Our SoCal friends were in our part of the state again for a second major Amador Vintner's Assn event - The Big Crush! Celebrating that time of year when the grapes are ready to bring in from the vines and get crushed, stomped or what have you. The Baers and their kids were up, as well as Rick & Gulshen. The Favetti's didn't make it but the Baers created and laminated a 'Flat Tony' to carry along (and pose) with us.
The three kids (Jack, Amanda & Fianna) spent a lot of time with the El Dorado Bresslers (Fianna's grandparents), visiting at least one working farm with pumpkins, corn fields, and plenty of farm animals. They also took rides in the Bressler's cherried-out Dune Buggy and I believe some ice cream was involved.
'Big Crush' seems a much bigger event than 'Behind the Cellar Door'. More food, more wines, more live music and more people (but not too many). Almost every winery was serving up enough food to make a complete lunch if you tried everything. A degree of self-restraint was required because it was all good; tri-tip sliders, chicken sliders, greek salads, pastas, potatoe salads, sausages, exotic cheeses, chocolates and more.
On Saturday, I aimed to hit some places that were either new or that we hadn't visited for a long time. Once again, we hired Driver Please to cart us around... and once again, that proved to be a very good idea. We honestly didn't rush to hit so many wineries, we're more into appreciation of the wine and food, but we racked up six wineries on each day. Probably because we started so early, 11:00 or 11:30 AM on both days.
Morse Wines and Il Gioiello Winery: Jennifer and I had been here since the last event, but I wanted our friends to try it. Most everything is excellent but we especially like that they make Italian wines that we don't see enough of, like Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and a Super Tuscan. Everytime we've been here we run into Mr. Morse who's very friendly and answers questions that he's probably handled a couple hundred times by now. They had several tasting tables pairing each group of wines with a different food.
Sobon Estate: A favorite that we haven't visited for a couple years. Always a good stop, especially for the Rocky Top and Old Vine Zinfandels. Sobon is old school Amador, the owners started one of the first four wineries in the Shenandoah Valley.
Renwood Winery: Stopping at Renwood is almost like making a stop at a Napa Winery. Packed to capacity with an upper-scale ambience. Good wines and an incredible spread. Only place I know of in Amador (so far) that makes an Ice Wine.
Drytown Cellars: Drytown Cellars were off our usual track and on the way to Sutter Creek. I purposely wanted to get off Shenandoah Road and see what else Amador had to offer. First time visit and we were impressed. Jennifer keeps askeing when we're going back. Great wines, great view, great food and an incredibly friendly staff. We'll be back soon.
Bella Grace Vineyards: The Bella Grace tasting room is in a historical looking house on the main drag of Sutter Creek. I haven't actually counted but, after a quick scan of local awards, Bella Grace would appear to be one of the most, if not the most, highly awarded winery in the County during the 2012 CA State Fair.
Sutter Creek Cheese Shoppe: Not a winery. Just a great shop where you can taste terrific cheeses before you buy them. A great break from wine tasting, and only a few doors down from Bella Grace.
Amador Cellars: Hadn't planned on making another winery stop after Bella Grace, but our favorite Shenandoah Road winery was on the way home... and still open... so there you go...
On Sunday, I performed the designated driving duties. I didn't think we'd end up putting in a full day on Sunday, but everyone was in good spirits after a Saturday of drinking and gorgeing on gourmet food. Most of our visits today were either old favorites or places we visited during "Behind The Cellar Door".
Helwig Winery: The absolute best view in the Shenandoah Valley... and good wine.
Vino Noceto: A party winery... and that is a good thing. In addition to good wines they had some great mixes of wine and fruit drinks. Best Sangiovese in CA.
Terra Rouge & Easton Wines: Gradually becoming another of our favorites.
Wilderotter Vineyard: Great Wines (we're club members)! Also, just like during "Behind The Cellar Door", the BEST FOOD in the valley... of the wineries we visited.
Cooper Vineyards: Always tremendous.
TKC: TKC, a small winery we often visit, lacks the bells and whistles newer wineries have adopted... but don't let that put you off making a stop. They make great reds and possibly the best Port in the region. PORT!!! When we visited, this is where the locals were.