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.