This post was originally posted on June 22, 2012. Last weekend’s jaunt up to El Dorado for the Pleasant Valley Wine Makers’ Rocks & Rhone event reminded me that Summer tasting has some specific requirements!
It is almost officially Summer and I’m sure your mind is wandering in the neighborhood of “where can we go for vacation?”
Well, if two weeks in Hawaii or Europe or Australia aren’t in your budget, how about a long weekend in Sierra Foothills for some wine tasting? The weather is warm. The people are warm. The area is gorgeous. The wines are terrific. There are trains to ride and gold mines to tour. There are some incredible old Gold Rush era towns to explore. It’s awesome.
Here is my list of the 5 essentials for a fun Gold Country wine tasting weekend:
5. A copy of Pour Me Another
Yes, I’m going to try and sell you my book. It is the definitive guide to Gold Country wines, featuring entries for 68 different wineries, and (in the paperback edition) space for you to keep your own tasting notes all in one volume. Not only that, but I also list places to eat and include maps to help you find your way around the back country roads. The book is available at Amazon.com as both a paperback AND a Kindle ebook. If you’ve got an iPad or smart phone, the Kindle version is really convenient.
4. A Cork Screw
Oh, so seriously, this is an absolute necessity. At the end of the day, you’re back at your hotel or B&B and you want to pop open one of the bottles of wine you just purchased and you don’t have a cork screw. Totally screwed! You will kick yourself if you don’t have a cork screw! It makes opening a bottle of wine so easy. Why force yourself to venture out in the dark of night in search of a cork screw? We have one that lives in our car. It is indispensable.
3. A Cooler & Ice
When you leave the house, put this in your trunk. Stocked it with bottled water to keep yourself hydrated as you drive the back roads in the hot Summer sun. I also recommend that you put any wine purchases you make into the cooler while you are driving around tasting. This will ensure that your wine doesn’t suffer heat shock sitting in the trunk while you’re tasting and the car temperature reaches 130 degrees or more. Don’t let your purchases go bad because you forgot your ice chest!
2. A Designated Driver
Not to be a buzz kill, but honestly, have a designated driver. It is important for the lives of those in your car and others on the road. Drinking and driving is dangerous and illegal. And even if the tasting pours are “only” a half ounce, once you’ve tasted at 2 wineries, you will have consumed at least a full glass worth of wine and in the Summer heat on an empty stomach that WILL impair your driving. Keep yourself and others safe and designate a driver. Switch off days…I’ll drive today if you drive tomorrow…bring a tea total-er...join one of Gold Country Wine Tours mini-bus tours. (Those guys are great! They specialize in Amador County and know the wineries really, really well.)
1. A Loved One or Friends
Wine tasting alone is educational. Wine tasting with a loved one is romantic. Wine tasting with friends is fun. Sharing the experience gives you a chance to talk about the wines with others, compare tasting notes and share in the purchase of cases, saving you money on a per bottle basis. (Did I say that?) Wine tasting in Gold Country is so much fun, you’ll want to share it with your family and friends. You might as well bring ‘em along. Unless I’m going up for a book signing, I’m always bringing my significant other AND a couple of friends. I love sharing the experience with friends. You will, too.
So that’s my list of the 5 essential things required for a successful Sierra Foothills wine tasting weekend. If you’ve got these things in the car, you will have fun. But make your hotel or B&B reservations well ahead of time. Summer is Wedding Season in Gold Country and accommodations fill up fast. Once you’re there, slow down, unwind, and wine up!