Best time to visit local wineries is right now

Wines from Guglielmo Winery, Lightheart Cellars, Creekview Vineyards, Sarah’s Vineyard and Satori Cellars.

The days of summer fun are over at the wineries. All the grapes have been picked and crushed and their juice is getting busy in the barrels – letting the aging process take over. But, before the season is over, Mother Nature has one last spectacular act in store for us. Like the last five minutes of a fireworks display where the best is saved for last, the vineyards have burst into flaming colors of red, gold and orange. As if to self-ignite themselves, the leaves that have nourished the grapes all summer long, are going out in a blaze of glory.
I polled our local winemakers/owners about the quality and quantity of this year’s harvest and found that the results varied between “very good” to “fantastic,” depending on the vineyard and the particular varietal.
• Tom Moller, from Satori Cellars, said the quality and volume of his Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon did particularly well.
• Tom Kruse, of Thomas Kruse Winery, said, “The Merlot and the Chardonnay were as close to perfect as I have experienced.”
• Cheryl Durzy, from Clos LaChance, reported, “We had a unique year that was high in quality and yield. The quality of the fruit is some of the best we have seen.”
• Lightheart Cellars owner, Sheldon Haynie, said his “yields, which ripened early, were up from last year with excellent quality.”
• Michael Vanni, of Solis Winery, experienced a high-quality, heavy crop that needed thinning.
• Guglielmo’s director of marketing, Greg Richtarek, had this to say: “Just the best looking fruit we have seen for a couple of years.”
The grapes harvested this year will be ready to drink in one to three years, depending on the varietal. Most of the white wines will hit the tasting rooms as early as next year. Some whites, like Viognier and Marsanne, which don’t require aging, will be bottled within six to nine months. The unoaked (aged in steel barrels) Chardonnays will be ready within nine months, and the Chardonnays that are aged in oak barrels will take closer to a year or two to be ready. Most of the red wines, which benefit from the aging process, take between two to three years to get into the bottle. With the high quality of the fruit this season, we are in store for some very good years.  
For now, we’ll content ourselves with the excellent wine made from grapes harvested two to three years ago. And with Thanksgiving coming up, it is a great time to indulge in wonderful Pinot Noirs. Although there are many great wines that pair well with Thanksgiving dinner, Pinot Noir is a favorite recommendation because of the way it compliments the wide variety of foods often found at our holiday tables.
Even though Pinot Noirs tend to cost more than other red wines (due to lower yields) our region offers terrific values. With a long-established reputation for their Pinot Noirs, Sarah’s 2010 Estate Pinot Noir ($35) has a beautiful strawberry nose and won a silver medal at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. From Guglielmo’s, the Private Reserve Pinot Noir ($35) has notes of strawberry jam, creamy browned butter and a silky finish. Lightheart Cellars, our newest winery, won a gold medal in the California State Fair with their smooth and velvety 2010 Pinot Noir ($39). Two first-ever efforts for Pinot Noir are from Satori and Creekview. Satori’s 2010 R Pinot Noir from Monterey County has an aroma of rose petals and tastes of black cherry and strawberry ($32). And Creekview’s Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands (also $32) has hit a home run with its incredible floral nose – tasting of cherry, plum and cola with dusty spices.
Summer may be over, but the best time to visit the wineries is now – with the vineyard leaves aglow and providing a stunning back-drop for holiday photos. And without the summer crowds there’s more chat time with the winemakers who can help you find that perfect bottle of wine.

Guglielmo Winery “Bottle Your Own Red Wine”
Saturday, Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Solis Winery Wine and Cheese Fall Classic
Artisan cheeses and Solis award-winning wines.
Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4, from 12-4:30 p.m.
Fortino Winery An Evening of Western Music, Art and Beef Dinner
Saturday, Nov. 3 from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
DeRose Vineyards New Release Party
Saturday, Nov. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fortino Winery
Pastry Class – Gingerbread, Butter Pie Crust and Chocolate Truffles
Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18, 2 p.m.
Fall Boutique – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Complimentary hot mulled cider and wine
while you shop.

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