was started back in the 1970's by Sonoma wine pioneer Patrick Campbell. Patrick Campbell has since sold off the winery and vineyards to a group of partners, which is led by Bettina Sichel. Bettina comes from a family that has been in the wine buisness for generations. They have recently remodeled their tasting room in Glen Ellen to a modern, chic wine country experience.

I was lucky enough to taste a line up of their Cabernet's that afternoon that aged from 2003-2011. All bottles were so different yet all were stunning!

I wanted to blog their most current release of Estate Cabernet, signed by the winemaker Randall Watkins.

Laurel Glen
2011 Sonoma Mountain
Cabernet Sauvignon
$65.00 a bottle

A beautiful mountain Cabernet! Laurel Glen's Sonoma mountain fruit is so full of structure and earthiness, making this an amazing bottle. This 2011 Cabernet has aromas of dark fruits and harvest spices. On the palate, tasting blackberries, granite and earth with tantalizing spice in the finish. Besides Cabernet, Laurel Glen also makes an old vine field blend Rose, from vineyards planted in the 1880's. Their tasting room is open daily 11-4pm. With a reservation, they offer a library wine & chocolate tasting. 

Frick Winery

Frick Winery
2012 Dry Creek Valley
$26.00 a bottle

There is still something special you can find at Sonoma County Wineries. The cute rustic tasting rooms, with the owner and or winemaker pouring their wines behind the bar. When visiting the tasting room it is a true personal, educational experience with Bill Frick the owner and winemaker at Frick Winery in Geyserville, California. Bill and Judith Gannon started the winery in the Dry Creek Valley back in 1976 with the sale of their 1957 Chevrolet. The focus at Frick Winery is on rare Rhone varietals and unusual blends. Their Syrah, Viognier, Cinsaut, Grenache, Counoise, Carignane, Grenache Blanc and Mourvedre, all grow on steep hillsides of the Dry Creek Valley which are showered with sun. Proving with his bottles to be the perfect place for these Rhone grapes.

On a visit this Summer to Frick Winery, I was very amazed with the whole tasting. Meeting Bill Frick and tasting his lovely Rhone bottles was truly a special experience. The Cinsaut was definitely a favorite I tasted that day. 

Cinsaut is a rare Rhone varietal with only 7 acres planted in Sonoma County. Frick Winery's Cinsaut is grown on two acres in the western Dry Creek Valley, in dusty clay soil. These grapes grow on 55 year old vines that are dry farmed. Once harvested, they spend 22 months in 59 gallon casks. A beautiful wine, dark garnet red in color. Aromas of raspberries, strawberries and anise. This wine has lots of lush, seductive red fruits on the palate. First tasting strawberries, raspberries and red cherries, finishing with great earthiness and wet stone. Definitely one incredible bottle of Cinsaut that Bill Frick has created. If in the Dry Creek Valley a must stop for great Rhone wines and the perfect Sonoma wine country experience. Frick winery is open Saturday and Sunday 12-4:30.

Hardball Cellars

Hardball Cellars
2013 Alexander Valley 
Pinot Noir
$36.00 a bottle

Alexander Valley is one of my favorite areas for Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma County. This area produces some incredible grapes for Cabernet but just recently a bottle of Hardball Cellars Pinot Noir, from this area, stole my heart. Hardball Cellars is a family owned and operated winery run by owners Mike and Cindy Westerburg. Both Mike and Cindy grew up in Oregon but ventured south to California to make wine. After moving to Napa, Mike began experimenting with home wine-making, following in both his parents and grandparents footsteps. Five years ago I was very fortunate to have met and become friends with both Mike and Cindy. Mike has definitely become quite a talented winemaker. With wine-making in his blood, you can taste Mike's passion in his wines. You can try Hardball Cellars wines in their tasting room located in San Francisco or contact Mike directly for a private tasting. @MikeWesterburg @HardballCellars 

The fruit from this Hardball Cellars Pinot Noir comes from the 245-acre Warnecke Ranch, which is located on Chalk Hill. The vineyard is physically located along the Russian River but it is actually located in Alexander Valley. With this vineyard being located along three miles of Russian River frontage, these Pinot grapes get the cool air overnight and Alexander Valley's warmth during the day. The grapes from this bottle were hand picked, sorted and gently destemmed. The wine was fined, then filtered and aged 9 months in reconditioned French oak barrels. Hardball Cellars Pinot is full of enticing aromas of red cherries, strawberry, marzipan and vanilla. On the palate, a very smooth and silky wine, tasting bright red cherries, slight clove, with a delicate finish of almonds and vanilla. Mike has definitely made one beautiful bottle of Pinot Noir. Hardball Cellars Pinot is pure elegance in the glass. Hardball Cellars also makes a Chardonnay, Russian River Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet.


Code Seven
2012 Sonoma Coast
Pinot Noir
 $46.00 a bottle
Cindy Passaggio is a very talented women full of passion with the love for wine and family tradition. I have been honored to have been her friend over the last four years and watch her grow into an amazing winemaker. In 2004 Cindy left her 15 year law enforcement career to follow her true passion to make wine. In 2007 Cindy starting making her own wine. Just this year Cindy has opened the Passaggio Wines Tasting Room in the heart of downtown Sonoma. I had the pleasure to meet Cindy at her beautiful new tasting room last month and sit down with her and try her line up of wines.

I have always been a huge fan of Cindy's unoaked Chardonnay but that afternoon her Code Seven 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir blew me away. Not only was this Pinot full of structure but it had new flavors that I have never come across before in a Pinot Noir. Passaggio's Sonoma Coast Pinot has aromas of sweet candied cherries mixed with hints of citrus fruits and spices. On the palate, velvety rich red cherries, slight cinnamon that gives this Pinot a touch of spiciness. I also tasted hints of rhubarb with a very intriguing orange peel finish. The finish on this Pinot gives this bottle a load of pizzazz. Truly a beautiful bottle! With Thanksgiving right around the corner this bottle would only enrich your turkey dinner. Passaggio Wines makes many other great bottles, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Rose, Grenache, Sangiovese. Cindy also makes two other Pinot Noirs, a Sonoma County and Napa Valley.


Dutcher Crossing

Dutcher Crossing

We are blessed with so many great wine regions in Sonoma County. I never seem to make it out to the Dry Creek Valley enough. Earlier this Summer I was invited out to Dutcher Crossing in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley to visit and taste their wines. Their property was stunning and their wines were amazing.

That afternoon a winery employee by the name of Ryan gave us the winery tour and a golf cart ride throughout the winery's property. Ryan was so full of great information and passion for Dutcher Crossing; I swear he knew every vine in their vineyard.

After touring the vineyards, we were spoiled with this awesome cheese platter to pair with their wines.

I tasted most of the wines at Dutcher Crossing that afternoon but a bottle of Zinfandel stood out among the rest........................

Dutcher Crossing
2012 Maple Vineyard
Dry Creek Valley
$42.00 a bottle

The 2012 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel is 92% Zinfandel and 8% Petite Sirah. I was told Tom and Tina Maple grow some of the best Zinfandel in the Dry Creek Valley. Dutcher Crossing harvests their grapes with counsel from Tom and Tina Maple. Maple Vineyard is a 25 acre ranch planted midway up the valley to dry farmed and head trained Zinfandel. The 2012 Maple Zinfandel spent 9 months in barrel, 35% New French oak and 65% Neutral French oak. This Dutcher Crossing Zinfandel has aromas of spice, red currant and red berries. An incredible Zinfandel, first tasting cranberries, red currant, and white pepper. The wine finishes with creamy vanilla and a touch of oak. Dutcher Crossing 2012 Maple Zinfandel is one of the most complex Zinfandels I have had. This Zinfandel is not jammy and radiates with spice and definitely rocked my palate. Debra Mathy has quite the winery in Dry Creek Valley, of course with the help of her winemakers Kerry G Damskey, Nick Briggs and Matt Ward. If in the Dry Creek Valley, Dutcher Crossing Winery comes highly recommended. 


Paradise Ridge

Paradise Ridge Winery

If venturing to Sonoma Wine Country, Paradise Ridge Winery is a must stop. A 156-acre wine estate with panoramic views overlooking the Russian River Valley. The winery has an indoor and outdoor tasting bar, an outdoor sculpture garden exhibit, and great wines to taste. Paradise Ridge also harbors some bottles made with grapes from my favorite appellation, Rockpile. Family owned and operated, Walter and Marijke Byck planted the vineyards back in 1978 and opened the winery in 1991. The winemaker of these lovely bottles is Dan Barwick.

I have previously visited Paradise Ridge Winery. On my last visit a month ago,  I was highly impressed by the qualities of the wines. There wasn't a bottle that day that I tried that I didn't like. I'm not a huge fan of Merlot but I loved their Merlot that afternoon. I left Paradise Ridge winery that day with two new incredible wine finds. Both bottles were just released.

Paradise Ridge
2011 The Bounty
Russian River Valley
Rhone Style Blend

$42.00 a bottle

The Bounty is a superb Syrah blend of 35% Syrah, 31% Petite Sirah, 29% Zinfandel, and 5% Merlot. This blend also contains a touch of Rockpile in it making it taste very distinguished. This blend has aromas of candied cherries and vanilla. Tasting first red cherries, tea, crushed stones and earth with a finish of Carmel and slight bay leaf. Lots of structure to this blend making it ever so delectable.

Paradise Ridge
2011 Merlot
Foppiano Vineyard
Russian River Valley

$44.00 a bottle

Paradise Ridge's Merlot was quite striking to me. The complexity and boldness of this wine was so remarkable that it changed my whole view of Merlots. Definitely a Merlot that drinks like a Cabernet. This Merlot has aromas of Cherry, leather and pepper. Tasting first tart cherries, cranberries and leather with a finish of tobacco and pepper. Great earthiness to this bottle.

Paradise Ridge also does an excellent job with their artisan cheese wine pairings. Each cheese paired perfectly with the selected wine. Artisan cheese wine pairings are daily but by appointment only. Paradise Ridge also makes a Sparkling, Sauvginon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet. If in the area of Sonoma Wine Country definitely make the stop to visit and taste at Paradise Ridge Winery, you will love the experience.